Hello everyone. I hope your new years resolutions are still on track. If you’re like so many others who want to get fitter in 2019 let me offer you some advice. Specifically for running. I picked this a tech topic for two reasons:
Firstly I’m a runner. I have been since I was small. I know the science and psychology and I know how to get started again after a long break and most of all I know technology which can be absolutely amazing to help you get going.
Running has an incredibly low barrier to entry. Even with the top of the range tech it still comes in significantly cheaper than cycling (and no I don’t have anything against cycling). I just know that someone is much more likely to start a fitness journey if they don’t need to spend large sums of money at the beginning – gym memberships could also be included.
Shoes, shorts and shirts. The old runners will tell you they used to use takkies with foam. They would rub soap into their shoes so that they didn’t blister and finally much to my amusement when things got a little wet bubbles would start forming around the soapy areas.
Quite a lot has changed since those days. Shoes weigh less, offer more support and are able to control your stride movement. You will hear of things such as heel drop which is the distance of your heel higher that your foot – which is better will absolutely depend on the type of person you are and how your stride works.
You will also get shoes with more or less support and cushioning designed to control how your foot moves along the ground. You can also get shoes designed for longer of shorter distances.
While I could give you more info on which shoes to buy I think you would be much better off going into a shop and trying some of them on. Pick the ones that you feel most comfortable in.
Three key items here. Socks which are undoubtedly the most important then shorts and shirts.
Quite a lot of tech goes into modern running socks. Seams cause blisters. Seamless socks are absolutely wonderful to run in. You get fewer hot spots which help tremendously. Apart from seams you also get moisture management. Moist areas of your foot will be more susceptible to blistering. Supportive socks. Right and left foot socks 🙂 I have to admit it took me longer than it should have to work out that I needed to follow the instructions.
Although, by having a sock designed for the foot you’re able to get more support built directly into the sock which keeps the sock in the correct position.
Shorts, I’ve never liked the old school v cut shorts because it makes me feel like I’m walking around with no clothes on. Moisture management tech has improved tremendously although two other key improvements have been made. 1. Better seam management between your legs. Thats one of the major chaffing zones. Your shorts can play a huge role. 2. Pockets with zippers. Never underestimate how useful pockets can be.
Shirts, From cotton to the spaceship… :). Modern shirts with proper moisture management are now very affordable. They will keep you cooler, dry quicker and not get as wet. Another unsung hero of modern running shirts – they chaff less because they fit better are made of more friction friendly material and have better seam placement.
Running with a watch is awesome. It can give you so much very useful information. You have an enormous amount of choice – low to high tech with everything in the middle.
If you’re going to go with a low tech watch your best bet will be getting something with a lap counter.
Higher tech will involve getting some active data. Foot pods (and nowadays you can also get them strapped to your arm) will give you bio mechanical data around your movement. You can essentially calculate how many steps you take, how high you lift off from the ground and how far each stride is. This in turn gives you your distance covered which can easily be calculated backwards to calculate your current speed.
GPS is much more accurate at giving you distance and therefore your running speed. The big caveat with GPS is that they use much more battery power meaning you need to charge them after a few runs.
Running and performance data for me is the biggie. Logging runs is easy with a smart watch. Just upload the data to the system are you’re done. Although for me interpreting the data is much more valuable. How far did you run and pathologically how did you feel. Heart rate monitors give you that data. In my opinion a Heart Rate monitor should come before instantaneous running metrics like distance. Your heart rate can tell you how fit you are, how fit you were and even your individual performance on the day by monitoring variations in your heart beat. I even use my heart rate to successfully predict over training or illness because there is a slight elevation in heart rate for no improvement in speed. On race day it is also useful because you can use that data to estimate your performance levels and maintain it for the duration. If for example you are traveling at an equivalent speed along a hilly course you will exert more effort on the ups than the downs. Ideally you want to exert an equivalent effort level and adjust your pace to match your target effort level.
Fortunately other systems have been developed to assist you manage your performance. Mobile blood oxygen meters will give you a real time view of how much oxygen you are using. During a lab test I was involved in a good 10 years ago it took over a minute to recover from just a small over exertion. If you monitor your data during high risk zones you will avoid those issues.
A power meter which measures many more metrics will give you a figure based on your current effort levels
Finally my current favourite – Phone/tracker. Communication when required is now critical. I elected not to carry a phone. They’re big and unnecessary. I use a smart watch which I carry in my pocket (its another watch). Since it has a sim card and a gps it can be setup to broadcast my location to family and friends and if I get into trouble I can make an emergency call.
I hope you have a great time running and if I’ve left something out or you’re a manufacturer and you want me to test something… well I am happy to do that :).