Need New Pals? You Need Pal! The New App For Making Friends

Pal app logo

Did you wake up in the new year and think dammit, I have no friends except the ones who live inside my computer/phone/tablet/other screen-based thing so I should really stop being such a billy-no-mates-anti-social-hermit who spends the entire day checking how many likes I got on my latest selfie and get out of the house and talk to people in real life instead?

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The JogBlog Guide To Training For Your First 10k

Rainforest Regents Park 10

Me on my first 10k. My gadgets have got smaller since then.

If you followed my guide to training for your first 5k, you undoubtedly would have a) won it; and then b) got home and immediately started looking for your first 10k. So, here’s my guide to training for your first 10k.

Get a training plan

You may think, ‘I can run 5k, I don’t need a training plan, I just need to run a bit further’. Which, yes, is true to an extent but a proper training plan will get you running further and faster better than if you just tag a couple of extra miles onto your long runs now and again.

Personally, I’m old-school and like something I can print off so I can cross out the days I’ve done with a pen; my favourite plans being those from Hal Higdon but, if you’re not quite that old school, you can also generate an iCal file to import Hal Higdon plans into your calendar.

If importing a plan into your calendar is still too old-school for you, there are loads of apps you can use, such as the 10k Run Ready app from Kiqplan. This app contains everything you need to train for your first 10k, including advice on snacking, meal planning and how to get more sleep.

Stick to the training plan

Let’s face it – 10k (6.2 miles) is a long way to walk, let alone run, so do stick to your training plan if you don’t want to hurt too much on race day. And, while we’re on the subject of hurting on race day, when you’re running the actual race, try not to fall over a football, like I did during my first ever 10k.

Think about nutrition

The better your diet leading up to the race, the better the race you’ll have, so you might want to have a look at using sports supplements such as protein shakes and creatine (which is especially good for those of you who, like me, are vegetarian). If you’re not into supplements, just make sure you eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of protein to help your muscles recover after training. No need to be too strict though – you can still have your takeaway at the weekend; everything in moderation and all that.

On race day

Don’t worry about any special breakfasts or anything – just have what you normally have, whether that’s a massive bowl of porridge or just a cigarette and a cup of coffee. It’s only 6 and a bit miles and if Mahatma Ghandi can go three weeks without food, you can go without for an hour or so. But, although there should be a water stop during the race, you might want to take some water with you, as a 10k can make you thirsty, especially if it’s a hot day.

There are always massive queues for the toilet at races, so get there early enough for a wee, unless you’re a bloke, then you can just do it in the bushes (don’t tell anyone I said that). And if you’re a Billy-no-mates with no one to look after your bag, get there early enough to put your bag in the baggage drop too.

So, there you go then. There’s my guide for training for your first 10k. Good luck!

The JogBlog Guide To Why You Should Use Fitness Apps

6 reasons to use fitness apps

Although I’m always downloading apps and trying new ones out, I keep forgetting to use them. They’re a great fitness tool though, and here are six reasons why:

1. You can unleash your inner (or not so inner) geek

Fitness apps are great for geeks. You’ll get hours and hours of fun from all those lovely charts and stats and graphs and stuff and, if all those lovely charts and stats and graphs and stuff start showing you’ve been slacking, that should shame you enough to unslack yourself.

2. You can unleash your inner (or not so inner) competitive streak

Most apps let you hook up with your friends who are also using the same app so you can spy on how they’re doing and silently set yourself up in competition with them and overtake them. Or, if you want to be less sly, a lot of apps will let you set up challenges with other users of the app, whether that’s by way of a leaderboard or as a one-to-one challenge (such as this one Warriorwoman and I undertook last year).

3. Accountability

Accountability. Now there’s a word that makes my teeth itch but apps do keep you accountable, it must be said. Miss a day’s training and there’ll be a little gap in the calendar to remind you that YOU ARE A SLACKER. And you wouldn’t want an app calling you a slacker, would you?

4. They’re convenient

Smartphones are great, aren’t they? No longer do we need to carry round a Garmin, a phone and an iPod; we can just take our phones out with us and have our GPS device, our making-phone-calls device and our music device all in one handy shiny black rectangle. And, as an added bonus, you don’t even need to look like a dick by having it on your arm in one of those armbands, you can get a handy pouch for them, like this Roosport Fitness Pouch.

5. They’re fun

The main reason for using a fitness app. They’re fun. Some let other people join in the fun by allowing you to link the app to Facebook, then when someone ‘likes’ the post that appears automatically once you start the app, you get a cheer through the headphones. Make sure you turn it off though if all you’re doing is walking the dog and don’t particularly feel the need to have people cheering you every five seconds.

There are apps that are also games, like the Zombies, Run! app. I have tried this and am rubbish at it. You’ll probably be better than me.

6. They’re free

Okay, that’s a bit of a fib. Most are free, although some don’t give you all the features you’d get if you paid for the premium version, while others have lots of features and are totally free, like the Superbody app, which is a personal nutritionist and workout coach.

So, there are a few of my reasons for using apps. Feel free to let me know which your favourite apps are.

Octane Zero Runner Review – No Impact Running

Octane Zero Runner

Octane Zero Runner – sold exclusively at Fitness Superstore

 

Back in 2007, I ran on a treadmill for 90 minutes. Because of the impact on my joints, this caused an injury which left me barely able to walk for about two months and, as any runner can tell you, getting over a running injury can take time. Lots of time. So, my advice to you is to not run for 90 minutes on a treadmill (unless you’re a nutter called Phil Anthony who ran 100km on a treadmill in 6 hours and beat the world record. Sorry – did I say ‘nutter’? I meant ‘superhero’). Obviously it’s not just treadmills that can cause an injury – road running puts a lot of pressure on your joints, too, and so the folks at Octane Fitness invented the Zero Runner.

As the name suggests, it’s a running machine with zero impact on your joints. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a cross between a treadmill and a cross-trainer though – it’s not. The Zero Runner has mechanical hip and knee joints that replicate human biomechanics in running and the user controls the motion, with the Zero Runner following the runner’s movement.

It’s been around for a while in the US and has now been brought to the UK, where it’s sold exclusively by Fitness Superstore, who invited me to come along to one of their stores for a demo.

On my arrival at the Tunbridge Wells store, the manager, Malcolm, greeted me, along with Ricky who set me up on the Zero Runner and talked me through it. The first thing I noticed about the Zero Runner is its size. Considering it’s for home use (you won’t find them in gyms), it’s a big machine, but, as Malcolm pointed out, compared to a treadmill – which are a few feet long – the Zero Runner’s footprint is actually quite small. On the plus side though, because it’s self-powered there’s no motor which means there’s no need to plug it in which in turns makes it quiet while also not increasing your energy bills.

Smartlink app from Octane Fitness

Smartlink app from Octane Fitness

You can link up the Zero Runner to Octane Fitness’ free SmartLink app on your iPad and set up programs and workouts and watch videos that will walk you through everything. If you don’t have an iPad, as you’d expect, the Zero Runner has a console that shows basic stats such as pace, speed, calories burnt, distance, etc. It also has wireless heart rate technology for Polar, ANT+ and Bluetooth.

Octane Zero Runner console

Octane Zero Runner console

So, what is it like to use? After a quick demo from Ricky, I hopped on to the Zero Runner and tried to make the paddles move and failed. I ended up kind of scissoring my legs without bending my knees. I asked Ricky how long it takes to get used to it and he said it’s usually around a minute or so, so I persevered for a while longer before jumping off and asking Malcolm (Ricky had gone to help a customer) to show me how it’s done. This time I paid more attention to his leg movements and when I went back on for another go, I quickly got into the swing of it. As I mentioned above, the Zero Runner isn’t like a cross-trainer. It doesn’t move for you – you make it move and it follows your movements and, once you realise you can make a natural running movement, it’s really effective.

When I’d finished my demo, I was so impressed I wanted one. Space is at an issue at the moment with the conservatory (where the rest of the home gym equipment is) currently being used as storage for kitchen stuff (the kitchen’s currently being demolished/decorated) but also The Zero Runner isn’t cheap at £2,699 at the time of writing. No decent piece of gym equipment is cheap though and this is a multi-purpose machine which, as well as a running machine, can be used as a cross-trainer (you can change the resistance on the arms) and skiing machine. You can also strength train on it with the included resistance band which can be attached at 7 points.

Strength training workout on the Smartlink app

Strength training workout on the Smartlink app

To summarise,

Pros:

Zero impact to protect your joints
Replicates road running
Fully customisable flexible stride options
Ideal for runners who want to avoid injury or are coming back from injury
Great supplement to outdoor training
Multi-functional
No motor/quiet
No energy bills
More fun than a treadmill

Cons:

It’s a big machine
I can’t afford one

To see the Zero Runner in use by someone who knows what they’re doing, watch this video.

The Zero Runner is exclusive to Fitness Superstore. To arrange a demo at one of their stores in Leeds, Manchester, Tunbridge Wells, Frimley, Gloucester or Northampton, contact them on 01604 673000 or visit their website at www.fitness-superstore.co.uk/zero-runner for more information.




NOW running app

I have somehow managed to go through my entire life without buying a ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ album. Not even when the series started in 1983, when I was 13 and probably knew not only the words to every track but also the names and favourite colours (thank you Smash Hits) of each member of every band on it.

Last year, the ‘Now That’s What I Call Running’ box set was released, and now, NOW have released a running app.

You decide how long you want to run for, and the app will create a playlist of that duration from the tracks on your phone. Or, alternatively, you can buy tracks from the complete NOW catalogue from within the app. You can also choose the energy filter which will create the playlist based on the energy level you set.

It has an incredibly intuitive interface, and I was set up in a few clicks.

now-running-app-setup

now-running-app-time

Not wanting to break my 30 year streak of never owning an NOW album, I let it choose 30 minutes of music from the selection on my phone.

now-running-app-playlist

As you’d expect from a running app, it tracks your distance, pace and calories and lets you share your run with Twitter.

now-running-app-stats

This is the perfect app for people (like me) who can never decide what music to play. Please excuse the pathetic time it recorded. I’d foolishly gone for a run after having a dodgy stomach and anything above a walk had me almost doing a Paula.

NOW Running App costs 69p and is available to download on iPhone  and Windows Phone 8.

Not just another running app. VIA app – sat nav for runners

Capture

Nooooooooooooooooo, I thought, when I got the email. No, I flipping well don’t want to try yet another running app. Then I read the email properly and thought, well, this is something new – a sat-nav for runners. The best bit though is that it works with iTunes and the audio will work around your music playlist.

The VIA app is the world’s first sat-nav for runners/cyclists. It’s map-based with step-by-step real-time audio directions to talk you through your route. Although it’s a very simple app, it took me a while to work out how to plot a route but I managed to do it eventually by telling it where I wanted it to start and then telling it where I wanted to finish – in my case, exactly the same place where I had started.

Then came the tricky bit. Because it’s sat-nav and not a route planner, it wants to tell you how to get from A-B in the quickest way and so, despite there being pins you can drop in to make it go via a certain point on the map, you only get three pins to use, making it impossible (for me, at least) to get a decent amount of mileage in. I only wanted a four mile route but could only get it as far as about 3.5 miles before giving up trying to place the three allowed pins in strategic places.

I tried the VIA app for the first time on Tuesday and found it a whole heap of fun. The voiceover is a well-spoken older gentleman who I named Brian and imagined him sitting back and relaxing in the non-talky bits by listening to my music. I hope he liked it.

On Tuesday, unfortunately, Brian was having a blond day (in my head he has dark hair) and didn’t seem to know his left from right and I did at one point wonder if I had my phone upside down. This could be because I confused him as he kept saying ‘off-route – recalculating mileage’ and instead of turning round and going the other way, continued until he caught me up. I especially confused him when I went into a field instead of running down the road and after he’d said ‘off-route – recalculating mileage’ about ten times, I thought he was going to start getting angry and shout at me. But Brian remained a perfectly patient gentleman and didn’t shout at me.

At the end of my run when I got home by going the right way and ignoring his requests to turn left when I flipping well knew I had to turn right, a screen came up to show me how far I had ran, the time it had taken, the average speed and the calories burnt. It also gave me the option to be a saddo and share it on Twitter or Facebook. I then learnt that if you go away from this screen, you can’t get it back again as it doesn’t archive anything. Another feature I would have liked is for it to show me the map with the route I plotted before commencing the run, and the route I actually took.

So, on first impressions? Great fun but needs more features and it needs to learn its left from right.

To give it a fairer review (and because it was so much fun to use and having Brian in my ear made the run more interesting), I decided to plot out a route where I would only go on the road and not confuse Brian by going in a field and whichever way he told me to go, I would go and not rebel and go a different way (even though I knew I was going the right way and it was just that Brian didn’t know his left from right).

I switched the sat-nav on, walked to the gate and Brian piped up with ‘off-route’. Hang on Bri, I thought, I’M STILL IN THE FRONT GARDEN, GIVE ME A FLIPPING CHANCE! and I got out of the gate, crossed the road and ran down the road I told him I was going down. After a while I wondered if I had turned Brian off as he was being very quiet. He must have just been kicking back and listening to Calvin Harris

as, after a while he said in 200 yards (or was it metres? I can’t remember) I had to turn right, which was the right way – yay. Brian continued to tell me the right way for the next mile until I had to cross over the road. I’m sorry Brian, but I am not crossing across a big busy roundabout, I’m going to go to the lights to cross over. He didn’t like this and kept telling me I was going off route. Still, we got back on track and I happily ran down the road with Brian popping up now and again to tell me when to turn left or right. He did have a habit though of saying turn right NOW which would usually have had me either going into a) someone’s front garden; b) a ditch; or c) a brick wall.

There was a weird point when he told me to turn right down a road that didn’t exist until I saw it a few yards up on the left but which was a no-through-road, so I ignored him and carried on going and he seemed ok with that.  He navigated impressively through the new housing development until I got through to the other side and he wanted me to turn left when carrying straight on was the way I wanted to go but I thought maybe he knew a shortcut so I went the way he said but then he told me I’d gone off route and so I turned round and went back the way I knew I should have gone in the first place and then I got to the bit where on Tuesday I went along the path that runs parallel to the road but I thought, to be fair to Brian, I will stay on the road and just hoped that he appreciated that it was a road without a pavement and if I got run over it would be all his fault and then I got to the bit of the road where there’s a pavement on the other side and I thought PAVEMENT AHOY! but I was on a bend and couldn’t see if anything was coming and so I had to carry on dicing with death until I got to a straight bit and bombed across the road to get to the pavement and then I went past the primary school and the kids were out playing and I though aah, aren’t they sweet and although people think I hate kids, I’m only not keen on them in public places like supermarkets and restaurants but when they’re safely confined in a playground and huddled together wearing the same uniform I think they’re kind of cute, like puppies in a pet shop, and then I got to the end of the road and Brian said turn right and I’m glad he said that because that was the right way and then I was home and I remembered to take a screen shot of the run I had just done.

VIA-app-screenshot

So, second impressions? I flipping love it! Like I said before, it’s so much fun. If the developers can improve the number of pins you can use to plan your route (unlimited would be good) and have the facility to look back over previous runs and use the routes again, and let you see the route you took overlaid on the route you were supposed to take, it’d be perfect. As it is, unless I didn’t plot it properly, I can’t see how I could use it in marathon training if, for example, I wanted to plot out an 18-mile run. Also, I’m not sure how it would cope if I did plot a long run on it but wanted to also incorporate parks and cycle paths into it (which I will be doing).

But the developers have told me that it is still a work in progress and all the features I’d like to see are things they’ll hopefully be adding in the future.

The VIA app is available in the iTunes store for £1.99 – I’d buy it if I were you, what would you call yours?