Friday, February 25, 2011

Sports Tracker & Endomondo

As my profession, I strongly belief that you need to able to measure something before you are able to improve it. With my Polar FT4, I can now record the toughness of the previous training, but I am running blindly on the road without knowing how far/fast I am going. I tried the running track in MPSJ, which each standard lap is about 400m. I repeated few weeks and I think it’s a good motivation to encourage me to go further. But later I found myself very tired on counting how many laps I ran and how many more left to go. And I read something on runners’ forum about turn your mobile phone (with GPS) into a training records and tracking device. What an interesting idea, and it’s FREE!

As I am using a Nokia phone, I went to the Nokia Ovi store to look for these tracking softwares. I downloaded Sports Tracker and tried it on the next morning run. Initially, I faced problem on tracking the GPS signal, but later I realized that the phone used A-GPS, so it will be more responsive if the internet is on. The user’s interface is simple and you can pair it with a Bluetooth hearth rate monitor strap. The website recommended purchasing from Polar, and I thought my existing chest strap from FT4 will be good. But later realized that the FT4 strap (and normal Polar straps) uses infra-red to transmit the signal. You need to purchase a special one from Polar to run on Bluetooth and it’s expensive so I didn’t pursue further on this.

After each workout, Sports Tracker will records all the readings and uploads it to the web-based database ( You can later browse thru these records and its feel really good to look back the running track on a map, how your movement plotted a beautiful line on the map. It’s also keeping the records and put them up as monthly summary on calendar style, this is another good point to track your monthly workouts. I used this since Dec 2010 and so far so good.

On the Endomondo, its basically have same function with Sports Tracker, but it adding in the voice coaching feedback. Your phone will read out the split time (depend on the lap distance you set), and your average speed/pace during the previous lap. The audio feedback is a great tool to see your real time effort (I think not many people will keep looking on their phone when they are running outside). The only down side of this tool I encountered are the battery consumption (from my only trial run with Endomondo). I started the running with 50+% of my phone battery level, which is normally fine with Sports Tracker for a 60~70 minutes running. But it’s drained my battery within 40 minutes. Also, both Sports Tracker & Endomondo records can’t combine. So I am stick to Sports Tracker until now.

These are tools to improve your running and keep you motivated. I am thinking of getting a Garmin Forerunner 405CX, I really love the “Running Partner” idea and it can serve as a very well coach if you insert your running plan. The only stopper is the price, its cost ~RM1600, and compare to Amazon in US, its only USD215 (as a replaced model by Forerunner 410). It make me feel imbalance if I proceed with this big difference. Anyone can advice the import procedure to Malaysia?

Until next time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Polar FT4

This is a basic unit HRM from Polar.
I got it from Fitness First (Sunway Pyramid) for RM365 without any discount (my problem, always urge to buy something when there is not the season of sale).

Simple black color box, come with
- Wrist Watch (the so called “training computer”)
- Chest strap with a transmitter
- User guide

It does simple jobs to records your training data (hearth rate, average/max, total time and total calories) on each workout sessions. It also monitors the hearth rate to your predetermined training zone and gives you an audible alarm when your hearth rate falls out the zone.

I have to admitted that my motivation to continue running, initially come from this unit. You will feel the satisfaction every time you completed a workout session and checking the detail on this watch. And I also able to see how incapable I am for running, the hearth rate go up and down very fast with just very short running distances (which are definitely a no good syndromes on fitness). Knowing that the watch can only keep the past 10 workout sessions, I even chart the detail up on my Excel.

After a few weeks of running, my hearth rates start to get stable. And I am now able to sustain it at certain level during my workout session. So, I belief the advise of “monitor your hearth rate during your workout to achieve maximum benefit towards your target” is actually needed some training. You will need to have some basic endurance to achieve the stable hearth rate during exercise, unless you are only doing it for the weight management zone.

Now days, I only use it to monitor the timing, and served as a precaution on the maximum hearth rate. Also, some time when I check out the hearth rate to stop my excuses to slow down. “It’s only 158 BPM, you can do better/harder than this.” Btw, this may be due to my running sessions are more planned distances (normally I runs at fixed courses). On the other hand, running on fixed course with the hearth rate monitor, you will know your body better. If the run normally cost you at 160BPM, but now its shown 170BPM, your body is complaining. I normally get those complains if I have no enough sleep or feeling like about to fall into sick.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why? Running!? (3)

Third, to restore my passion and enjoy my life.

I still remember the bad experience that I had during my high school. Whenever we have a sport class and need to run 5 laps on the football field, I will be flatten at about the 2nd lap and tentatively dropped out at the end of the 2nd lap. If the teacher allows us to jog-walk, chances are, I will not able to complete the 5 laps within the 30 minutes given. I couldn’t belief myself will addicted to running, in my mid 30’s.

Btw, I like sports even though I am no good in any of them. I practiced some martial art (Taekwondo and Tai Chi) for few years but never mastered any of them. I took part in basketball in university time, but I guess the Residential College team only let me in due to lack of players (1st year) and I am kind of insisted (2nd year). The good thing about me is I finally realized that I am blocking others’ places, so I quit the team in my 3rd year.

Sports play some supportive role in all stages of my life. I guess I am using it as a source of meditation (or similar) to restore my core. The mind map on my own enjoyment (did in 2009) some how, included the running/jogging even before my running fever started. This linkage in my life is much clearer when we looked back.

Back to the starting point of my running addiction. My boss, some how is a runner too. He is surprised on my SMS telling him that I took part in a 10K and this logged into his memory. Later in September, the CICM Responsible Care Run asked our company to sponsor the race and he asked me whether I am joining this race or not. Sure I will give positive response, “Yes, I am joining.” And I don’t know how I begin to tell other colleagues that I am running for the 10K. Under the pressure of no failures as option, and the needs to get some decent time on completing the race, I started practice.

I start back in the same old way, running in the playground in the evening after work. Initially I stick to 1~2 laps running, and walk another 4~5 laps. And the number slowly grow to running 3~4 laps and walk 4~5 laps. And I discovered that I am actually still able to run more! When I browsed on the running topic, I come across the HRM (Heart Rate Monitor). I think this is very useful to keep yourself on track and get motivated to continue running. So I purchased a Polar FT4 in Fitness First for RM350+. Will come to this unit later in my other post. Btw, as the playground used cement tracks, my RM75 Admiral can’t take it further. I shopped around and purchased the NB1226 (RM400+ without any discount, am I insane?). These are my initial investment for my running gears.

I start running in MPSJ track during the weekend and managed to push my run-walk ratio to 6-4 right before the CICM 10K in Nov. Again, the game plan is to run on certain length then walk 1~2km and run. I even mark down some land marks so I won’t over stretch myself. Some how, the actual race route are difference @@” Overall, the race is still very fun and I managed to stretch myself to complete the 10K in 1:28 hours. After the race, I met my boss in the finishing area and he completed the race at about 1 hour time. He must have overtook me along the way (we are in different categories, mine flagged off earlier). I guess I have a long way to catch up.

There goes my reasons, why I am running. And, I am getting tired to tell the old story. The most important thing is, I am now totally hooked up and addicted to running. I will redo my Bukit Jalil trial in coming March (Bareno, I only took part for 10K), and this round I will run for the whole route without a so called “game plan”. Can I push my time to 1:10 hours? I don’t know, but my MPSJ tracks 25 laps record is still 1:30 hours.

Until next time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why? Running!? (2)

Second, to put my growing weight/waist under control.

When I looked back to my secondary school and even university’s photos (1st from Left), it’s hard to belief that slim looking fellow and the current 78kg fat guy is the same person. My weight had grown from 65kg to 78kg in 10 years time and together my waist size grown from 27in to 34in. The feeling is really bad to watch the retreating of the waist belt buckle hole by hole, and now, I finally reached the last one on my good old belt.

Guess the good and relaxing life after marriage made, plus the good cooking of my wife put in lots of stress on my waist. I have 2 choices now,
1. Surrender to my weight and just buy a new waist belt and let it be,
2. Do something on my weight so the waist stops growing.
My ego only allowed me to go for option 2 :)

The plan of climbing Mount Kinabalu is pushing me to start workout. I planned to purchase a new exercise bike so I can exercise in door and make sure the workout didn’t obstruct by the weather (I had some perception that whenever I wanted to jogging previously, it’s always rain). Btw, after checking on the price tag, I pull back. Lucky my relative have one old unit and I quickly help her to clear the old junk back to my place. I happily plan and stick to my workout plan (3x a week, 30minutes each, what a lazy plan, what crossed my mind that time? These amount of workout obviously not enough for Mount Kinabalu). The plan was fine and followed through until later when I found out how boring it can be to cycle alone in door.

On some evening with good weather, I start to lace up my shoe and running in the park. But I am too lazy that time, only run once or twice a week for 1 or 2 laps then walked lots. And with this litter amount preparation, I took part in the MPSJ 10K in June.

It was a nice and peaceful Sunday morning, and I am wondering why myself hanging around in Padang MPSJ 6:30am. I don’t know what to do as this is my first ever official race. I got my bib number pinned on my T-shirt and start to stretch a bit on the side of the racing track. Some promoters walked around with some free sample of Breath Right, and I tried one. It’s very effective to make sure I had sufficient oxygen supplied (this is important as I am not really prepared for the 10K).

My plan is to run on all the down slopes and walk all the way on the up slopes. We flagged off at around 7:20am by MB Selangor (first time I saw him out from Media :P ). Anyway, my plan worked out just find. I completed the race in about 1:45 hours, almost the last few who completed the race. I am really happy when I crossing the finish line, although I feel really miserable through out the race. Queued very long queue to collect the certificate and goodies bag. Only after few hours later in the afternoon, I start feeling the pain and tiredness. SMS my boss to apply emergency leave on the next day. And from this emergency leave, the trail of my running went out of control…