Data nerd

I am, it has to be said, a little bit envious of runners who can just run off into the distance without an app tracking their distance, pace, heart rate, route, weather and wind speed. WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT AFTERWARDS ON YOUR PHONE 

Yeah. I find my stats motivating. Most of the time.

I started off using MapMyRun which is popular for a reason: it good. I still have it installed & my current kit syncs with it, as well as Strava and MyFitnessPal. (I should probably have more data sharing concerns.) Anyway, after using the app for a while I bought my first Garmin watch a few months later. Started with the Forerunner 10, then moved onto the Forerunner 15 when I wanted to track my daily steps more. I went fancy with a 225 a few years later, and then last year after Manchester, I treated myself to a Forerunner 235.

here it is

Not much of a difference, except a cool black & white colour scheme. What I mostly wanted from this was wrist-based heart rate, because I do like keeping an eye on the heart rate even though I don’t really do HR zone training. Also each new model of Garmin is getting sleeker and less like a 1987 Casio throwback, presumably due to increased competition – I wear the watch constantly, so I have to like the way it looks. & this is hot.

technical bradycardia

There are hundreds of kit reviews already floating around the internet: this one is probably the most comprehensive and is what I pored over whilst trying to figure out which Garmin model I wanted. I’ll keep mine short & basic:

Good points

  • fast GPS lockdown
  • bluetooth uploading
  • Accurate heart rate measurement (it was consistent with an exercise ECG I had, & both I & the medical staff were impressed at the accuracy)
  • Good nerdy in-depth stats like training effect, race times predictor & VO2max estimates. I don’t get full use out of some of this data because I don’t know why I need it, but it’s nice to have
  • Charges quickly
neeeeerd

Improvement points

  • Very short time between ‘low battery’ indicator and no charge left
  • Bluetooth connection can be a bit random sometimes

Meh

  • smart notifications – I don’t reeeeally care about getting texts or calls whilst running, & forgetting to mute an active group chat before going on a long run is incredibly frustrating. Setting off for a long run always seems to reactivate a dormant group chat and my arm buzzes once a minute until I start to hate all my friends. I find this feature much more useful when I am not running, such as if my phone rings at work.
  • recovery advisor: advises too much recovery for my lifestyle & training level, and I’m not sure what metrics it’s based on anyway.
  • training plans: I see people using this function and I am interested/envious. I don’t really do intervals outside, but maybe I would if I planned a training plan into the watch
  • sometimes stops syncing with Strava for no obvious reason (general Garmin issue, rather than this specific watch, but still annoying)
  • the app is not very intuitive sometimes

I do stick with Garmin because I’ve got an app full of comparative data going back years now, but they are good quality watches & I haven’t seen a make or model that I’d like better except Apple. The fancier models look good, especially the ones that play music, but they are expensive & I wouldn’t be running without my phone anyway, so I don’t see the need for it.

But yeah, stats are motivating. I like seeing the map of where I’ve run. Strava QOM challenges can get quite heated, whether it’s within GFR or that random stranger who cycles down my street faster than me. But mostly, if I have a bad training session, I can see it adding to miles in the bank anyway, or just compare back to when I first started running & see how much better things are now.

 

Running is a cheap form of exercise

Unless you have no self control when it comes to buying gym gear, and a huge IKEA wardrobe.

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(this is as bad as it gets – I  refold everything about once a week…)

Honestly, I have ridiculous amounts of gym kit. It mostly mixes and matches, but I do have preferences for different kit for different types of training – when I started getting into serious lifting, I wore sleeveless tops and leggings more often so I could see the muscle tone & movement in my back and shoulders, as well as to minimise deadlift shin (long socks also work for this). Also I am too lazy to get changed after evening workouts, so clothing that keeps me warm enough on the walk home is better when it’s cold. For outdoor running in the winter I don’t like having both my arms & legs covered, unless it’s really chilly, so I have a pretty big collection of exercise clothing.

Trainers: these days it has to be Brooks. My current pair are Ravenna 9, but I’ve worn Vapor 2 and Vapor 3 in the past and also Saucony Omni, when I first started running & got shin splints. I also have a cheap pair of Karrimor Caracals for trail running or very wet weather. I’ll run shorter distances on treadmills in more basic trainers but for anything over four miles or so, I need my proper runners. I am lucky enough to rarely get blisters, but I am down to nine toenails.

I get my gait analysed in run4it’s RunLab every couple of years, they’ve always been incredibly helpful and do not do the hard sell on expensive gear.

I do not have a lot of time for ‘women’s trainers’ (& women’s kit in general) because they’re mostly pink/purple and have flowers on. I wear a size 7/8 shoe so I can quite often get mens’ trainers, which is good.

Bra: I do not compromise on sports bras. Like a lot of women, my running improved a huge amount when I found a sports bra that fitted well and was right for me. I like the Shock Absorber Run, but the way the back straps work mean that once it’s stretched a bit the support isn’t as good. Current favourite is the Brooks Juno, despite the expense – fits well, feels nice, looks good. I haven’t run long distances in this bra though so things may change as training progresses – I still have scars on my back from a 3 hour training run in 2017 where it rained heavily and the back clasp chafed me really badly. Never had that with a Shock Absorber so we’ll see how this winter’s training goes.

Tops: meh. A lot of my workout tops are race finisher shirts, most of which I can’t bring myself to get rid of even though I only wear about half of them on a regular basis. I like the idea of having them made into a blanket/throw type of thing, but I’d probably just keep that in a cupboard too. I guess it would save space. I will mostly train in whatever’s there; races are invariably in GFR club kit. I prefer a t-shirt to a vest.

Leggings/shorts/etc – one day I’ll find ones that fit nicely and perfectly and I will buy six pairs and that will be the end of it. Current favourites are some Ronhill long reflective leggings I picked up in the run4it sale, some 3/4 length mesh Nike tights that were also in the run4it sale, and some adidas supernova half-length leggings with reflective strips at the knee which are my fave for night-time running. I almost always race in the same pair of Nike shorts I’ve had for several years.

Jackets: I used to wear running jackets a lot more often, because I wanted to cover my body as much as I could. Nowadays I usually cba unless I need the pockets. Jackets don’t keep the rain off, and if you’re going out for a run in the rain you might as well wear short sleeves and get wet. I have a nice Ronhill jacket which is very reflective, has a decent pocket, and has a LED in the back, which comes in handy jog leading. This year’s London Marathon rejection jacket is also nice, although mine is a bit tight at the moment. Hopefully it will fit better soon.

2018-12-06 13.17.13
Rejection jacket 2019 & the Nike shorts

Socks: Cheap 3-packs from the Nike outlet store most of the time. I have a couple of pairs of Hilly twinskins & I also like Feetures. I find compression socks or sleeves are really nice for longer distances – I have a pair of bright pink 2xu compression socks which are good for getting noticed but the foot of the sock is less comfortable and bunches up sometimes. I also have a pair of less ostentatiously bright Hilly calf sleeves and a cheap pair of red compression socks that I bought to match the GFR club vest. After a 3-4 hour training run, compression socks do really make a difference to calf ache or discomfort, so I’ll be wearing these a lot in training.

Accessories: I have a flipbelt and a Nike waistpack with a bottle carrier, as well as a soft armband to carry my phone if I’m not using a waistpack. The door key and £5 can fit in the tiny stupid zipper pockets in shorts/leggings. My watch is a Garmin 235 and I’ll probably do a specific post about that and the statistics it tells me at some other point. For music, I have Urbanista Boston wireless earpieces and Skullcandy running earbuds, mixing & matching depending on length of run. I don’t always listen to music or podcasts when running, though

So, quite a lot of exercise gear. Too much. Another 2019 commitment will be to not buy any more new gym clothing. I will need a fresh pair of trainers between now and April, but nothing else. Let’s hope I stick to that…