Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Apps I Love

I was recently contacted by U.S. Cellular to review some apps that I might find useful with running and the organization of my other daily activities. Alas, I am stuck with a lovely phone that doesn't run apps. It has a camera, but there is no way to even get the pictures off of it. Useless for anything but making calls, so the gracious Kelly at U.S. Cellular lent me a Samsung Galaxy S smartphone to use for a couple of months. Let me just say I was spoiled and so sad to give it back at the end of the trial, but I was very glad to get to try some of the apps that I know other people use and found some others I hadn't heard of before.

For exercise:
  • Runtastic

Love this app! Without a Garmin, I had never been able to just go out for a run and be able to know how far I went. I would always create a route using a map beforehand. Using the phone's GPS capabilitites, Runtastic tracks your distance and route, time, pace, speed, and elevation. It also allows you to share your workout on various social media platforms. Pretty awesome for a free app. With the Pro version, you can even have your friends track your progress and cheer you on! I had fun with this one day when my friend Jen was using it during one of her runs. Hee hee! 

And it isn't just for tracking running. Check out all the activities you can log using this one app!

You can visit the Runtastic site here.

  • MapMyRun

This is another great app for figuring out different running routes. Since I starting running, I've always mapped routes and recorded my workouts using LogYourRun, so I didn't use this app very much during the trial. MapMyRun is very similar, but one feature I enjoyed was after making a route, it gives you turn-by-turn directions. You can also import data from a whole slew of tracking devices. Visit the MapMyRun site here.

  • My Fitness Pal
I love it when some of the best apps are free! The My Fitness Pal app allows you to track your daily intake of calories, diet, and exercise to achieve a weight loss goal. You personalize the app by inputting your current weight, height, how much you would like to loose, your current exercise habits and it gives you a number of calories to hit each day to loose the weight. It has so many foods (over 2 million) in the library with their nutritional values and you are able to easily input recipes of your own. You can even scan the barcode on any prepackaged food to view the nutrition information! So cool! Check out the My Fitness Pal site here.

There are certainly many more apps for running and exercise, but these were the three that I focused on for the purposes of this review and got the most use out of.

For organization:

  • Astrid

This app basically allows you to organize everything on your to-do list and calendar. It is very easy to create new lists and designated when to complete the task, its' priority, if it belongs to a master list, the description of an item, and even a picture of the item (handy when shopping for a particular brand). The coolest feature is that you can assign tasks to other people within a list. Say I realized that I was out of running fuel and I was going on a long run the next day (has totally happened), and I wanted my husband to pick some up. I can just add it to a list, add a photo of the brand I want, and share the list with him. You can visit the Astrid site here.

  • HootSuite

This app is a must for managing all of your social networks. Instead of checking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc. separately, HootSuite allows you to do it all once. What was once a major time-suck, is now much more manageable and productive. There is also a way to check your statistics on the multiple platforms. I could easily check my blog stats that I run through Google Analytics as well as my Facebook and Twitter numbers, all in one place. For more information on HootSuite, visit their site here.

For fun:

  • Instagram

Seriously, my favorite feature of using a smartphone was the ability to instantly take a decent photo, do simple edits, and share with my friends and family. Before this trial (and now after) my system was/is take photos with my camera, connect to computer, upload photos, save to computer, do any edits in Photoshop, save as a smaller file, upload to Facebook, Twitter, etc. Such a long process! With the Galaxy S, literally two button presses is all it takes to share a photo. To sign up for Instagram, visit their site here.

These are just a few of the thousands of apps out there, but I found these to be the most useful to my lifestyle. What apps do you use on a regular basis? What app can you just not live without?

Disclaimer: U.S. Cellular sent me a Samsung Galaxy S to use free of charge in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Motivation, where are you?

Or what this post should really be called, "how I can better manage my time." I haven't been running like I should be. Working nearly every single night doesn't get me into bed until at least 11, which doesn't bode well for waking up at 5-5:30 to run like I used to. I sleep until 7 until I have to get up to get my husband to work and son to school on time. That means I don't get to run. Maybe it's because I am not following a training schedule. I'm not crossing off days/workouts, so in my head I figure "what's one more day?" Wrong attitude! It also doesn't help that the temperature has been below zero for days on end and I don't/can't have my treadmill in the new house. However, this NEEDS to change next week. Training for the Sugarloaf Marathon (my second full) starts on Monday!!! I will get up three days a week to run. I don't care if it's cold. I don't care if I'm tired. I need to make running and my well-being a priority. I find myself more irritable than not. Being like that isn't fair to my family. 

Also, this blog. Because it's my running blog and I haven't been running a lot, I don't find that I have a lot to talk about or share. I'm hoping that once marathon training begins, I'll be motivated to blog on a more regular basis. But I don't really have a lot of time to sit down and write. I used to write in the mid-morning while the boys played, however that time slot has been taken up with working on the house. I am still trying to get the first bedroom finished and it's getting so close! Zeke mentioned today that he hopes his room is done before he grows a mustache. Ha! I'm thinking two weeks, though it will probably be four.

Anyway, sorry if I have been on the negative side with this post or if it sounds like I am just full of excuses. But I started this blog to work through my own thoughts and issues, it just so happens that I share it with the world. Do you have any tips to share on how you stay motivated? I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Feeling Better

After a frustrating, overwhelming, emotional (for no reason) day yesterday, I was dying for a run. I went to sleep in my running clothes last night to ensure I would be able to run today. I dropped Zeke off at school, made a quick stop at Home Depot for a couple of things, and headed to the bike path in Brunswick. I had hoped to go out and back twice to get in over 10 miles, but ended up only doing one for a total of 5.34 miles. The trail was a little icy in spots, but the Parks and Rec Department do a great job keeping it clear and safe through the winter months. 

Since I haven't been running much I have been really worried that I had lost a lot of my fitness and running ability. The struggle-fest five-mile run on Zeke's birthday in December got me down and worried about how next month's Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler was going to go. Last year, it was an awesome race for me, my pace literally just a couple of seconds off my 10K PR pace. I was thinking there was no way I would be able to PR this year given all my time off. Anything can happen, but after today's run, I'm feeling much better about having a solid race. 

I didn't run with my watch, but tracked distance and time on Runtastic using my borrowed smartphone and kept it in my pocket. At the turnaround I was very tempted to look at it, but decided against it. I think if I saw that my pace was slower than my perceived effort I would have been disappointed and struggled through the last half. So I waited - only to be surprised by my time at the end.

I finished in 44:30 with an average pace of 8:20. Not super fast, but for a training run by myself and given my lack-luster training, I consider it a win. It felt tough at times, but I just kept plugging away and pushing through the painful spots which is what I really need to be working on after months of getting comfortable with long, slow distance.

My splits:
Mile 1- 8:35
Mile 2 - 8:05 (wahoo!)
Mile 3 - 8:23
Mile 4 - 8:11 (and this one felt like the slowest!)
Mile 5 - 8:20
Last .34 - 2:56

This leaves me feeling good about my fitness level and I also have further solidified what factors (usually) lead to a good run for me. 

One, run on a nearly empty stomach. When I was waking up early to run, I would never eat beforehand. Last month's crappy run was later in the day after eating a big meal. Today, I only had a cup of coffee. If I was going to run longer I would fuel on the go, but it turned out that I only had time for one out and back anyway. I do have to say I was starving after, though.

Two, I love the cold and hate the heat. The bad run was mostly on the treadmill in a hot little room with the only ventilation from the puny treadmill fan. It seems all training runs and races in the heat equal a poor performance. It was in the 20s at last year's Mid-Winter Classic - maybe another reason I did so well? Today's temperature was 19 degrees. And it was glorious! I'm a Maine girl, through and through! The only cold part was in the beginning when some wind was coming off the river freezing my left nostril (yes, just the left), but after that I was seriously hot. I had on my C9 tights from Target and Zensah calf sleeves underneath. On top I wore a long sleeve tech tee from the Maine Marathon and my Brooks Utopia cold weather jacket. I also wore a fleece headband that covers my ears and warm alpaca fingerless gloves that have a part that flips over to make mittens. After the turnaround I had to take my fingers out and I was sweating like crazy.

Today's run was just what I needed to get back on track. I've been running with the dogs at night to get miles in while I find the right day to day schedule of our activities. I'll be posting about how that is going soon. 

What works for you? Food or little to no food? Hot or cold temps?