I recently competed in a Race Walking event; my team came in third, which kind of shocked me, because I suck at race-walking. Something that happened right before the event, though, made me realize that there’s a topic I haven’t written about up til now which could prove useful to my readers.
Choose your Music
The way it happened was – I was approaching the starting line, and had just walked up behind some people I knew, when I overheard one of them mention my name to the other, saying that a few years ago I had written a program to select songs for my iPod that were exactly the right speed for race-walking. Not quite true, but close enough. What I had actually done was to read up on race-walking, and determine that I should be aiming for about 160 steps-per-minute. Now, 160 steps-per-minute, when walking, is a LOT of steps. It feels really strange, and isn’t easy to get used to. I figured the best way to do it would be to have music on my iPod that was 160 beats-per-minute, and then I could just walk in time to the music. So, I went online, did a search, and found a free download-able program that would analyze the beats-per-minute for all of the songs on my computer hard-drive. Fantastic! So, I found a lot of songs that had the right beat, and selected about two hours’ worth of high-energy songs that would be good to walk to.
The same approach worked wonderfully for putting together a running play-list. Everything that I had read (has anyone figured out yet that I’m rather analytical? I like to understand how things work) told me that my running would be more efficient – and less injury-prone – if I could maintain a cadence of 180-steps-per-minute. One book recommended, of all things, a digital metronome to get used to running with that cadence. Hardly! Again, I ran the beats-per-minute analyzer against the songs on my hard-drive, and put together a great, high-energy running play-list.
For anyone who’s interested, the tool that I’ve been using, and still do, is by MixMeister Technology, out of Fort Lauderdale, and can be downloaded for free from www.mixmeister.com/download_freestuff.html. Note: I have no relationship with this company, and get nothing in return for sending you their way.
Time your Tabata Workouts
Another handy program I use all the time (daily, or close to it) is an iPod App that I downloaded about half a year ago. You’ve probably noticed a few references on my site to Tabata workouts. I LOVE them!!! But, using the digital timer in our kitchen is a little awkward – I can set it for 20 seconds ok, but then when it times out I have to mentally count 10 seconds before starting the timer for another 20 seconds. A pain. So, when I finally got an iPhone (last year, not too long before Christmas; my very first cell-phone, might I add – I resisted as long as seemed reasonable), I checked out Apple’s iStore, and promptly downloaded a Tabata Timer. There are quite a few of them out there, and I imagine they all do pretty much the same thing. The one I chose, from Garaio Technology Lab, is free (now – I think I paid $1.99 for it 6 months ago), and does the job fine. So, when I do my morning Tabata workout, I turn on a high-energy play-list on my iPod, start up the Tabata Timer, and I’m good to go.
Plan your run, and run your plan
OK – now we’re getting into the big bucks. The previous two cool tools were free, while this one can run $100 to $200, depending on which version you get. The Garmin Forerunner is, basically, GPS for runners. But really what it does is let you make sure that you’re running according to the plan you came up with. It tells you how far you’ve run, and how fast. Real-time! So, I can plan a run. Say, I’m going to run 10km; I’ll run the first kilometer as a warmup in 6 minutes, then do the rest as 5 minute kilometers followed by 1 minute walk-breaks. I can set the Garmin to beep at me a) after I finish each kilometer, and b) after I finish each 1 minute walk break. And I can set it to continue doing this as many times as I want. While I run, I can see what my average pace is for the current lap, how far I’ve gone (total, or in this lap), how fast I’m walking during my walk-break.
And, if you go for one of the more expensive models, it comes with a built-in heart-rate-monitor. Which is a fantastic tool – especially for beginning runners. I got my heart-rate-monitor 15 years ago, when I first started competing in local 10k races. Before I got it, I had a tendency to start out fast – too fast – and then be exhausted well before the end of the race. Once I got the heart-rate monitor, I could decide in advance to do a training run at, say, 150bpm. No matter how slow that turned out to be. And it did turn out to be really slow. But, with the real-time feedback provided by that monitor, I was able to gradually improve my conditioning, and eventually I could manage a half-marathon with an average heart-rate of 171bpm. As I see it – I was working just as hard as the elite runners who were setting records on the course – I was just doing it for twice as long 😉
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Anyway, those are three things that I use pretty regularly, and wanted to recommend to all of you. Let me know if you use them, and what you think about them, or if you use something else.
What do you use to improve your workouts?