RunforFood: Report card after 18 months

Reportcard-June13

Back to mix of run, swim and cycle in June 2013.

 

It has been awhile since I blog about my #RunforFood regiment. The ritual to run for food is still going strong, and in fact, I do find myself improving in my fitness over the last few weeks. In May, I managed to catch a few runs while I was on business trip to Geneva, Switzerland. It was a fantastic weather (under 15 deg C!) to run! In June, I continue my running regiment, and augment with cycling and swimming to combat the hazy weather.

Runningreportcard-June13

4 mins more to achieve 200 hours of running time!

 

Running pace vs Distance

Running pace vs Distance – Increase speed trend is a good sign of progression

 

record-june13

A couple of under 30 min 5km run in June proves that the timings are not a fluke.

 

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Run for Food: 3-2-1 Swim-Run-Cycle

Last week was a packed week, as far as exercise is concerned. I had decided to do less swim now, and more on running and/or cycling. That said, it all depends on whether my recovering feet and knees can take the physical stress. Based on how my body reacted after a “3 swims, 2 runs and 1 cycle” week, I do have to make some adjustment to my exercise regiment as I feel my left ankle and right knee are not completely recovered yet.

Tired leg after 1 week of exercise

Fitness seems to have improved steadily. I hit a top speed of 30.3km/h momentarily on my 16″ wheeler, but more importantly, I could consistently kept my speed between 20km/h and 24km/h,  throughout the 30km cycling route.

Exercise Statistics Dashboard (as of 26th October  2012)

 Activity Type  Activity Counts  Activity Distance (km)
 Running  128  936.1
 Cycling  11  284.5
 Swimming  40  68.6

Run for Food: New Motivation Gadget

Rubber band as lap tracker

Having swim for almost a month, I am convinced that I must have swimming as part of my exercise regiment, even after my foot fully recovers from the ligament sprain. For the last few weeks, I have been doing 40-100 laps of swimming, almost on a daily basis. With so many laps covered in every session, I had to have a method to track the laps. So I rely on rubber bands, an almost zero cost solution. Obviously I did not bring 40 or 100 rubber bands to the pool. While the solution is effective, I think an automated one is in order.

Garmin Forerunner 910XT

For a while I have been tinkering with the idea of getting Garmin Forerunner 910XT. I like the fact that it can be quickly released for bike mounting, and that it has a comprehensive activity tracking mechanism, probably even better than with my RunKeeper app and Polar HRM watch combined. I did not act on my tinker because I thought it will be an overkill (no, I’m not gunning for triathlon) while  convinced that Polar will do a far more accurate heart rate monitoring than Garmin. However, the recent increase in swimming activities led me to tilt and fast track my buying decision.

I went ahead to purchase one with quick release belt from GPS-Are-Us. Having used the fitness watch thrice in the last 3 days, once during a 60 min run, and twice on a swim, I have mixed feeling about my new gadget.

910XT mounted on my Brompton

The plus

I love the fact that now the watch can automatically count my swimming laps. When in lap swimming mode, the watch makes use of accelerometer to count the lap, determine and measure the swimming strokes (up to 4 different types of swimming stroke). There were inaccuracies in my first swim, where some laps  were miscounted but a firmware upgrade (from 2.5 to 2.6) seemed to have corrected the bugs. Coming from a GPS company, the Forerunner is also far more accurate than RunKeeper in measuring the running distance. With 5 different switch-able display screens (each capable of displaying up to 4 data fields), there are plenty of information for reference as I run. There is even a virtual pacer mode although I have not tried the feature yet. I love the quick release feature and it works just as expected. Having said that, I have not tried the watch on a cycling session yet, but I am looking forward to its rich data capturing and analysis just as I have experienced for running and swimming.

Watch needs frequent charging

The minus

Firstly, huge disappointment creep in when I discovered that the device will not track heartbeat during swimming. I was hoping that I had misinterpreted, or a firmware upgrade could fix it. Unfortunately, the reality set in when I learnt that the inability to track heartbeat is due to the frequency used by Garmin. In contrast, Polar uses dual frequency (one for land use and one for submerging in water) and therefore I have no problem using it to track my heartbeat in the last few weeks. Forerunner 910xt is also not a watch for daily wear; The watch gets too bulky when fitted with the quick release catch and belt system. The watch also needs to be recharged, as frequent as daily especially if I do not turn off the GPS. Last but not least, it can only display time of the day, no date.

Data sync or firmware upgrade are done via the USB ANT.

From a data synchronisation and analysis standpoint, the device synchronizes seamlessly via my laptop to the cloud managed by Garmin. There are plenty of data for analysis, so I think that is one of Garmin’s biggest strength. The activities summary dashboard reports however are left much to be desired, given its lack of proper graph charting feature. There are some workaround though, as I have researched a few app (e.g. GarminSync, Fit2App) that could sync Garmin data to RunKeeper, which still offers the best health reports and charts in my opinion.

Exercise Statistics Dashboard (as of 28th September 2012)

 Activity Type  Activity Counts  Activity Distance (km)
 Running  122  879.02
 Cycling  8  220.5
 Swimming  21  42.6

 

Run for Food: 9 months of “labour”

Counting back, it has been almost 9 months since I started taking the first step to re-exercise my heart. The momentum to stay fit continues with new addition forms of exercising, including the recent swimming regiment. Statistically, I have shaved to a near 15kg and trimmed 7 inches of waistline. I have thought I would achieve more than that, but I guess my passion for sinful food has kept me honest. I have no complains though, because I think its such foods that have kept me going, ironically. Incidentally, I have started another blog, irun4food recently, to blog about the yummy calories hoggers that I cannot resist to.

Beyond statistics, I do feel much healthier. I have hardly fallen sick since I started my exercise regiment, and when I did, I recovered within a day or two. It could also be attributed to the adoption of a more sane working hours, as I recently moved from a worldwide to region role. Beside feeling healthier, I do feel more confident with a leaner body. It has been an amazing journey, to say the least.

For two weeks I have not been running due to the recent foot injury. The daily swimming not only helps to tone my body muscles, it also serves as a physiotherapy to my strained feet and knees. As a matter of fact, i thought swimming is a good fat burning exercisr but only if you have achieved a certain level of fitness and maintain the needex discipline.

Yesterday I decided to try a light run to see how my legs respond to the therapy. There was less strain felt on both feet, probably even lesser than before my foot injury. I did feel a sense of tightness on my right knee cap. While my feet and knees looked like they had lubricated after 1.5km, I was still uneasy for every foot landing, and could anticipate a relapse if I mis-step again. I had started with just a 60 min light jog in mind, but ended with a 10km jog with a comfortable time of 1 hr 14 min. That said, I thought the “swim-o-therapy” will need to continue, and would probably go easy with running, perhaps with just a 5km run a week.

Till now, I have completed 862.12km, 120 running activities, together with 11 swimming activities covering a distance of 16.1km. I do need to reinstate my cycling regiment though, so that’ll be something to work on next.

Cycle for food: Cycle & Train Ride to workplace

Since moving to the new workplace in early July, I am faced with the challenge of finding a permanent parking solution. There are limited season parking lots available so we have to take turns every 3 months. For the 3 months where I am not entitled to the season pass, I have to pay for the day pass (*eh-hem*, it’s partially reimburse-able though :P). Having “pampered” with free parking space for the last 16 years, I feel I have to explore other transport alternatives.

I decide to try out cycling and train boarding to work, after all it is the reason why I bought a Brompton foldable bicycle two months ago. It will be crazy for me to cycle all the way to workplace, especially during the peak hour. Cycle and train ride with my bike folded, would be a better alternative. This is especially given my workplace is just 5 minutes bike ride away from the nearest station. The constraint though is, according to the train commuting policy, that I can only bring my folding bike onto the train during off peak hours, i.e. between 9am to 4pm. So a daily ride and train commute looks impossible, at least not with my latest region role.

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Ready to set off!

Today, I have an 8 am morning conference call. No way I will be in office in time for the call, so I decide to take the call from home. By the time the call ends at 9am, I realise perhaps I shall give the cycle & train ride a try. I put on a light cotton shirt and a pair of jeans, pop my laptop into my haversack, and off I go with my bike.

My first leg is to cycle to the nearest train station. I can cycle to Eunos station but it means I will take the East-West line, and will end up cycling from Queenstown station to my workplace via the congested Alexandra road. Does not sound like a good route, so next! Circle line looks like a “natural” choice, given that Labrador Park station is just 5 minutes bike ride away from my workplace, and the nearest station from home (Dakota or Paya Lebar) is just a few stops away from Labrador, at least from distance wise. But alas Circle line is not that “circular” as the line doesn’t connect between Dakota and Labrador in the city direction (i.e. towards Marina),  unless I take the direction heading towards the North (i.e. towards Bishan). Now that will be a circular ride if I take this route! Eventually I stick with this route since it implies that there will be no trains hopping during the journey.

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Go Green with Brompton

So I start the journey cycling off from home. It’s a different (and uncomfortable too) experience riding on the bicycle in working attire (albeit in jeans) while shoulder-carrying a haversack. Given that the morning traffic is still light at this hour (~9.09am), the bike journey enroute to Dakota station is relatively smooth. Despite a cool morning ride (ok, not that cool at 9am, but still a decent temperature), by the time I reach the station I am all sticky with sweats, no thanks to the humidity. Fortunately the train station is air conditioned, so I can take the opportunity to “cool down” while waiting for the train.

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Bike folded and parked nicely in the corner of the train cabin

Once the bike is folded, I can manuever around with ease. With the Brompton folded and nicely seated on the rack, I can roll the bike like a push cart. I walk past the station control with my folding bike, and it is a non event as nobody from the control room bothers to stop me (and rightfully so since I am commuting during off peak hours). That said, I wonder if I will be stopped when I do so during peak hour. It is after all no different from pushing a trolley or baby stroller. I guess it boils down to being civic minded, as it will not be considerate squeezing in a packed train cabin with a folding bike, regardless of how compact it is.

The advantage of boarding at Dakota station is that the train usually arrives with empty cabins. Easy to find a seat that allows me to “park” the bike right beside me. The train cabin crowd builds up as it heads towards Bishan, as many Fusionpolis-bound office workers and NUS students start to pack in. Despite the crowd, I have not received any curious or nasty stares from other commuters. I can’t help being more wary given the recent spates of public transport squabbles.

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Safely arrived in office 🙂

The train finally arrives at Labordor station after 35 minutes of train journey and I feel as if I have toured round the island. With the bike unfolded, all it takes is a 5 minutes cycling journey to my workplace. The tricky part though, is the elevated route. It could be worst if I have to cycle to my previous workplace, which is 2km further away (and upstream) from my current workplace. Little wonder I still ended up perspiring by the time I reach the office. So that’s something I need to fix in the next cycling+train trip, such as putting on more deodorant on my body, heh!

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Folded Brompton nicely tugged under my office desk

With the bike folded, I could nicely tug it under my desk. Including the time I need to get settled down, the journey costs me 1 hour of commute time. Not exactly an optimal commute journey to shout about. However considering that I am helping to reduce the carbon footprint,  I think its a great commute option, albeit only practical if I don’t have late meetings.  Though I have to leave office by 3.55pm to catch the train before off peak hours end, I am going to try 4.30pm the next time though.  So we will see how strict the train station staffs enforce the bicycle policy 🙂

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Cody welcoming me home from work

All in all, it has been a great journey; I can go green, solve my car parking woe (for that day), save some petrol cost while keeping fit. All wins so I can’t go wrong with this, I guess.

Cycle for Food, Cycle to work 🙂

Run for Food: 100 activities, 15km milestone and Cycle for Food

Yes I have been slacking. But no it’s not about my exercise regiments, but rather my blogging of those activities.

Since May 19th, I revise my exercise regiment to include 2 running and 1 cycling sessions every week. I said previously that I no longer focus in chalking mileage, but I have been gradually increasing the distance each time I run. On average I still clock about 20-22km a week until recently I have started to stretch myself to run more than 12km, while keeping at the aerobic zone. The first time when I completed 13km on 7th June, I felt great although I could feel a significant strain on my ankles. I ran another 13km a week later, and on 18th June, I attempted a unthinkable goal — 15km. The initial plan on that day was to run 13km, but 4km into the session, I felt I was in very good condition to do a 15km instead.

15km milestone

For the first 1 hour, I keep my pace to stay at aerobic zone. So by the time I was at 10km mark, I could still go on, and at a faster and steady pace. Amazingly, by the time I completed the 15km distance, I have an average pace of 7.56min/km, slightly faster than the previous 10-12km run. Obviously, there is nothing to shout about, in completing a 15km in 119 minutes, but considering that I struggled with 1.5km 6 months ago, I felt a great sense of accomplishment here. The question now is increasing the distance or  pace in my subsequent runs, and I thought I would just continue my aerobic routine for another month and those two aspects should be fulfilled naturally.

100 activities milestone

In the meantime, I have achieved the 100 activities milestone. That includes some cycling activities which I started on 24th May.  Speaking of which, the first cycling session was just a modest 17km route. Given my general inexperience with cycling, I keep my cycling sessions to East Coast Park. Fortunately the park is within cycling distance from my home. Cycling in the park has its challenges too, as I have to avoid kids or even adults who either jaywalk or hog the cycling lane, especially on a busy Friday or weekend. I completed my first 40km cycling route on 1st June, as I cycled all the way to Changi Village via Changi Coast Road and back. While I managed to maintain an average speed of 20-21km/h in the first 30km, the last 10km was a struggle for me, probably lack of sufficient fluid replenishment.

By now, I have completed 95 running activities, covering a distance of 636.14km. On the cycling front, I have completed 8 cycling activities with a distance of 180.22km. Now I’m facing a challenge of keeping up the regiment as I am possibly going to take up a new role in July which may not give me the time flexibility that I enjoy right now. Let’s hope I can continue to find time amidst my hectic schedule to continue the exercise regiment!

 

 

Run for Food: 500km milestone and new exercise gears

It has been 5 months since I first started running. Since my last blog post, I have not been tracking my running mileage. That is because I have decided to stop the mileage chase, and instead focus on running at the right heartbeat zone, i.e. aerobic zone, for now. Quoting the explanation of the aerobic zone

Training in this zone will develop your cardiovascular system. The body’s ability to transport oxygen to, and carbon dioxide away from, the working muscles can be developed and improved. As you become fitter and stronger from training in this zone it will be possible to run some of your long weekend runs at up to 75%, so getting the benefits of some fat burning and improved aerobic capacity.

This means monitoring my heartbeat and ensuring my running pace keeps my heartbeat stays within the aerobic zone. In theory it sounds easy but application is difficult, because I have to deliberately slow down even if I am still comfortable in running a faster pace. Then I receive a Runkeeper alert email after my usual Friday run.

500km milestone

Wow, I have covered 500km after 5 months of running! My new goal is to be able to complete a 15km distance run with a steady pace, by end July. As such, I am focusing on interval  and endurance (distance and duration) training while continue to keep my heartbeat at the aerobic zone. The pace may be a minute or two slower than previous, but I do find myself pacing better at each run.

While I am continuing my 3 times a week running routine, averaging a total distance of 25-30km/week,  I figure I need to alternate my running with something else, such as cycling. I can swim, but I just hate the idea of exercising in the water. So cycling comes naturally to my mind, and in fact I have been contemplating for the new exercise for the past 2 weeks. I began to research on possible cycling equipments I could use. To be honest, I have never owned a bicycle in my life. When I was a kid, my parents had always thought cycling was dangerous for me. The only times they would allow me to cycle were when we were at East Coast Park for picnic outings. I also remember that my first road cycling was when my junior college classmates and myself set up a round island cycling trip. I had to borrow a bicycle from my sister’s friend, and it was just a single-speed road bike! I still recall the jittery feeling when I first rode on the road after collecting the bike. While I was cycling to the school to meet my classmates, I actually lost balance and fell off from the bike ! I have been keeping that incident under wraps so to avoid unnecessary nagging (or parental escalation) but guess now the truth is out … Ha Ha!

Brompton .. made in England

I explored various options; road bike, mountain bike, hybrid, etc. There are simply too many variants, too many brands and models to choose from. I was confused and lost until a good friend casually suggested that I could look at folding bike. It is a brilliant suggestion because I can bring the folding bike to train, and therefore I can also cycle and train ride to work. He offered me to try out his Strida folding bicycle (which by the way, I thought was neatly designed and engineered with a high tech look) but mentally I was not ready to take up his offer. I don’t like the idea of trying out something if I have not made up my mind!

Two weeks later and now, I decide I should just get the folding bicycle, and before I could go back to my friend to do a trial run (or cycle), I chance upon an online forum thread that is discussing about Brompton bicycle. Very quickly, I am sold with the Brompton folding bicycle, supposedly the “Rolls Royce of folding bicycle”. But I am put off by its expensive price tag. As if it is fated, somebody notices my interest, and make a quick offer to sell his and his wife’s Brompton bicycles to me. The bikes are only 5-6 months old, and have clocked less than 100km each. At $400 discount off for each bike, it has definitely helped to accelerate my decision making process.  So before I know, we are proud owners of these gems.

Brompton M6R Raw Lacquer (Foreground) and M6R (Pink in background)

I am very excited now. Now I have another new mantra, which is “Cycle for Food”. For now, I have completed 503.66km (of running) through 83 running activities. Here’s a wish for many more years for Running for Food … oh and Cycling too! 🙂

Ganbatte!  がんばって!