Jog on with Helen Twose

Pounding the pavement and keeping up with the latest in running news

Jog On: Staying on track

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GPS technology helps to track your runs and reach your goal. 
Photo / Thinkstock
GPS technology helps to track your runs and reach your goal. Photo / Thinkstock

I've run my first marathon. To be honest I am quite chuffed.

What? No, not all at once, silly. It took nine runs spread over nearly two weeks to cover the 42km marathon distance.

The only reason I know this is a couple of weeks ago I was the happy recipient of a hand-me-down GPS watch. Now, with the aid of satellite navigation, I'm able to track my time, speed, distance, elevation, calories and heart rate at the push of the button.
(Ironically, despite being big enough to give Flavor Flav clock envy, it doesn't tell the time).

It tells me this week I ran three times, or 75 per cent of the way to my goal of four runs a week (should my maths fail me a little bar graph along the bottom of the screen tracks this vital information). Total time running last week: two hours, 32 minutes and 42 seconds. Longest run: 7.1km. Calories burnt since Christmas: 3008 (which might go some way towards offsetting the trifle I had for breakfast on Boxing Day).

I admit, the GPS watch it is a teensy bit of overkill for someone of my, ahem, abilities, but then psychologist Sara Chatwin recommends keeping a diary or a spread sheet to help keep goals on track and the watch now does it all for me.

While logging runs might keep track of running achievements it also records hidden truths. Back in early December I set a goal to run four times a week. Accurately recording my runs exposed a gap between aspiration and reality. While aiming for four, I was normally only making it to three.

It has certainly worked to keep me honest. I'm now regularly clocking four runs a week.
It's one of my big regrets that I didn't get on to record-keeping earlier. A few of the initial runs were jotted down in my diary. Then I was scribbling times down literally on the back of an envelope. That data ended up in the bin during a cleaning frenzy.
For those not in a position to drop a couple of hundy on a GPS watch there are some cheap and cheerful options.

Using MapMyRUN.com and a watch (or a quick glance at the kitchen clock before and after runs) runners can plot routes and record time data. Other types of workouts, anything from weight training to gardening, can be added too.

Those with a GPS smartphone can step it up a bit by using an app to track run progress and create maps automatically. Popular apps include iMapMyRUN, Runkeeper, Endomondo, Fitnio (iPhone only) and Jogtracker (Android only). For a few dollars an upgrade to the pro versions can mean avoiding advertising and getting add-ons such as audio coaching while out on a run.

Most also include links to social networking sites, so you can rest assured that your friends will spot any training lapses.

GPS isn't fail-proof as I discovered when looking at the map of a recent run. Apparently I ended the 30 minute loop by leaping through the backyards of several neighbours, finishing in the next street over. Quite the athletic feat.

Trees, clouds or tall buildings can block the satellite signals needed to track distances, says a recent New York Times article.

"Routes with lots of turns throw them off, too; if you lose the signal as you go around a curve, your device will draw a straight line from where it last saw you to where it found you again. The distance around the curve will not be tracked," says the New York Times.

The big downside to all this tracking technology is I'm now not able to slink off to the corner dairy and sit on the curb eating an ice cream for half an hour under the pretence of "going for a run".

What's your experience been with using GPS watches or apps?

Twitter: @Jog_On_NZ

In other news:

* 12 ways to spice up your running.

* Goals not resolutions the way to go in 2012.

* Get fined for skipping gym sessions.

- HERALD ONLINE

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