by John Barnhart May 2012

Yesterday, I competed in my first 5K race! My two oldest children and I drove down to Fort Lee, NJ for the 4th annual "Run the Palisades 5K" in support of the NJ Diabetes Association. Why they call it "Run the Palisades", I'm not sure. The palisades is a natural rock formation along the Hudson River. There is a path at the bottom of it that I have walked. That should be where a "Run the Palisades" takes place. This race was more like "Run Fort Lee and Clifton, NJ".

We arrived about an hour before the start of the event, not knowing what to expect. I had preregistered all three of us, but for some reason I was the only one on the list. Luckily, someone in charge just knew that the three of us had already registered. She recognized that there were three of us with the same last name from our town in the race. So, I didn't have to pay again for the kids.

They give you these race numbers they call "bibs". Technically, these weren't what I would call "bibs". Skiers wear a bib. It goes over the head, has a front and back, and ties at the side. But "bib" is the terminology, so be it. I was number 6. I don't know if that was my name alphabetically, or that I was the 6th runner to register, or some other meaningless random thing. The kids had numbers in the 300's since they were already assigned before race day for them.

We lined up at the start based on self assigned ability. People with a better than 10 minute per mile pace were in front, walkers in the back. I am assuming that the winner of this race was in the very front. He had like a 5 minute mile pace. If you are running for time, either to win or just beat your last time, you don't want to be stuck behind a lot of slower people. It took a while for the inertia of hundreds of runners to get moving. Even I couldn't run as fast as I wanted to at the beginning.

Although the goal in "my 5K challenge" was to completely run an entire 5K, that didn't happen. I had a nasty bought of bronchitis and a stomach virus during training, which really set me back. My daughter and I walked occasionally as needed. So did a lot of other people, to my surprise. Some of these people even looked more physically fit than me, but they were not able to run the entire time, either. That made me feel better about my progress.

When we could see the finish line, we decided to run as fast as we could to the end. It was maybe 200 yards, and my daughter beat me to the finish by 3 seconds! My finish time was 41:20, which would be 13:20 per mile, but my best mile (the first one) was 11:30 ish. Not bad for a 46 year old who just lost 50 pounds! I couldn't run this well in high school!

My son killed it at 24:54. He ran an average 8:01 mile, and came in 6th for his age group!

Bottom line, I did it! And do you know what? You can do it, too.



Running Shoes

by John Barnhart May 2012

The Barefoot Caveman aka Glen Raines
finishes the Boston Marathon.

I always figured that running was an inexpensive way to get in shape. It seemed a reasonable assumption to me: no equipment, no membership fees. Now that I have been training for my first 5K, and reading up on running, I now see that "inexpensive" is a relative term. You can drop a lot of money on a lot of running gear. If you are a beginner and are looking around at some running sites, it may be intimidating. What do you need?

Well, you don't "need" anything to run. It is something that we were designed to do. Adam and Eve ran without any clothes at all. (Can anyone imagine two young, perfectly fit, literally made for each lovers other NOT chasing each other around paradise?) Later, I'm sure our ancestors ran bare foot, wearing bear skins, while being chased by vengeful bears. I'm also sure that they had shorter life expectancies and no podiatrists.

Not long after that time, major improvements were made in running apparel. Man invented shoes, and also moved to a lighter weight material for clothing: tanned dear skin. Native Americans ran around in homemade shoes, or no shoes, for centuries. Many still do today.

Then mankind had another technological breakthrough: pavement. This is really where the problem comes in. Barefoot running is great for natural surfaces, like grassy well watered earth, the beach, etc. Sidewalks and roads? Eh, not so much, unless you are Glen Raines. For this reason, the only thing you really need to worry about as a beginning runner is shoes. This is especially true if you are overweight. When you run, the amount of impact to your feet is 1.5 - 4 times that of your weight, depending on your stride length and speed. So, if you weight 250 pounds, you will be landing with a force between 375 and 1000 pounds.

If you are just starting the 5K challenge workout, you may be able to just use what you have for shoes. I had a pair of Ozark Trail hiking shoes that I used for my casual shoes. They worked just fine for the first two weeks. You're only running for 60 second reps the first day, after all. However, if your have any pain with the shoes you already own, stop. Just because mine were fine doesn't mean yours will be. But don't put off starting to train because everything isn't perfect.

Running shoes are the most intimidating thing to purchase, though. Most advice I've found on the subject suggests that you shop at a "running specialty store". (I once watched a Martha Stewart program where she made fried plantains. She had this special tool she used to flatten the slices of plantain. "You can purchase this at any Jamaican specialty store," she said. Great! Very helpful.) What on earth is a "running specialty store"? I have no idea. I heard that there was one about a half hour from where I live, if they hadn't gone out of business. I grew up in rural Ohio, and I am sure that for most of Middle America, finding a running specialty store would involve packing a suitcase and making a hotel reservation, possibly even airfare. But then you would need running shoes to make your connecting flight at Atlanta, creating a space time paradox that would threaten our very existence.

As luck would have it, mankind invented another technological advancement: the internet. This was mostly due to the fact they were wearing out their shoes looking for running specialty stores and bear skin suppliers. Now, at least you don't have to leave your house, but it doesn't make it less intimidating, or guarantee that your bear skins won't have anthrax. There are still a LOT of shoe choices and questions about your feet and running style that you just wouldn't know how to answer if you aren't already a runner.

The absolute best statement I found on running shoes was "Buying running shoes is more of an art than a science". A lot of the choices boil down to personal preference. If you are an absolute beginner, you don't have any personal preferences yet, do you? You don't know if you supinate or underpronate, or what that even means. You don't know your foot strike, stride length, or gait. You don't have an old pair of running shoes for the running specialty store employee to investigate.

Your first shoes may be a bit of a gamble, but they will probably be better than anything you already have in your closet. Here is what I did to purchase mine. There are quite a few websites that sell running shoes, but I went to Holabird Sports, because it was a suggestion on another website discussion about where to find cheaper shoes. Most of these sites will have a category for running shoes, so pick that. Next, narrow it down by size. If a shoe doesn't come in your size, then it doesn't really matter how good it is, does it? If you are overweight, I bet you have a wide foot, which really narrows it down. At Holabird, there were 338 mens running shoes, 249 in a size 10.5, and only 45 in a EE width. (They carry 4E width as well, which limited it to just 23.) I then sorted it by "price low to high", and started reading the reviews. Do the reviewers actually run in the shoes? Are any of them overweight themselves? Weed out bad reviews that were due to customer service and not the shoe itself. You want a great shoe more than a great purchase experience.

My final choice? Brooks Addiction 9. Regularly $100, on clearance for $56. I like them. I don't notice them when I run. I like all the lace holes threaded on my shoes, as it keeps my heel from slipping. These shipped with laces that are just a bit too short for that. My feet and knees don't hurt, but then I haven't even run my first 5K yet. My next pair of running shoes may be something totally different, I don't know. I bet these aren't great for marathons, but if I ever run a marathon, these shoes will be long dead.

Here is some other advice that I've picked up that sounds reasonable. Replace your shoes after a set number of miles, not when your feet start to hurt. You could injure yourself. 300 miles was one suggestion. As a beginner, I don't know if you would even think to track that. Also, only wear your running shoes for running. They'll last longer that way. You don't really need them for bumming around or casual Fridays anyway.

Good luck! Feel free to comment or tweet me about your experience and what you purchased. I'd be interested in what you experience.




by John Barnhart April 2012

Week 5, Day 1

One thing that I did not bargain on happening during my training; getting bronchitis. And with my touch of asthma, bronchitis hits me hard. I have to be careful that it doesn't progress to pneumonia. I was hoping that losing 50 pounds would help in this area, but I still have 30 pounds to lose, so maybe not yet. The doctor put me on prednisone and antibiotics. We just went running again this morning after almost two weeks.

This put me back in my training. The 5K is on May 20, which is only three weeks away. I should be on week 7 of my training, but here we are on week 5. I am not certain that I will be able to run the entire 5K, but I am still going to participate. After all, I've paid the fees, and it is for a good cause. Perhaps I will be able to run the entire thing.

My marathon running friend told me that a two week delay could set you back so far that you would need to start from the beginning. I don't have that much time and it is only a 5K, not a marathon. Perhaps we will skip week 6 training and go right into week 7 and 8. Week 9's schedule is running 3 miles, which is really close to 5K (3.1 miles), so what's the difference? Whatever happens, I'll be better off than I was before. There is another 5K in Highland Falls on July 4, the "firecracker" 5K. I think I will run that as well, but first I will have to check it out with one of my children. His birthday is on July 4!

Not all illnesses need to keep you from your training. One rule of thumb is that if you are sick "from the neck up", like the common cold, you could continue with a reduced intensity training. But if you are sick from the "neck down", as with bronchitis, stop your training until you recover. You also want to stop training if you have a fever. In any case, you may want to get advice from your doctor.

Injuries can also delay your training. There are some injuries where you could continue your training, and others where you could not. Muscle injuries require rest followed by strengthening and flexibility exercises, and perhaps therapy before you start training again. You can always exercise other parts of your body that aren't injured, focusing on upper body strength, etc. If you have an injury that isn't in your legs, don't assume that you could continue your running training. The jarring of running could delay healing or worsen your injury. You really would need to seek advice from a sports therapist to determine what your particular injury requires.

Did you know that prednisone has a Facebook page? I clicked "like".



Where to run?

by John Barnhart April 2012

Week 3, Workout 3

Up until now, we have been running on the roads near our house. The problem is that we live on a mountain and no matter where we run, we end up running up a substantial hill. My father in law came to visit us once and commented, "I've never been to a place where you can actually go uphill both ways."  So, we've been running back in forth on the flattest area around the house.

Today, we took a little trip to Bear Mountain State Park. This park is famous in these parts and quite popular on the weekends. I wouldn't even think about running here on the weekend, it is so crowded. But this morning, it was a joy. We saw a total of 7 people, and one hawk, and zero buzzards. (Buzzards are numerous on weekend evenings, just after everyone leaves the park, scavenging the leftovers.) You also don't have to pay for parking on weekdays. If you go on the weekend, the parking fee is $8.

The park is home to Hessian lake, a 45 acre lake at the foot of Bear Mountain, also known as Highlands lake and Bloody lake. It was originally known as Sinnipink lake. During the revolutionary war, 250 Hessian soldiers were killed in a local battle, and their bodies were thrown into the lake, which was reported to be red with their blood for several days. Maybe that's why there are so many buzzards around here.

There is a paved trail around Hessian lake measuring about 1.5 miles. Twice around will give you almost a 5K! This is the route we ran this morning. It was just a wonderfully gorgeous morning. A grandpa was fishing with his grandson (the lake is stocked with trout), a couple walking their dog, and maybe three other people. The views of Bear Mountain, Bear Mountain Bridge, and Anthony's Nose are beautiful. If you live in the area, you've probably already been here, but you should check it out on a weekday morning, if possible. Very peaceful.

The workout today was the same as the previous two this week: Run 200 meters, walk 200, run 400, walk 400, repeat. On the last walking section, my daughter asked me if there was one more rep to go, and was surprised that the workout was finished. I was not surprised that we were done, but I could have kept going. We are working our way up to a 5K, so I would assume that things would slowly get easier. Next week, we take it up another notch again, so I'm sure that won't be easy.

Given that the path around the lake was a known distance, it gave me the opportunity to test the accuracy of the GPS measurements in the app. Everything seems to be working just fine there, but I really wasn't worried about it in the first place. The GPS aspect of the app is actually one of the easier things to work with.



iPhone Gear

by John Barnhart April 2012

Week 3 Workout 1

Today was the first workout utilizing distance instead of time. We did two reps of running for 200 yards, then walking for 200, then running for 400, then walking for 400. I must say that my daughter is doing very well so far with this program. I purposely lagged behind her during the walking segment so that I could catch up to her during the running segment. Alas, I did not catch up to her.

I am currently storing my iPhone in the upper right pocket of my jacket. However, it will eventually get to warm out to wear the jacket, and I will need something for my iPhone. Mashable did a post back in February on the 10 Best iPhone Armbands. I'm not sure how they determined that these were the top 10. After doing my own research, I would rank them differently. I have a membership at consumerreports.com, but unfortunately, they have not reviewed iPhone armbands.

Here are Mashable's "top 10":

  1. Sporteer Armband
  2. Adidas miCoach Armband
  3. Belkin FastFit Armband
  4. Incase Sports Armband Deluxe
  5. Tune Belt Sport Armband
  6. Belkin EaseFit Sport Armband
  7. iLuv a Santé: Sports Armband
  8. Grantwood Technology's Tuneband
  9. Marware SportShell Convertible
  10. Incipio Performance Sport Armband

I did some research into each one of these. Based on the popularity, and the percentage of positive reviews, I am going to try out Grantwood Technology's Tuneband. It may not actually BE the best armband out there, but I have not seen any scientific comparison of armbands, nor am I going to fund one, nor do I think I can get a grant for such scientific research. I purchased a Tuneband for my son's nano, and he seems to like it well enough. The armstrap is removable, so it may serve as my only case.

There are some things to consider when purchasing an armband:

  • Some armbands have a lot of bad ratings because they are either too large, or too small. If you are of average build, this should be of no concern, but if you have very large or very small arms, it could be a problem. Tune Belt has an optional armband extender.
  • If you already have a case that you like, you either need to ensure that the armband will work with it, or be willing to switch cases for working out. The Marware SportShell Convertible portends to be the only case you need. It had mixed reviews about that ability.
  • If you sweat profusely, or run in the rain, make sure it is waterproof.

There are alternatives to an armband. My friend just keeps his Android in his running shorts pocket. Of course, there aren't many (any) armbands for androids. He has bluetooth headphones, so the distance from his ears is not a concern. There are also waist packs for running. Nathan 5K Runner's Waist Pack is one. SPIbelt is another. It's the fanny pack comeback

In the app, I am of course using GPS to calculate the distance traveled. One problem with GPS is that when you first turn it on, it takes a few cycles to pinpoint your location. In the first second, you could "move" quite a distance. I had tried to compensate for that by ignoring the first 3 callbacks. Even so, the first 200 yard run wasn't 200 yards. After that, the distances were fine. I had been turning on the GPS after I started the workout, but I may change that so it starts GPS immediately upon launching of the app, or at lease when the workout view is loaded. This will give it enough time to stabilize. The other possibility is to wait until the accuracy of the GPS callback is ±5.0 meters, which is as good as it gets. At that point, I could start the workout.


Fitness | Programming

Pounding Pavement (literally)

by John Barnhart March 2012

Week 2, Workout 1

Yesterday, my son and I helped to break the ground for a community garden we are planting at temple. Just under the ground, between 2" and 1' deep, was a layer of asphalt from who knows when. We figured we broke up and piled up about 3 tons of the stuff. This morning, my son was too tired to get up with us. That and he claimed his running shorts were in the wash. Whatever. My daughter and I did the run together. I have to say that she is doing very well. (In my son's defense, he can already run circles around us. And when we workout, he does so, literally.)

This morning we upped the pace a little bit in the workout schedule. Last week, we ran for 60 seconds and then walked for 90, 8 reps. This week, we are running for 90 seconds, and walking for 2 minutes, 6 reps. It's about same amount of running and walking, but we are increasing the amount of running we do at one time. (Eventually, we are going to run a full 5K without stopping, right?!) It was tougher than the third workout from last week, but not nearly as tough as the very first workout. We warmed up, stretched, did the workout, and stretched some more. I took a hit from my inhaler before hand, so my breathing wasn't so affected. Last time, my nose got all runny, but I had nothing with me to blow it into. This time, I remembered to take along some tissues, and a water bottle.

This week's WeightWatchers handout had an article about, guess what? Stretching! Here is a synopsis of the tips that they gave.

DO A WARMUP BEFORE YOU STRETCH. I read this on other sites, my son learned this in school, and we are doing it. The training program I'm using has us starting with a brisk 5 minute walk anyway, so we just stretch after that. We didn't really time the warmup today, we know how far we can walk in 5 minutes now, and have a little place just off the road where we do our stretching.

DON'T BOUNCE. I remember that from way back in my school. Bouncing can stretch your muscle beyond it's limit, and cause injury. Slowly stretch your muscle, and hold it in a position where you can feel the stretch, yet it doesn't hurt.

DO STRETCH YOUR MAJOR MUSCLE GROUPS. Pay attention to the muscles you are using in your workout. Sounds obvious to me.

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH. I knew that one from weight lifting, but I didn't know it about stretching. They say it makes the stretching experience altogether more pleasant and relaxing. Sounds good to me.




by John Barnhart March 2012

Week 1 - Day 2

I again want to stress how important it is, at least to me, to have an accountability partner. My two oldest children are doing this challenge with me. I can't make excuses. I really would have rather not do it this morning, but I have to set an example. So, I have to get up early for them. They have to get up early, because I'm their dad, and I told them to. That's why. Although it would be better if your accountability partner was also your running partner, it isn't absolutely necessary. Just be accountable to someone that you are "on program".

The first day of training, I mentioned that I hadn't thought of doing a lot of things, like bringing water or stretching. This morning, we still didn't bring water, but we did stretch. My son actually just went through some stretching instruction in school, so he shared what he learned. (Remember that this blog isn't trying to be the ultimate source for learning how to do this stuff. I'm just sharing my experiences and what I've learned along the way. I am hoping it is inspiration for you to go do it, too.)

We did three stretches, a "runner's stretch", the front thigh, and the back thigh. All these were done while standing, since we were outside. We had just done a 5 minute walk to warm up our muscles.

Runner's stretch: While standing, bring one leg back, pressing the heel of the foot firmly into the floor. Gently lean forward while keeping your heel on the floor. Hold the stretch (we did it for 30 seconds but I've read 10 to 15 seconds), breathing normally. Repeat with the other foot.

Front thigh: Bring your right knee up toward your backside and hold it with your right hand. Gently try to bring your foot up against your backside. If you can't feel the stretch in the front of your thigh, we had some luck leaning forward a little bit. Hold that for 30 seconds. Repeat with the left leg.

Back thigh: This one was really easy. With your knees straight, bend over a the hips like your going to touch your toes. Bend over as far as necessary to gently stretch out the muscle in the back thigh. We also held this for 30 seconds. This does both legs at the same time, so there is no need to repeat.

Are there more stretches we could (should) do? Probably, but hey, we are learning as we go here. One step at a time.

Then we did our workout. Today was the same as last time. First, a 5 minute walk to warm up, followed by stretching. Then alternately running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds, for a total of 20 minutes, or 8 reps. Then we stretched again.

As far as the app goes, I really need to add a prompt that says what rep we are on. We lost track again. We thought we were on rep 6, but then it said we were finished. And the time seemed about right. I went back to look at the code, and I do have it set to repeat 8 times, but I'm not absolutely certain it is working.

Cool Running has a set of 12 stretches for runners. Seriously, twelve? I would have been wiped just after stretching! I really like their site and all, but do you know how intimidating that sounds? After reading the page, I saw that they recommend 4 for an abbreviated routine, but just glancing over the page was overwhelming.

I feel like some of these über athletic running sites are are saying "You want to start running? Well, here are 12 stretching exercises you need to do, and here is a list of possible running shoes you can pick from. Be prepared to spend at least $100. Here are a couple good books. And you need to make sure you are well hydrated. This is a really good hydration pack with an excellent nipple." Why do they have to call it a nipple? I saw one that even had an "anti-frosting nipple cover" for cold weather. Wouldn't we all like that?

And who says "make sure you are well hydrated?" Don't real people just say "drink some water"? I had a cup of coffee and some yogurt before we ran, and a glass of water after we were done. Then I got an egg sandwich from the deli. (Hey, don't knock it. I have lost 43 pounds you know.)

Remember I said that even the term "5K" may be intimidating? Well, this past week at Weight Watchers, I shared that I was starting this 5K training, and one of the other members asked me how long a 5K was. (It is 3.1 miles, btw.) "Oh that's much better. Running three miles doesn't sound intimidating at all." Well, that's why the training program I'm doing works its way up to 3 miles. I didn't drastically cut my calorie intake on day one either. I've been lowering it gradually.

Don't let the over abundance of running information, or your lack of knowledge, or the sound of "3 miles" intimidate you and keep you from starting. It isn't knowing what to do that counts. It's doing what you know.



5K Training Programs

by John Barnhart March 2012

I am using the Couch to 5K training program, but I am also a member of Weight Watchers. They have in the past sponsored a 5K, but I haven't heard any details about it this year. They have their own 5K training program.

The C25K program is 9 weeks, three days a week. The WW program is 6 weeks 4 days a week. That is obviously more intense, but if you have a goal to run a 5K that is sooner than 9 weeks away, it may be an option for you.

The other thing to consider with the WW programs is that with a 4 day a week workout schedule, you can't have a day of rest between every workout. There are only 7 days a week, so with a 4 day schedule, two of the days will be back to back. The schedule takes this into account by backing off the intensity on the last day. I am not an expert in this by any means, but I did specifically read at more than one site about the importance of having a day for your muscles to recuperate.

I'm not going to do the WW schedule, even though I am a member, because I have enough time to complete the 9 week schedule. I also haven't been running for a very long time. I feel the day of rest between workouts is important.



First Day of Spring

by John Barnhart March 2012

Week 1 - Day 1.

This morning I did my first workout for my 5K challenge. I hadn't thought about it at the time, but today is also the first day of spring. Very appropriate, isn't it? It is a time of new beginnings for the nature and for myself. That's me, 40 pounds lighter than last year, wearing my very chic, expensive, running attire. Actually, its one of my "pajama" t-shirts, an old pair of shorts that are too big for me now, my "lumberjack" jacket, and a pair of idontknowwhattocallthem shoes. They aren't running shoes, that's for sure.

I was joined this morning by my two oldest children. We are an accountability partnership. In many endeavors in life, it is helpful to have accountability. Weight Watchers works well because one of the aspects is the feeling of accountability. We go to meetings each week and have an official weigh in. We share the results with the group. Of course, everyone wants to report that they lost weight. The scale is a tough accountability partner. It doesn't sugar coat anything. You can lie to your friends and even to yourself, but you can't lie to the scale. It knows you ate that second helping at diner last night. An accountability partner will keep you honest. Without my children joining me this morning, I'm not sure I would have done it. It was a little chilly today, the back of my left leg had a slight "twinge",  I had a little nasal congestion, or any other excuse I could come up with.

My first workouts will consist of interval training. After a five minute warmup of brisk walking, we alternated running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds, for a total of 20 minutes, or eight repetitions. Actually, the interval workouts continue through week 5, but the length of the intervals increase, and the number of repetitions decrease. This is an important strategy for your success. In Weight Watchers, they calculate how many calories you should eat to give you a 1 - 2 pound weight loss each week. Then, as you lose weight, they slowly lower the calorie intake accordingly. If you take a person who weighs 260 pounds and put them on a 1500 calorie a day diet, you aren't going to keep them on a weight loss program for very long. So, you start with 2200 calories and work it down over time. This training works you up to a 5K over time. You'd hurt yourself trying to jump right into too much.

I've never really been a runner at all, and certainly haven't run for exercise in a long time. It really wasn't very hard to do, It was exerting, but I felt like I could do more. If you feel that way at the end of your first workout, great! Whatever you do, don't do any more than prescribed. You could run more, but then you may hurt yourself, or you may be too sore the next day, and then you may quit the whole program. It was a cold morning, and I couldn't get enough breath through my nose. So, I ended up breathing through my mouth, which made my throat hurt. My asthma ticked in a little bit. I have very mild unilateral asthma, so it's not really all that bad. I didn't even think about taking my inhaler on the run.

I also didn't think about taking a water bottle, or buying running shoes, stretching, or anything else. That's probably a two edged sword. I know me, and I can be over prepared. I could have done a ton of research on running, bought some books, gone shopping for equipment for weeks, waited until I had everything in order, and then maybe never get started. I knew I just wanted to get moving with this program right away. This isn't the place to look for advice on how to train, since I'm just learning this stuff myself. Next time, I'll make sure I do some stretching. I'll need to make sure I am well hydrated in the future. This morning was no big deal. I didn't even get thirsty. I will need to buy some running shoes, but I'm not going to stop the training before I buy them. These shoes will be fine for this week.

I also did my first little bit of iphone app code in this project. I had my app create a set of notifications to verbally prompt me as to when to run and when to walk. This is an obvious must have feature. Otherwise, you'd have to look at a stopwatch or something while you are working out. Using the Local Notifications feature of the iOS, my notifications will work even if the app is not running. I created some simple sound files for the prompt, otherwise each prompt would play the default system sound, and you wouldn't know what to do without looking at the phone. The prompts were simply "start running", "start walking", and "workout finished". These worked just fine, but they are a bare minimum. I would have liked to know what rep number we were on, because I did lose track, and there should be more encouragement. Instead of "Start running", maybe it should say "Run for 60 seconds. This is the third rep of eight." and "Great! Now walk for 90 seconds, you have 5 more reps left." At the end, it could say "Congratulations! You finished your first workout!" We've kicked around the idea of having English / Spanish, and Male / Female prompts. Some people may be motivated by different things based on gender or age, so I really have to figure out what the prompts would say.

Now, it is important to spread out the workout days to give my muscles a chance to recover, so maybe Thursday I'll do the next workout.



My First 5K

by John Barnhart March 2012

I walked into my first Weight Watchers meeting weighing in at 260.2 lbs. I was wearing 46" waist pants and an 18.5" neck shirt, or about a 2X. (See that picture? I look like a young Santa.) I had developed mild asthma. I had sciatica in my left leg. My knees were giving me problems. I was 45 years old. I joined Weight Watchers because my wife had joined, and I knew it would be easier for the both of us if we were in this together. I knew WW would work, since my father lost 80 pounds on the program. I needed to lose about that, too.

That was August 16, 2011. Today, I weigh 219 pounds. I'm down to a 40" waist and a 17" shirt. I still have a good 40 pounds to lose, but I'm looking and feeling much better. I've even started lifting weights with a friend at work during lunch.

The other week, at our WW meeting, it was mentioned in passing that WW did a 5K run. I left the meeting thinking about the prospects of actually running a 5K myself. I brought this up to another friend of mine at work, who over the past couple years lost around 200 pounds and recently finished his first marathon. (Maybe he should be writing this blog?) PJ warned me about just trying to jump into a 5K and pointed me in the direction of Couch to 5K.

Wait a minute. What is a 5K? Some of you will look at that question and think "everyone knows what a 5K is". However, my experience as a systems administrator, help desk technician, and software developer tells me that no one knows everything about anything, even if we expect them to. If you don't know what a 5K is, then it may be an intimidating thing to think about. "I can't even run for 5 minutes, let alone 5K, however long that is." Of course, I am showing my Americanism here. The rest of the world of course knows that 5K stands for 5 kilometers. Well, that sure cleared things up didn't it? For those of you in "realinda", that's about 3.1 miles.  So why don't they just call it a 3M? Because that term was already in use by 3M. You know, they should sponsor a race: "The 3M 5K". (Wasn't 3m5k c3po's cousin?)

The Couch to 5K program is a 9 week, 3 days a week, program that gradually works you up to a 5 kilometer run. It starts with interval training, which is alternating short amounts of walking and jogging. This blog isn't really about that program, but about my experiences using that program to train for my own 5K. It think it is something I can do. Let me rephrase that. I AM GOING TO DO THIS! And, I'm going to blog about it.

The culmination of the training program for me is to run in an actual 5K event. The timing on choosing the event presented a challenge. The couch to 5k program is 9 weeks, so the 5K has to be after that. We observe the Sabbath, so the event can't be on a Saturday. My original idea was to run the Ridgewood Run which takes place on Memorial Day. I thought that would be really cool. My birthday is at the end of May, so Memorial Day weekend has always been my "birthday" weekend. But this year, Memorial Day is the second day of the biblical holiday of Shavuot. So much for that idea. Any date after Memorial Day is problematic, as my wife is due with our eighth child. (Yes, you did read that correctly. Eight.) I had to find a target 5K that I was fairly certain I could participate in.

The Diabetes Foundation is sponsoring the fourth annual Run the Palisades on Sunday, May 20. This benefits the Diabetes Foundation, which is great. One of my cousins had diabetes. Had? Yep, had. He got a pancreas/kidney transplant some years ago, and it saved his life. So, that's the race.

Whilst I am training, I am also going to be developing an iOS companion app. It is what I do for a living, you know. This won't be an app for avid runners, but for people like me who want to train for their first 5K. I already have something ready for my first workout. It will give me verbal cues as to when to start running or walking. These cues will work even if the app is not running. I will have more details on the app as it develops. I'm planning on calling it "5K Challenge".

Which brings me to the title of this blog. It isn't just that I am challenging myself to run a 5K. I am challenging YOU to do the same. This is a call to anyone who needs the encouragement to get off their tuchus and start moving. All of you out there in the Weight Watchers community, or anyone who has been working on loosing weight. All of you other software developers, who spend most of their waking time staring at glowing rectangles. All you people that I call "family", by blood, by spirit, or otherwise. I challenge you to join me. Even if I don't know you. I'd love to have some company in this adventure. Sign up for updates to this blog. Follow me on Twitter. We can go through this together.

On your mark, get set, ...



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About the author

John Barnhart is a software developer for the iOS and Mac OS platforms. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and eight (yes, eight) children. Over the past year, he has lost 65 pounds with Weight Watchers. He completed his first 5K on May 20, 2012.

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