For the last eight weeks, I’ve been running round the heath. As someone who has always hated exercise, I’m amazed that I’ve kept it up this long. But I’ve discovered the secret – as long as I can turn running into a geeky activity, aided by various gadgets, I can enjoy it!
To start with, I bought an app called Couch to 5k for the iPhone. This is a brilliantly simple idea. It allows you to listen to your own music, and promises that each run will take about 30 minutes. Crucially it also only requires that you use it three times a week. In fact, it warns against doing more exercise than this! The secret to the app is you don’t need to think about your progress – you put on your headphones, listen to your favourite music or podcast, and follow the instructions. Every so often the music dips down, and a voice says “Run now” or “Walk now”. The intervals between running and walking are perfectly spaced, so that your first few weeks are gentle – truly I think that anyone who isn’t actually unwell could begin to run using this app. The first weeks consist of running for a minute, followed by walking for 2 or 3 minutes. Really easy. And as the runs go by, these intervals are gradually altered. I’m now running for 28 minutes without stopping.
This may not sound like much – I’m sure that if I had really tried on the first day, I could have run for 25 minutes continuously – but I would have given up after a few runs.
After 2 weeks, I started to get some pain in my legs. I was convinced that I’d done myself a terrible injury, and that I wasn’t cut out for running. But a bit of research showed that this was caused by shinsplints, because I was wearing my usual crappy trainers. So I bought some fancy new trainers. At £85, these are the most expensive trainers I’ve ever purchased, but they still cost less than two months at a gym.
The running shop I bought them from was truly amazing. They put you on a treadmill, and film you running. Then they give you some other shoes, and film you running with those. Then some really ingenious software syncs up the two videos, side by side, plays them back in slow motion, and compares the angle between your foot and your leg, to see if the shoes are helping you to run without damaging yourself.
The shinsplints went away within a week.
Then I started to get annoyed by the nasty white in-ear headphones that come with the iPhone. They fall out of your ears when you try to run. So I got these Sony MDR-AS30 headphones. They cost about £15, sound better than the white earbuds, and crucially never fall out of your ears. If you wear them for more than about an hour, they can get uncomfortable, but unless I double my running time, there’s not much chance of that happening.
- Things I’ve noticed about running in Blackheath:
- Seeing Blackheath & Greenwich park lit up by the morning sun – it’s something I never used to see.
- Chasing the squirrels down to the Observatory, and back again.
- Seeing the beautiful Observatory, and the view across London in the first light, completely deserted.
- The people who clean up the litter on the heath in the mornings. Usually just one guy in a little buggy.
- The Greenwich council van cleaning the roads up to the observatory. Really noisy, must cost a fortune to run – guess it’s cheaper to burn petrol than to employ more people with a broom.
I can’t help feeling sorry for groups of people on the heath (like you know who), knowing that they are spending hundreds of pounds a season to be shouted at by an ex-army instructor, when they could have bought an iPod, an app, and some headphones, and a more pleasant experience!
Squirrel photo by Flickr user waldopepper.