Open Thinkering


Tag: running

Experimenting with the MAF method

I’m really enjoying discovering new blogs and reading other people’s posts tagged with the #100DaysToOffload. One I came across jist over a month ago has had a big impact on my approach to exercise.

In this post, Graham Williams (who goes by the handle ‘gray’) talks about experimenting with a month of using the MAF approach to his training.

There’s no need for a lot of waffle here. We’re looking to train in a low HR zone – I need to know my targets. This is how you get that:

Subtract your age from 180, then modify from one of the categories listed. For me this worked out to be 180 – 34 = 146 (Training consistently for ~ 2 years without injury).

Graham Williams

I’m five years older than Graham, so my target should be 141. By way of context, my heart rate has often been around 160-165bpm when finishing exercise.

The creator of this system, Phil Maffetone, suggests that you may add 5 to your target heart rate “if you are a competitive athlete training for more than a year without issues”. I’m not a competitive athlete, but I’ve been doing regular exercise ever since I can remember, so I decided that I’d aim to stay in the 141-146 range during exercise.

I have an Amazfit Bip smartwatch which allows me to see my heart rate in realtime while I run. While it’s not as accurate as a chest strap, I’ll not be buying or wearing one of those anytime soon, so it’s the best I’ve got for now.

It’s been almost a month since trying this approach and, looking at my data (11 runs) I can see that I’m running slower, sometimes much slower, as heart rate depends on multiple factors. For example, when we were on holiday in Devon, it was hotter and I was drinking more alcohol.

On average, this approach has slowed down my average pace by ~20 seconds per kilometre, which is significant. I can feel it while running, wanting to go a bit faster, as this method doesn’t really get the endorphins flowing.

What it does do, however, is ensure that I’m not exhausted after running first thing in the morning. I tend to be hard on myself, so the MAF approach looks like a simple way to have a more sustainable approach to my exercise regime.

This post is Day 28 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at


Tom Barrett and I have set up a collaborative Spotify playlist for ‘music to run to’. It’s called #runningtunes and is accessible here:

Please do contribute, no matter what music you’re into and feel free to use the image above on your own blog post/sidebar!

I’ve been using the playlist with Spotify Premium on my iPhone and putting it on random for my last few runs. Great stuff! 🙂

Roadbud: a new iPhone app for runners [Review]


I’ve explained many times on this blog about how great running is for your whole system of productivity. The trouble with running, though, is that it used to difficult to set yourself goals and targets. With the advent of Nike+ and GPS-enabled devices, however, all that has changed.

I first started GPS-tracking my running with my Nokia N95 a few years ago. I still haven’t found anything better than the Nokia Sports Tracker for ease-of-use and useful feedback, if I’m honest.

Since switching to an iPhone, I’ve tried a number of applications that can GPS-track my runs. Most recently I’ve been using SportyPal which I found pretty good and at a nice price (free!)

A few months ago, Mike Schoeffler, the developer of a new iPhone running app called Roadbud started following me on Twitter and reading this blog. I ended up joining the mailing list for updates and a free copy of the app upon release. After some delays, it was available in the App Store earlier this week.

For reasons only known to Apple, the free codes Mike generated are only available in the US (see the end of this post to win one for yourself!) Mike very kindly reduced the price of the UK version from £5.99 to £0.59 so that he kept his promise. Very noble and much appreciated (but this review remains impartial!) 😀


Given that SportyPal, my previous iPhone running app of choice, is free and Roadbud Pro is £5.99 it had better do something special. Fortunately, it has go some unique features. Not least:

  • Integration with iTunes music library
  • StrongSong (Nike+ style motivational track you can nominate for one-button access)
  • Audio feedback on distance covered, time and pace
  • Google Maps integration as you run
  • Weather information
  • One-button access to phoning a friend or emergency services (if concerned about safety)
  • Twitter integration (option to tweet your run straight after workout)
  • Auto screen-lock

There is a free version (Roadbud Rookie), to be fair, but to my mind that version doesn’t offer anything over-and-above SportyPal. It’s six and two threes…

Whilst I can only give my opinion about Roadbud and my particular running regime, there’s some things I really liked and some things that I thought could probably do with some improvement.

The good:

  1. Integration with iTunes music library is a real bonus.
  2. I love the one-button access to my ‘StrongSong’ for when I need that extra boost.
  3. The Google Maps implementation is seamless and shows at-a-glance whether your iPhone is locked-on to the GPS signal.
  4. The audio feedback is useful for focusing on running instead of having to keep looking at the screen.
  5. You can choose a workout length (time or distance) with your progress then being shown as a bar underneath time elapsed. Nice!

Room for improvement:

  1. Track information of the song currently playing.
  2. Feedback when you’ve lost GPS signal.
  3. Lower power consumption (25 min run took 40% of my battery life on iPhone 3G)
  4. A website, like SportyPal to develop more of a community.
  5. The ability to export data to Google Earth.

From my contact with the Mike, the first three of the above are already in development for the next version of Roadbud. 🙂

Of course, people have different concerns and needs than me. For example, when my wife gets my iPhone in a couple of months, she’ll no doubt want to use it for running. I’ll then be really glad of Roadbud’s one-touch emergency call facility.

Conclusion + free codes

Would I recommend Roadbud? Yes.

Do I think it’s worth £5.99? At present, probably not.

I’d expect it to be more of a £2.99 app. I certainly think it’s got potential to be worth the higher price, though! I’m looking forward to seeing how it improves given that the developers keen to make it the best it can be. 😀

Want a free version of Roadbud Pro? I’ve got 3 free copies* for those who reweet this post (using the button below) before midday on Sunday 2nd May 2010!

*US residents only, I’m afraid, for reasons given above…

Music I’m running to at the moment,

CC BY-NC-SA el patajo

As those who have joined me in the #uppingyourgame project will know, I believe it’s important to get a ‘virtuous circle’ of productivity started. One of the best ways of doing this is by doing more exercise and, more specifically, running.

But running without music is like Laurel without Hardy, or Batman without Robin. And it’s important to get the music you run to right, as it makes running that much more motivational and enjoyable.

Recently I’ve been listening to one of two albums whilst running:

Morning run

My good friend and collaborator Nick Dennis pointed me in the direction of De La Soul’s Are You In? Nike+ mix on iTunes (£7.99) a few weeks ago. It’s great. The reason it’s perfect for running in the morning is that it starts off nice and gently with mention of getting up and ‘reaping what you sow’. Then, after some quality beats, around the 17-minute mark, steps it up a gear with exhortations to “Pick up the pace”. Awesome. 😀

Evening run

Being a big fan of mashups, I visit Mashuptown and The Hype Machine regularly. A couple of months ago I stumbled across The White Panda, a couple of guys mashing up hip-hop and rap with all kinds of stuff. The mashup album entitled Versus that they’ve released for free features NSFW language but is fantastic. I’m a massive fan of Passion Pit vs. T.I. What You Know About Little Secrets? Did I mention it’s free? 😉

Do you have runningmusic that you find motivational? Share it in the comments below!

Towards a fitter Doug.

10 kilometers doesn’t sound like much. It’s not. But it’s twice the distance I usually run…

I’m going to be running the Great North 10k in Sunderland on 18 July 2010. It’s the first step on a planned road to world domination:

  • Half-marathon (second half of 2010)
  • Sprint triathlon (first half of 2011)
  • Marathon (second half of 2011)

…and now that I’ve put it on my blog I have to do it!

When I mentioned my entry on Twitter, some people suggested I might want to run for charity. I chose UNICEF because of the great work they’re doing in Haiti. So, if you want to, click below. 🙂

Gym’ll Fix It!

(This post is mainly going to be of benefit to UK-based readers of my blog. I’m not affiliated with PruHealth in any way!)

Hannah and I are big fans of the Money Saving Expert website run by Martin Lewis. He’s a minor celebrity in England, having his own TV programme (albeit on Five). If you haven’t already signed up for his weekly newsletter, I really would. 🙂

Last year, one thing he recommended was PruHealth. It’s a private health insurance scheme which rewards you for becoming, and remaining, healthy. We looked into it but really couldn’t afford it at the time. Also, with Ben having just been born, time wasn’t really something we had in abundance. Now, however, things are different. Life with Ben is a bit more calm and structured now and with my new position next year we’ll have (slightly) more disposable income.

Just to give you some idea of how good a deal this is for us in particular, it would cost £42 each to join the gym we’ve just signed up for. With the PruHealth scheme, our premiums are £27 each per month and we get the gym free! Granted, for the first 3 months it’s slightly more whilst they assess your usage, but if you average 2 or more sessions per week, all you pay is your health insurance premium from then on. If we do the health checks every 6 months and average around 2.5 sessions per week our premiums will more than halve. Yes, that’s right: next year we’ll probably both be going to the gym and have private health insurance for less than £25! 😀

I went for my initial PruHealth check and gym induction today. Much as Steve Dembo is doing with Wii Fit, I’m planning to post my fitness levels every so often. I used to post details of the GPS-tracked runs I did via my Nokia N95. I stopped that as soon as I realised people would be able to pinpoint exactly where I live (or used to live – we’re moving this month!) 😮

So, what follows is my baseline. Please bear in mind that I haven’t exercised more than about once per week since Ben was born (16 months ago), that I’m mildly asthmatic, and that I had a huge cup of coffee this morning! The latter probably explains my high blood pressure reading (hopefully…)

  • Weight: 81.4kg (171 pounds)
  • BMI: 23.2 (should be 20-25)
  • Blood Pressure: 139/89 (should be 120/80)
  • Pulse (after 3-minute step activity): 106 (lower = better)
  • VO2* Test: 38 (should be 42+)
  • Cooper’s Run**: 2.51km (further = better)

There’s a selection of gym’s to choose from, but our local one is Cannons Health Club in Doncaster. Alongside the gym, there’s a studio for various classes (I like the look of Body Attack – a combination of boxing and keep-fit), and a swimming pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, etc. We’re all going after church tomorrow – Ben’s going to have weekly swimming lessons from his Daddy (I used to swim for my county many years ago…) 😉

With the advantages PruHealth gives us and with the requirement to go at least twice per week, this is a long-term deal which could just revolutionise the life of the Belshaw family!

*VO2 Test = volume of oxygen you can consume whilst exercising. This was tested by using a treadmill to walk for 3 minutes whilst measuring heart rate and taking into account age, height and weight.
**Cooper’s Run = the distance you can cover by running on a treadmill for 12 minutes.

Image: Quick Start by akeg @ Flickr

Getting GPS working for Nokia Sports Tracker on the N95

Run 17.06.07 (click to enlarge)

3.74 miles, 27.03 mins (I’m out of shape!)

The past few times I’ve used it I’ve had a bit of an ordeal getting the GPS signal to work with the excellent (and free) Nokia Sports Tracker application on my N95. Now, though, I think I’ve got it sussed. Continue reading “Getting GPS working for Nokia Sports Tracker on the N95”

My first GPS-tracked run

GPS run

I went for my first GPS-tracked run today. What does that mean? It means that the built in Global Positioning System on my Nokia N95 smartphone collected data as I did one of my usual circuits. I have to say I’m impressed: miles better than the data collected via the Nike+ system…

Continue reading “My first GPS-tracked run”

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Running - longest route (click to enlarge)

…is the name of a great Daft Punk track, but also my aim in getting fit for this 10km (6.4 mile) ‘dash’ that I’ve signed up for in June. Today I went for a run and, to my surprise, went further than I had anticipated going. According to Google Earth, I went 5.01 miles! Now to many people, I’m sure, that’s nothing, but for me on a Sunday afternoon at my current level of fitness, that’s pretty good.

Just imagine how far I’ll be able to go when I finally get the Nike+ system up-and-running… Continue reading “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”