Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Runkeeper, and Being Accountable

About 5 months ago, I decided to start running because I had been noticing my heart a little too much for my liking. Anytime I did any amount of physical activity (stairs, jog, walk to the fridge, lift a piece of cake), I noticed that my heart was beating a little too hard, and my pulse was seeming a little too fast. Going in to the doctor for a cold or an infection often yielded remarks like “Is your blood pressure always this high?” or “That can’t be right, let’s check that again.”

When I was in Jr/Sr high, I ran cross country for 3 years. I remember getting a physical where my blood pressure was so low they checked it twice (opposite of my more recent BP experiences). In those days, I could eat whatever I wanted with no repercussions because I was running 8 miles every day during practice. It was then that I learned the habit of eating an entire pizza all at once. But high schooler I am no longer.

I started realizing that I apparently do not have the body type to just eat what I want and not work it off. I am 28 years old, so I’m still fairly young – but I am not a kid anymore. I need to be proactive about my health. I am also not obese by any means – but if we are talking about BMI, I am solidly in the overweight category. To top it off, I have a kid (he just turned two). I need to be healthy.

So I decided to start running. And to make sure that it doesn’t disrupt my life timewise, I decided to run in the mornings, before I get ready for work. The only problem that comes up with this is my apparent inability to get up at 5 am with any consistency. I am working on it!

In any case, this is where Runkeeper comes in. It is one of many apps available out there that track your activity via GPS. If I initiate it before a run, it maps my route, tells me how long I ran, how fast I ran (on average), and how many calories I burned. This is the free version. I could pay a few bucks to get more features, but I’m not made of Runkeeper money. Are you made of Runkeeper money?

So here is my first (recorded) run, my longest run, and my most recent run.

Screenshot_2015-09-02-13-35-43Screenshot_2015-09-02-13-32-10Screenshot_2015-09-02-13-35-12

Look at that progress! First of all, I got a shiny new Note 4 in May 2015, so the maps became much sharper since the GPS functionality of my phone was better. I promise, I didn’t cut through yards. The more accurate the GPS, the more accurate the mileage. So I started out running about a mile and a half. Now, I run usually in the area of 4-5 miles when I go. Not super fast progress – I’m not about to go run a half marathon or anything – but progress all the same. More importantly, even though I haven’t seen a very drastic weight loss (or any), I feel so much better. My legs feel stronger. I feel better (usually) about myself. My endurance is better. And, most importantly, I am not winded by common, everyday actions like walking up my front steps or chasing my son around the house. I haven’t been back to the doctor for a checkup yet, but I will soon – and I am confident (well, mostly hopeful) that I won’t get that same incredulous reaction when my blood pressure is checked.

Perhaps the best thing about Runkeeper (and other apps like it) is that it’s also a social network. I can add other people who have the app as friends, and we can compare runs. If I run with one of them, we can tag each other in the activity. That might not seem like a big deal, but running together is far better than running alone. When I run alone, I give up faster. I don’t run as far because I have no one there to hold me accountable. When I run with someone, it both keeps my mind off the horrible activity I am pushing myself through (because we are often distracting each other by talking), and it keeps me accountable because I don’t want to be the one to cut the run short (unless I really have to). Plus, every time I finish a run, my friends are notified – in this way, the app keeps me accountable by letting everyone on my list know whether I’m running or not.

It’s a great app – and I definitely recommend it. 10/10 would run again.

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