When I started running longer distances regularly, I expected the typical health benefits such as weight loss and a stronger heart and lungs, but I wasn’t anticipated the cognitive benefits. Scientists are beginning to explain something runners have known for generations: running helps clear your mind.
A good run can sometimes make you feel like a brand-new person. And, in a way, that feeling may be literally true. About three decades of research in neuroscience have identified a robust link between aerobic exercise and subsequent cognitive clarity, and to many in this field the most exciting recent finding in this area is that of neurogenesis. Not so many years ago, the brightest minds in neuroscience thought that our brains got a set amount of neurons, and that by adulthood, no new neurons would be birthed. But this turned out not to be true. Studies in animal models have shown that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan, and, so far, only one activity is known to trigger the birth of those new neurons: vigorous aerobic exercise, said Karen Postal, president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology. “That’s it,” she said. “That’s the only trigger that we know about.”
I’ve been looking into the running dynamics data my HRM-Tri reports. I ran 7 miles today on my usual route. My pace or cadence didn’t seem to be anything unusual for me. My average stride length was 1.26m. I don’t know whether that’s good or bad considering I’m about 1.81m tall. My average vertical oscillation, or the distance I move up and down while running was 10.9cm. My average ground contact time was 256ms today. I don’t know whether I’m firmly planted or quickly touching upon the path as I run.
I suppose I won’t be able to make any conclusions unless I gather more data from future runs or compare with others.
I’m a stat junkie. I’ve always been interested in baseball stats, college football rankings, and metrics of all sorts. When I started running regularly a couple of years ago, I wanted a way to measure my progress and have at least some detailed history of my performance.
I’ve been using the Runkeeper app on my iPhone for a long time. I’ll either keep my phone in a pocket or an arm strap. Since I listen to podcasts and music from my phone while I run, I’m already carrying it with me. Using the phone’s GPS to track my run was a no-brainer. It gets the job done. But after a while, I realized some things could be improved. Starting and pausing my run tracking from my arm was less than ideal. Handling interval training was complicated. And just checking my current pace was nearly impossible without affecting my form. To resolve these issues I purchased a Polar M400 running watch. It pairs with my Polar H7 heart rate monitor. As a watch, it’s great. As part of a larger ecosystem of fitness tracking, it leaves something to be desired.
The list of services that track fitness seems to be growing by the minute. Runkeeper, Garmin, Strava, Polar Flow, MapMyRun (to name a few) each have strengths and weaknesses. Some play nicer with others. To make matters worse, I have friends spread among these services. I’d like to connect to all of them. I like seeing what they’re doing, and I also appreciate the encouragement and motivation that comes from knowing people are keeping an eye on my training. To reach my active friends in all of these places, I needed a way to sync my data to different services.
Several months ago, I found Tapiriik, a service that can sync training data among these services. It seems to work well—at least as well as it can. Tapiriik is limited to the APIs each of the services expose. It just so happens that Polar isn’t doing us any favors in terms of interoperability.
Here’s how I currently track my training. It’s laughable. I track my runs with the Polar M400. I sync my run data from my watch to the Polar Flow app, which then syncs to the Polar Flow website. Because Polar Flow doesn’t seem to have a decent API, I have to go to the website and download the training file. I then move that file to Dropbox. From there Tapiriik picks up the file and syncs with Runkeeper, Garmin, and Strava. I then visit Shoe Tracker, which connects to Runkeeper, in order to track the mileage of my shoes. This is my tortured version of a Rube Goldberg device.
I already have a CamelBak Marathoner, which has worked exceedingly well for me. Now all I need is to head to the Swiss Alps.
Though I’ve been training for this since June, I finally paid my dues and registered for the Prairie State Marathon to be held in Libertyville, IL on October 10. My training plan is a bit more aggressive than the one I used for the Wisconsin Marathon I ran in Kenosha in May. I learned some lessons in that race and hope to beat the 3:47 I posted.