10 Days to Go – The Start Is Close

10 days till the start

So it’s just 10 days to go until the start of May.

10 days!

10 days till I start a run that’s going to be a huge challenge to me, and hopefully a run that makes some significant change to the people I’m running it for! (hint hint, get over to justgiving.fightingfatness.com and donate if you can, would mean such a lot to them!)

Running 1407km in 365 days for what, for all intents and purposes, a complete beginner runner is a bit crazy. I know that. I need to average 30km a week just to hit the target, and at the most, I’m only at around 20km a week on a very very good week! I’ve been running for 13 weeks, that’s it, and that’s 54 to go till I hopefully cross my imaginary finishing line. (Although if anyone wants to make a finishing line please do get in touch!!)

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts and tweets. The setting of the challenge is to make sure my running somehow continuously benefits others and not just only me. So far it’s been completely solo and it looks to continue that way. I like running alone. But knowing I’m running to actually help people will mean I keep on going and keep on pushing. Running for Special Effect means I know the fundraising really makes an immediate difference to children and lets them forget their troubles for an hour or two to get immersed in video games.

So with 10 days to go until the start, how have I been preparing?

Well, I’ve been quiet recently online, mostly due to plotting out new pages on the site and taking a bit of me time. Mainly because I know that from May 1st, I’ll be on social media daily updating you all on how I’m getting on etc!

I’m working on a virtual tracker and map so we can plot out how far I would have traveled if I was running the actual Lands End to John O’Groats route and also it gives me chance to plan some real runs of that route with some of you guys.

I also had a little calf twinge the other week, so had a week off running just to let it rest. Truth be told, Easter was also in the middle of this, and yes, eggs and bad food were eaten. It does mean a few extra lbs have been added back onto the scales, but I’ve started this week off the right way and hopefully, I’ll get back to normal.

Also, I’ve put off doing youtube videos till I start the run as I feel they were lacking focus and going on waaaaaaaay too long. I’ll do a pre-run video next week, and then we can start with short and snappy day to day updates after each run. I don;t want to bore you to death with another 20-minute moan-a-thon ha!

Lastly, I’ve been speaking closely to Special Effect and using their awesome help to ensure I can reach as many people as I can and share the message of the good work they do!

The task ahead is huge, and I know that it will take every ounce of effort to hit that target next April! April 2018! Sounds so far away.

With your help, I hope you will enjoy following along and support if you can. Would really mean a lot!

Again apologies for being quiet, but that will totally change in a few days 🙂

Any questions as always please do get in touch and I hope to see you out there!

Keep on running!

Andy

Fighting Fatness Run For Charity – 1407km in 365 days

Fighting Fatness Special Effect

I want to use my running to raise money for an amazing charity called Special Effect. In a nutshell, Special Effect create custom video game controllers to allow disabled children and adults to play video games with friends and family. This video about a cool young lad called Ben summarises exactly the kind of good work they do.

I’ve been a huge video game player since I was a child, and it’s something I’ve taken for granted my whole life. I heard about Special Effect a year ago and it made me so happy to see that they were making sure gaming is totally inclusive! If you want to go straight to the page, it’s justgiving.fightingfatness.com or hit the link in the sidebar 🙂

So why am I doing it?

As you may or may not know, I decided to start running on the 24th January 2017 on a couch to 5K program. I had been overweight for many years and wanted to use running as a way to lose weight. I started a blog at fightingfatness.com to document my journey and hopefully inspire others to try for themselves.

After 7 weeks I had hit my first 5K distance and since then I have been running further and further, the longest so far has been 14K in one go.

It has been 12 weeks since I started running and have already lost 14lbs, but with much more left to go. I had been looking at entering runs to train towards, but it started to feel that this was all now just benefiting me and I wanted to use my new hobby for some good.

I was looking for a year-long goal that I would be a challenge and stumbled across a story of a team running the John O’Groats to Lands End route. The distance is 1407K and spans the length of mainland UK. I decided this would be the distance I would run, set a year to hit the distance and raise money for a really worthy cause along the way. I’m hoping that the more weight I lose, the fitter I become and the further I can run as I need to average 32K every week for 52 weeks. I’ll be running around my local area, but plan to try and run actual stints of the real distance from town to town to experience what it would be like. Maybe one day I can do it for real.

I want to try and raise £1 for every Kilometer I’m going to run over the next year, with the aim to hit £1407 (and maybe beyond). I’ll update every week talking about the distances I run and plot on a map how far I would have got if running the actual route.

The charity I picked is Special Effect. 

SpecialEffect enable severely disabled people to use computers in any way possible – using whichever part(s) of their body that work best – by adapting technology to their individual needs. It’s so important they can join in with family/friends, to be included and not left out. This can hugely benefit rehabilitation, mental wellbeing, self-esteem and quality of life – and much needed FUN!

Creating custom controllers Special Effect allow disabled children to play video games with friends and family and allow them to experience these virtual worlds that most of us take for granted.

They specialise in Eye Control Technology. Imagine: You wake up after an accident. You can’t move anything except your eyes. And you can’t speak. Through eye-movement alone, we help people operate a computer so they can communicate and regain a little independence – giving them a voice when they don’t have one of their own.

I really hope you can donate to help this great cause!

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

Review – Trekz Titanium Bone Conducting Wireless Headphones

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones

Heads Up, I didn’t buy these headphones myself. I was kindly sent a pair of Trekz Titanium Headphones from Aftershokz in exchange for my review. They currently sell for around £109.99 on Aftershokz’ official site.

Like most people, I love listening to Music and Podcasts when I run. I want the distraction from the distance at hand, the beat to keep me in rhythm, or an excuse to escape entirely from the working week.

However, there are usually a few main issues when using headphones on a run.

  1. Awareness – You have no audible clues of the environment around you. Cars and Cyclists, sometimes even other runners appear out of nowhere. You’re so cut off from the outside world that even saying hello to a passing dog walker results in a decibel-blasting “HELLO” as you can’t even gauge your own internal volume. (I’m sure I have made people leap out of their skin on more than one occasion)
  2. Sound – You have to compromise on sound quality with running headphones. In-Ear buds will be the best but as above, you lose external noise. Wrap-arounds hang down next to your ear but are tinny and lifeless. Wearing a big pair of cans, well, you just look bonkers!
  3. Fit and Feel – Most of the run will be spent popping headphones back in, or having them fall out due to sweat. Every step you feel the wires pull at your ears or get tangled in your arm. You can try and tuck them up your top but that just feels wrong. Wrap-arounds sometimes bounce at the back of your neck and again, your focusing on running here, not being a sound technician.

Trekz Titanium Treks Titanium Headphones

So this is why I was really interested in these headphones. They say on the box they are Bluetooth (great, no wires!) and use Bone Conduction technology.

Bone Conduction (I hear you say)? Yes, Bone, Conduction.

The Trekz Titanium don’t go in your ears. They are wraparound’s that rest just in front of your ears. The sound is produced through what seems to be a combination of a speaker and vibration, so that sound travels through the bones of your ear and deciphered by your brain. Sounds like the stuff of science fiction!

In practice, the sensation is strange at first but you get used to it very quickly. Being able to hear and hold a conversation with someone as music is being beamed inside your head is otherworldly. More on that below.

So let’s see how Aftershokz address some of my concerns above and then some Technical specs and nitty gritty too.

  1. Awareness – Big green tick here!! As the Trekz Titanium are purely open ear headphones, you are free to hear all outside noise. On my runs, I could hear my environment, cars coming up behind from way in the distance, and yes, I could say Hello to passers-by without screaming in their general direction. It’s no surprise that the Trekz Titanium are the  only approved headphones for UK Athletics road races! For the first few runs I was still acting as I did with normal headphones, triple checking roads etc when crossing and looking behind me constantly, but the more I use them the more confident I’m becoming that I can hear just as well as I would without them on.
  2. Sound – Honestly, I was expecting the sound to be its downfall. How good could sound vibrated through your head actually be? Well turns out, really, really good! With it being a mixture of a speaker and vibration, you get a really broad spectrum with both decent Treble and Bass. To start with I tested out a podcast and the voices sounded rich and clear. I was running down a country lane at this point, so it was funny to be able to hear them talk clearly, whilst it also sounding like some birds had invaded their studio. Getting used to parsing both the streamed sound and your environment was tricky for about 10 minutes but then it became very natural. I then tested them out with some Music and again it really surprised me. The sound was great. For a pair of headphones that don’t go in your ear, it’s surprising how little difference there actually is. For the discerning audiophile I’m sure you may have an issue with the sound, but for a runner who wants to hear their music outside, it’s near perfect to me!
  3. Fit and Feel – The Trekz Titanium are sleek and modern, getting the Titanium name from the frame they are built on. This allows them to be extremely strong but also incredibly flexible. They slip on easily over the ears and rest comfortably around the back of the neck. Whilst running I cold barely feel them and there was no rubbing on the top of my ears. Being Bluetooth there was no need to fight wires through the run. Both my girlfriend and my Dad tried them on and due to the intuitive design, meant they got then in place first time without instruction. There was no slippage due to sweating, and as they are certified sweat and weather resistant, you’d have no issue facing the elements in them either. They also work well with Glasses so running in them is no issue. I’d say put on your glasses first before the headphones just to get a comfy fit.

Technical Bits

So far so good. But these are Bluetooth Wireless headphones, so other than sound and fit they do have other features we should look at.

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones

  • What’s in the Box

The headphones come boxed with a carry pouch, USB charging cable, earplugs and silicone fit bands. The pouch looks classy and great for keeping the headphones safe in your bag. The earplugs are for if you want to use the headphones in a safe environment where you can block all external noise. I think it’s a handy addition but I can’t see people using these headphones as your normal around the house headphones. The fit bands are for anyone who needs the extra support around the band and act as spacers to ensure a tighter and comfier fit.

  • Headphone Features

The headphones have 3 buttons that can be used when running. The volume up and down are situated on the right arm of the band, and a multifunction button is found on the left ear piece. The volume down also acts as your power button.

The Trekz Titanium support Bluetooth and pairing is nice and simple. When powering on you keep the button held down and it goes into pairing mode. Then in your phone’s menu just tap on the Trekz Titanium headphones and you’re good to go. Next time you use them, just power on and it will automatically connect. You can even pair 2 devices and use whichever you wish on your run (maybe you have multiple phones or music devices etc).

The multifunction button is your play/pause/skip etc and works with different press combinations. You can even use this to take calls as the headphones do include noise canceling microphones, although running on a call may not be the most fun thing for the person on the other end.

There is also an LED light on the underside of the headset that denotes pair mode and battery level

  • Battery and Charging

There is a rubber flap on the band that removes to find the micro USB port. Charging takes about an hour for a full charge, and this should last you for 6 hours run time, long enough for your daily run or even a marathon if you wished. (Just remember to charge them up beforehand!)

Closing Thoughts

Being able to hear your sounds, the road, and your body when running is totally worth it in my book. Although yes, the price of entry is high, these seem strong and sturdy and should last the most grueling of runs (they come with a 2-year warranty too!) Being Bluetooth is great to avoid wires completely, but charging them needs to be part of your post-run routine. They sound great for music and podcasts without compromising your comfort. If I had to give this review pair back to Aftershockz, I’d be ordering these again straight away.

If you have any questions or want to know more please do get in touch!

Trekz Titanium Headphones

 

Day 74 – The Journey So Far and Time for New Goals

It’s been 74 Days since I started out on this Journey.

74 Days! That’s just a 5th of a year. Just over 2 months.

0.6% of my total life on Planet Earth. (I’m 33 if that helps)

If you had told me it would take 2 months to completely overhaul my life I’d have thought you mad. When I started out on this journey, I wanted to lose weight and be able to run a few times a week.

Sculpture at the Yorkshire sculpture park during my journey
One of the sights at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

My biggest goal I had set myself was to be able to run to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and back again (around a 13K round trip) one day. It wasn’t by any means a goal I would expect to reach 9 weeks after starting a 5K plan. I wasn’t supposed to have even reached 5K by week 10!!

I want to look back at a few key moments over the past 74 days, where I started, where I’ve been….and ultimately where I want to see myself going.

The Start of the Journey – Day 1

My first ever run was the 24th January 2017. I started a Couch to 5K plan and the first intervals were 1 minute long and a mixture of running and walking 8 times over. I weighed 16 stone 10lbs and had no idea of the road ahead. I was doing this alone, did not really know where to look for help and advice and was just following the normal route that most people take. Find a plan, commit yourself to it and see where it goes. I wanted to stop being overweight. I wanted to change myself for the better.

I had an old pair of trainers, a bit of kit and that was enough to convince myself I had the tools to get out there.

The first run was hard, felt long and tougher than i felt it should have been. When I got home I felt proud I’d been out there, but my legs hurt, my lungs hurt, it all hurt!!

Recording that first video was tough. I wanted to document my journey so I could always see where I’d come from if it paid off. If it didn’t work, well, I could always delete them all and go back to pizzas and forget any of it ever happened!

As the second run loomed, a repeat of Day 1, I begrudgingly got changed and got out there. Starting the second run, and the third run was the turning points for that troublesome start. If you can keep getting out there, you’re already winning the battle!

My first 5K – Week 7

7 weeks later and the plan was going well. I’d been sticking to the plan, getting 3 runs in a week and progressing further and further. I was up to running 20-minute stretches in one go and really finding a pace I was comfortable with. I’d managed to work out my breathing also, trying to alternate every 4 steps and it was working well, almost calming perhaps.

The thought had started to seep in about hitting the distance, and honestly, I was getting impatient! One long sleepless night the thought had crept in that I should just give it a go. I had nothing to lose.

Saturday 11th March I set off to hit that 5K. I set myself some fail safes, If things got tough I’d walk for 30 seconds to 1 minute then carry on.

Turns out I didn’t need to. I made it in 48 minutes with a big hill climb right from the start. I was so happy! This was proof that the plan was working, the weight was dropping (by this point I was around 9 or 10 lbs lost) and I was far happier in life than I was at the start.

This was the beginning of the end of the 5K plan. I had been adamant on my blog and video at the time that I would see this to completion.

How wrong I was.

Running the Distance – Week 10

So 10 weeks prior I had set myself the goal of running to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park from where I live. With a few more 5K’s and a Park Run under my belt (and one 8K after taking a wrong turn in the woods ) I felt like maybe it was time to give it a shot.

Now I know that Week 10 should have been the point that I had hit my first ever 5K and I was already 3 Weeks ahead in the plan. By this point, I had hit my first full stone weight loss (14lbs) and every run was getting more and more fun. This was the main thing. Fun. I was loving every run. I wanted to get out there as often I could to find new things and discover new routes.

I had planned to run a 5K but as I headed up towards the direction of the Sculpture Park that was it, I was going for it.

Running through the park was amazing. I’ve visited there a few times and walked there (usually taking around an hour and change) when we moved house. Being able to run there in half the time and explore was liberating.

I got home on the 27th of March, running just under 14Km in 1 hr 52 min.

I was so proud. I cried when I got home.

In 10 weeks I had gone from an overweight and lazy man to a chap 14lbs lighter running 14K. Literally running for every pound I lost. Furthermore, I had found and been accepted into an amazing online running community of which I know I will be forever grateful.

Since then I have been back there again and plan to keep going once every 2 weeks.

The Future

It’s now Friday 7th April, and it’s time to plan where to go from here. The end of 11 weeks has flown by. 74 days and counting.

I thought of starting on a 10K plan, but I’m already hitting those distances when I need to. Arguably not in a fantastic time but hey, it’s good enough for me.

It has crossed my mind to look at half marathon plans, but considering this goal is double the distance of the furthest I’ve been already, this may be pushing myself too far. So many people have mentioned that pushing and pushing leads to injury and that is the last thing I want.

So for now, I’m going to run 3 times a week. I’ll run between 5 and 10K depending on how I feel (and the weather ha) and go longer when I want a park visit. I’m going to focus on my healthy food kick, keeping it all clean and push that little harder on every run to feel the benefit. I still want to drop another 30lbs as I’m still overweight, but hey, not as much as when I started.

I will book a race and see how I fare. I will continue to attend ParkRuns when I can and volunteer to cheer others on. I want to run for charity and make others aware of the benefits of running.

I will continue on this Journey as far as it takes me, and I hope you’ll be there with me along the way. Together we can all promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and the positive mental wellbeing it can bring to yourself and others around you.

Now let’s see what the next 74 days bring.

Cheers

A

The change in a year because of my journey
This photo was taken a year before I started on my running journey. I shied away from the camera a lot after then. Me on the right is my first Parkrun at the end of week 9.