16 August 2010

Laps, straps and rhythmic beating

It all started on that fateful trip to FleetFeet in Cincinnati: my sister, Katie, was looking at getting a Garmin GPS watch to help with her training. There I was, beholden to a plethora of nerd-tactic devices all designed to make my life as a runner better. Ah, yes, technology.

While I didn't really have a need for a GPS watch (I'd been running using RunKeeper Pro on my iPhone), I was intrigued by the idea of zone training. Zone training is just a fancy phrase some Russian exercise physiologist came up with during the Cold War to describe using your heartbeat as a pace setting tool.

(And just in case you were wondering, no, you did not just time-warp to the 80s, and I have no plans to start marathon training in a neon-colored Adidas track suit.)

There were a few things that peaked my curiosity about zone training:
  1. I've heard several times that you can determine how "in shape" you are by your resting heart rate. Naturally, I wanted to find out what mine was.
  2. I had been struggling on some long runs lately, and I wanted to see if I could find an explanation. Was I exceeding my target heart rate (HR) during the run? Not pushing myself hard enough?
  3. RunKeeper Pro has the ability to add your average HR to your workout logs, and I'd been approximating for the last few months during runs. This was *way* too unscientific for me.
  4. CrossFit (the workout regiment I do outside of running) really pushes my cardiovascular capabilities, and I was curious in a) the number of calories I was actually burning during the workouts and b) what range my HR was in for the 15-30 minute sessions.
Polar RS100 Heart Rate Monitor and StopwatchSo I picked up the Polar RS100 on Amazon for roughly $80 (about $20 less than it retails for). It's their low-end monitor, but has the capability of recording up to 99 laps, is water-resistant and uses a chest-strap monitor that communicates with the watch. This was critical especially for CrossFit, where I didn't want to have to stop my workout to get a quick reading.

The chest strap doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would; when I first picked it up I worried it would restrict my breathing and cause me to cramp. It's actually quite comfortable and made from a soft, flexible, plastic-y type material with a neoprene hook-and-latch to go around my back. It's also machine washable (critical when you sweat as much as I do).

Since using it, I've learned a few valuable lessons I want to share with you:
  1. I had no idea how many calories I was actually burning while running. This was the most surprising lesson learned, as RunKeeper Pro (which automatically calculates your calories burned using a time / distance algorithm) was *grossly* underestimating how much fuel I was using. In some cases I was actually burning TWICE the calories RunKeeper said I was. (12 mile run: Polar, 2,134 calories; RunKeeper, 1,024 calories)
  2. With that in mind, I realized part of the reason I was struggling so much during the long runs was because I didn't have the fuel I needed. I'd get up first-thing in the morning without eating anything, and was relying on my glycogen stores (essentially, how much energy I could store up / carry over from the previous days) which rapidly depleted. I've started to eat a small something before running and am intentionally consuming more energy gels, electrolyte-loaded liquids and thinking more proactively about the types of foods I consume before I run.
  3. I was exceeding my target zone routinely by about 2-3 percent. Last week I tried to cap my HR at 85 percent, and noticed a positive difference in how I felt after mile 10. I still think 85 is low for me, so I'll be toying with 87-88 percent to see if I can still feel the same difference at that level.
  4. I'm not as "in shape" as I thought I was, or, I have a better sense of a good target to shoot for. Right now my resting HR is around 68 BPM. My goal is to have my resting HR be closer to 60; this would mean my heart is more efficient at distributing oxygen to the bloodstream and, therefore, needs to beat less frequently.
  5. Indeed, I am a nerd. It's just neat to be able to break down the metrics of your run; I really appreciate being able to analyze (with data) my progress, issues and trends.
More to come after I use this more, but I am so far very pleased with my purchase. If you're in the market for a new HR monitor, I'd definitely give this one a shot and am happy to give you more specifics.  Just send me a tweet @samvenable.

Happy running and have a joy-filled day,

03 August 2010

Can you hear me now? Good.

It's official: last week I took back my iPhone 4 to the ATT store.  

After 30 days of taking phone calls, photos, emailing and tweeting, I decided that I couldn't stand the possibility of being stuck with a phone / network that wasn't rock solid for two years. And that's exactly what I told Dena, the friendly (and accommodating) associate at our neighborhood ATT store.  

I loved the camera.  I loved being able to video-record on the fly with one device.  I loved the apps, especially the Navigon GPS that makes my life so much easier when on the road.  I loved being able to pull this tiny device out of my pocket and instantly be productive.  There were so many things I liked about it - I just couldn't rely on it for voice communication.

What finally pushed me over the edge was a conversation with Bethany, my wife.  She read my blog post and made an off-handed comment to the effect of "if this were any other phone, you would've taken it back weeks ago."  

She nailed it on the head.  I was settling for lousy service just because it was an Apple product.

The 3G had its flaws - it was slow, had a lousy camera and couldn't multitask (after the iOS4 update), but at least I could count on it to make a call.  Come to think of it, there were only two spots in my area where I'd drop calls - but the rest of the time the service was solid.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I'd already sold my iPhone 3G for a cool $160.  Which means I had to dig in the drawers to find an old phone to use until I figure out what my next step will be.

So until that day comes, keep an eye out for the guy walking down the street rocking a Nokia 3120 from  

29 July 2010

To return or not to return - that is the question.

For the first time in my life, I own an Apple product I'm not totally sold on.  Scarier yet: I'm sitting here on day 29 contemplating whether or not to return it to the ATT store.

Maybe this is the beginning of my disenfranchisement with Apple, but there are several things I've realized over the past few weeks as a result of my experience with this phone:
  1. Apple could have done a much better job with the PR on the situation.

    I do approach this with a bit of a bias, as I studied PR as an undergrad.  I try to support companies that not only have good products, but communicate well with their constituencies.  In some cases, I'm even willing to pay more for their product as a result.

    Listen, I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists.  I don't think Apple was intentionally hiding anything.  Part of it is that it's a new product, and c'mon, let's face it - the press totally blew this one out of proportion.  The issue is that Apple didn't release a statement that said, "we are aware of the issue and are trying to collect more data to answer your concerns."  They told us that they'd actually been misrepresenting signal strength as a result of an "incorrect formula."

    The language they used in that release was nearly comical.  I could swear they called in Johnny Chimpo to do their dirty work.

  2. ATT's service does actually suck.

    I don't know how I missed this for the last two years, but ATT's service on the iPhone is terrible.  Maybe my iPhone 3G was a freak of nature, but I swear the service wasn't as bad.

    I'm having people call me and the phone doesn't ring.  Calls don't drop, but people on the other end of the line can't hear me for 20-second spans.  Voicemails aren't delivered.  I'm standing in areas that used to be clear as a summer morn and now calls are garbled.

    The scary thing is this reminds me of my experience in Athens 6 years ago with (dare I say it) Garbelizon.

    Call me crazy, but my service wasn't this bad with the iPhone 3G.  At least then it would just drop the call.  It seemed more...honest.

  3. I can't understand the people I'm calling.

    Yes.  It's like that.  The people I'm talking with sound like they have a sock over the mic.  I don't know if it's the noise-canceling mic at the top, but I fully expected the sound to be even better than it was on the iPhone 3G.  Each time I get done with a call, my hand's sore because I've been pressing it so hard into my ear (and yes, before you think it, I DO have the volume up all the way).

  4. I'm already locked into the Apple ecosystem.

    Hate to say this, but I started to think about how difficult porting my information / apps / music will be.  As intrigued as I am by the Android system, I've heard connecting them to your Mac is maddening (and slow).

  5. Other techy people I know that really like Apple products have taken their back.

    ...and I might be joining them.

  6. I can't afford to wait for Apple to update the software or fix whatever bug is causing this.

    I don't have the time.  Normally, I don't mind being an early adopter and this wouldn't be a huge deal, but ATT's increased cancellation fee and not necessarily wanting to be locked into their service anymore are weighing heavily on me.

    I'm not sweating bullets yet, but I do only have 16 hours to figure this out...
What's a boy to do?

26 May 2010

Gitomer and the power of positive thinking

Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales GreatnessI've been reading Gitomer's Little Red Book of Selling over the past few days.  It came highly recommended from my uncle, who has just started his own leadership consulting company.

I'm still early in the book, but one of the principles that has really hit home was the concept of staying positive and avoiding people who will 'poison' you.  We all know the ones - the ones for whom life is never good enough, things are always terrible, they're disenfranchised, tired, angry and always pointing blame at someone else.

Here's the scary part: I think I've been that person over the past few years.

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a mentor and close friend, and I shared what I'd been thinking with him.  Yet we weren't even a few minutes into the conversation and we had already started to complain about a few challenging situations.  Before we knew it, we were on the slip-and-slide of doom.

I stopped him at one point and said, "So, tell me - what's been good lately?"

It's a question I'm going to be asking myself every day, and I challenge you to do the same.

28 March 2010

Reaction: "enough"

(Note: if you haven't already read Godin's post I'm referring to, make sure you do so first)

Godin nailed it on the head - many of the people I have dealt with in fundraising have this exact fear.  They're afraid that there won't be a definable limit.  After all, what is enough?  How do you define it?

The simplest reaction to this "enough" ambiguity, especially in the realm of societal need, is to avert your eyes.  It's totally human, after all.

It's a fluffy example, but if you've ridden on Southwest Airlines you know it's true.  You've either been the averter or averted.  You know there's a need for seats; it's impossible to ignore.  It's just so...comfortable to wait on someone else to take that first step.  To make the ask.

As a fundraiser, the biggest challenge in my job is reaching the mid-level givers.  I know there's an intimidation factor that accompanies the "fundraiser" label; that's why people don't want to meet with them.  That's why they might hang up when asked for a donation.  It's another one of those people.

I've been wrestling with the best way to address this for the last two years, and while I have a few good principles I've used, I don't know that I've come up with a perfect solution yet.  More on that in a later post.

More broadly, the question of what's "enough" is going to be one universities and non-profits are going to have to help donors address soon.  But more than that, nonprofits are going to have to figure out themselves what enough is (and answer questions such as, "how much do we really need?").

There are now more than 1.2 million charities and foundations.  That means a growing number of nonprofits will be asking for help achieving their goals and addressing societal needs - and I wonder if donors will tire of it quickly.  According to George Rubanenko of Blackbaud, “After six solicitations a year, the likelihood for long-term loyalty diminishes significantly.”  

With more and more charities and foundations asking the same pool of people, how will donors react to six solicitations from different nonprofits?

Yes, "enough" is a tough thing to define, but nonprofits need to be asking themselves the same questions their prospects are wondering.

26 March 2010


Seth Godin really nailed it on the head today with his post on philanthropy and "the ceiling" (how much is enough?).  Before I react, I'm going to stew on it for bit but will be sure to comment later today.

In the meantime, read his post:

22 March 2010

Working for...

Heard Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend" song this weekend, and it made me think: what if everybody was working for the week?

What would it look like if you were so excited and passionate about your work that you looked forward to the week instead of dreading it?