How to train and prepare for your first half marathon

tom hirt 2Congratulations! You have decided…or been forced into your first half marathon! Either case it’s pretty cool you have reached this point and I guarantee you will enjoy the ride and become addicted to this stupid running thing. Did I mention you get a shiny medal when you cross the finish line??

And free swag as well! Well you do have to register and pay a entry fee. But do it early to get the reduced entry fee.

Let me share right off the bat a few things I had to learn the hard way because no one volunteers this crap at the start.

  1. Getting your first couple of miles under your belt will allow you to get away with bad equipment. But you will reach that magical threshold and you will discover the wonders of runners rash. So before you get there, start getting the correct gear in place. Everything from compression underwear to bodyglide stick applicators.
  2. You will reach the point where rain will not detour your enjoyment of running. This is great. But if you haven’t reached point 1 yet, and you are running with cotton gear, you will expedite point 1 with nipple chafe added to runners rash. A great double whammy. So wear the correct underwear, shirt and socks. And invest in Nip Guards. I kid you not.
  3. Body functions. I’m happy to report I have not discovered Runners Diarrhea. That’s because I took some early advice and made sure to always test my diet on training runs and never, EVER, change your diet before the big run. I personally have found that carbing it up for dinner the day before the event helps to not only fuel me up but also keep my gut in check. When you have an event that starts at 6:30 am, which requires you leaving the house at 5:00 am, waking up at 4:00 am, you are not going to get your normal morning constitutional. And that really had me worried. But I found a high carb dinner with oatmeal in the morning, with a banana and powerbar as I’m standing in the staging area works perfect. But that’s me. You need to find your own food prep and that requires a test run. I can’t stress that enough.
  4. Body functions part 2…actually 1.  Peeing. Don’t worry that you need to find cover. There are porta potties located throughout the course. Make sure you relieve yourself before you get the staging area. Those porta potties normally don’t have long standing lines. As you get closer to the staging areas expect a line. And respect the lines.tom hirt 3

Now for the normal recommendations:

  1. Find the correct running shoes. This is not the time to find your best cheap deal. Go to those the know a thing or two about running and value their expertise.
  2. Get a fitness tracking and running app. Know exactly how you did after every run. Google the running guides on how to properly increment your distance safely.
  3. Understand your pace and set some realistic expectations. You need to know this before the big day so that you don’t let the excitement and adrenaline have you shooting out the gate only to have your wheels come off a few miles later. Pace yourself. Don’t get hung up on that friend that can run a 7:30 mile. Find your pace and be happy with it. Your first half marathon should not be chasing a time goal, but having fun and complete the course in good health.
  4. Get a good running bottle. Some use belts. I like a hand bottle with hand strap.
  5. Get a good headset. Bluetooth model works well. I find the challenge is with wind. On windy days, it can interfere with listening quality. So don’t go cheap here.
  6. Get a head lamp to allow you to run in the mornings/evenings.
  7. Get a running vest or belt to hold your phone and nutrition.
  8. Find that runners high. You will know the moment. You will be breaking a new milestone and most likely have your favorite tunes on.
  9. I switched to listing to audio books for my longer training runs.
  10. Get cold weather running gear. I see folks get all excited about running in the cold. Not me. Anything below 40 and I’m doing weight resistance or playing some racquetball or spinning.
  11. Mix in a Hybrid training program. My friend Dr. Henderson has put together a great hybrid workout program.
  12. Rest rest rest.

Prepare for the big day:

  1. Preparing starts the day ahead.
  2. Carb up the night before.
  3. Stay Hydrated.
  4. Go to bed early. Get all your gear laid out based on possible weather conditions. Do this in another room so not to bother your spouse in the morning.
  5. Leave the water bottle at home. There are water stations every mile.
  6. Leave the headphone at home. Take in the sights and sounds. Enjoy the crowd. Stay aware of what’s going on.
  7. Enjoy a breakfast what won’t upset your stomach.
  8. Map out your fuel. A lot of folks like the GU packs. They recommend a pack 15 min before the race, and then every 45 mins.
  9. Gentlemen, got your nip guards on? No, then at least put band-aids over your nipples. Or apply some of the bodyglide for runners. If not you will indeed “Make America Chafe again”.
  10. Dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer then the forecast for start time. If it’s going to be 45 or colder, I still wear shorts and maybe a long sleeve shirt. If my arms get cold…all I can think about is how cold they are. I don’t worry about gloves on the big day but I do train with them. I like to take that old grungy sweater that the wife has been nagging me about to throw away. So I wear that on top. Right as our staging area moves into starting position you can see the sweaters getting tossed to the side. And this is cool as they are collected and given to charities.
  11. If rain is in the forecast, leave the nice running vest at home unless you want to mess with storing your gear in the clear plastic bag and hand off before the race. Total pain, I avoid this. Just take a throw away poncho or garbage bag with head and arm cutouts.
  12. Get to your staging area extra early. This allows you to avoid the traffic and basically have one less thing to stress about. Relieve yourself even if you don’t think you have to go. And trust me, I’m always late to everything. But getting to the staging area on time is awesome.
  13. I find I don’t have to do too much warming up, the fast walk to the staging area does the trick with some stretching as you wait.

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Is Shakeology worth the price?

I think the biggest résistance I come across with Shakeology is the price. And I can appreciate that as there are so many other protein shake brands out there on the market. And I think others smarter than me have already shown how Shakeology is in a completely different class of product…which sadly goes unnoticed as folks do just look at the bottom line. So my post today is not to rehash the issues of value. Rather, how does Shakeology actually visually stack up against the process to make a similar shake.

This experiment so to speak started when I can across this excellent video from Dr. Mercola.


I’ve been following Dr. Mercola and respect many of his views on nutrition and health. So I immediately went to Whole Foods and as luck would have it, they were having a 25% discount on all supplements! So here is the list of items I purchased:

  • Avocado – Whole scooped, bowl
  • Chia Seeds, 2 tsps. Grind
  • Coconut Oil, 2 oz, bowl
  • Flax seed whole, 1 oz. Grind
  • Organic Whole Husk Psyllium, 1 oz, bowl
  • Black Sesame seeds raw, unhulled, 1 oz
  • Vegan Protein Power (Sun valley makes the best in my mind regards what Dr. Mercola wants to sell his) 1 scoop, bowl
  • Cinnamon, 1 tbsp Bowl
  • Branched Chain Amino acids powder, 1 tsp, bowl
  • Creatine powder, 3 gr, bowl
  • Dr. Mercola Greens Powder, 1 tbsp, bowl
  • Tisano  -Cacao Nibs, 2 tbsp , Grind

Note: Measurements above are not what I purchased but what I used in my first recipe.

Even with the 25% discount, I ended up spending close to $90.

But now the fun started as the recipe requires some items to be ground up before adding to the main mix. I went ahead and used less water just like Dr. Mercola. Granted it was my first time making this, so maybe my second effort won’t look like I tornado went through the kitchen.

But how did it taste you might be wondering?

sheep-in-barn-g5a06gWell…putting this nicely as I can…it brings the barn straight to your mouth.

It’s possible I did go crazy on the Greens powder and could have went more aggressive on the Cacao nibs. But I think this brings home a point Shakeolgy likes to make and that is….it’s real tough to bring all these natural ingredients together in a form that taste great.

So the end result is I’m going to try my best to refine this recipe to give it a fair shake, no pun intended. But as it’s shaping up I should just listen to my wife and stick with Shakeology. Not only because it comes in at the same price, but if I leave the kitchen in the same mess a second time, I’m a dead man.

Finding the right workout shoe

I was originally going to focus on how to know when it’s time to replace your shoes. Runners can gauge this easier then folks doing cardio, but the same principle applies…. don’t stay in the same pair past their usefulness. But instead of going into the details, I came across this excellent blog article from Beachbody: How to know when to replace your workout shoes.

That then allows me to share my recent understanding of the importance to “finding the right shoe”. In the past I would go to a normal sporting store with sales associates not really caring or understanding the equipment they were selling. So I would always buy the hot marketing shoe at the moment at the lowest price. Shoe size was a best guess based off my past experience. Little did I know this was responsible for blowing out my calf muscle every other week. I’ll explain that more in a bit.

So I decided to get some compression socks to deal with my calf muscle issue. I walked into Fleet Feet located in Blue Ash Ohio and as soon as the sales associate engaged me, I knew this was going to be a different experience and outcome. I really wanted to buy the compression socks but she was like how old are your shoes? I thought this was a ridicules question, just sell me the compression socks!!!My New Balance shoes

But she then asked if I was ever properly fitted for shoes? At which point I took her offer to get properly fitted just to amuse her so I could get back to buying the compression socks! So in short order I learned I’ve been cramming my feet in too small size shoes, which results in the toe jamming up, which then causes a whole sort of alignment issues…resulting in…yup, my calfs getting those major cramps. She also watch my walk and run through 4 different pairs of shoes until we found the perfect match. So I left the store with a new pair of New Balance shoes and I never did buy the compression socks!

That was 3 weeks ago and I have been back into my running mode with not a single cramp!

So lesson of the day. It’s well worth the time and money to seek out these personalized shoe stores and get actual expert help. Don’t wing it on your own.




Shawn T’s New Workout program – Cize?

Who knew all this time I was dancing everyday, but I just don’t have the beat?


But seriously….NO…I really can’t dance. I don’t want to dance. I know my limitations and I’m happy with this. If there was any chance of dancing I think I would have given Zumba a chance.


But as I’ve said many times, thank goodness Beachbody has a program for every taste. Maybe this is something that excites you?? Myself, I’m heading into Body Beast’s Block 3 and loving the tempo workouts.

Beachbody On Demand is finally here!


Wow! What took so long?? Finally an All-Access pass to the complete line of Beachbody’s Proven Workouts!!! And they made it into March’s Challenge pack??

If you just want to check out the On demand videos, then just click this link to become a Beachbody Club Member and get access to on demand and more!


What is the best orange juice brand to buy?

The short answer is None! And this applies to all fruit drinks folks buy off the shelf and think they are doing their family a healthy service. The truth is any fruit drink that is sold off the shelf has to go through a series of pasteurizing, chemical baths and then enriched with synthetic chemicals in the guise of healthy vitamins to make up for everything healthy that was stripped out in the above process. Here is an excellent piece about the OJ processing from a brand that most think would be the healthiest. I’ve also like this piece from Food Renegade that talks about the general process in much more detail.

But there is good news from all of this! Just make your own! Learn why folks are so fanatical about the Vitamix, or Ninja. Made a spinish, kale, cucumber, apple, avocado energy drink. Great stuff. But what won me over was making my own OJ. And here is the simple recipe…

2 oranges (peeled)
1 cup water
3 tablespoons egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*Sweetener (Recipe called for 1/4 sugar!)
1 1/2 cups ice

OMG….this is just toooooo good!!! Better than the old Orange Julius stands, I kid you not!

You will never drink processed OJ again. Enjoy!!

*I replaced the sweetener option and vanilla extract with my Sweatleaf stevia Vanilla drops. And remember, not all Stevia is the same. You can read about my Stevia rant here. The takeaway being only use the Sweatleaf brand folks.




The Microsoft Band – My Review, take one!

To sum it up, I love it! Easy to wear, I love the geek factor in checking my email, sms, and calendar events. I can check on the weather, stocks and UV levels at a glance. I can even pay for my Starbucks coffee with my band! But I think the single most pleasure I get is talking with Cortana, which really annoys Annette. But at the end of the day, this is marketed as a fitness band. So I will attempt to stick to that aspect and not go to geeky. Well, there is also the fact that Annette won’t let me go there without getting into a giggle fit as you can see here:

Did Microsoft put together a great Fitness watch?

Absolutely! The hardware packs a wallop in the form of sensors. I find it easy to wear contrary to many other reviews. I will try to complete a video dedicated to this if I can get Annette to go serious for a few minutes. But lets move on to a quick review of the hardware and then the software.

WP_20141213_23_42_06_ProWhat I have found from other reviewers is a distain for the hardware but they love the software. The Microsoft Health app is available on the Ios and Android platform as well. But Microsoft Phone users get the added feature of integration with Cortana!

So the syncing with the watch and smartphone is really dependable and doesn’t require any effort. Go for a run, do a workout and leave the phone in the other room. And vitals will be recorded and synced with the phone when re-connected with Bluetooth. It’s that simple! But lets jump into some details.

Microsoft Band Hardware

  •  Look and feel
    • I really do find the band comfortable. The strap clasp is well made and I think one of the great features not talked about. Microsoft highly recommends you use their measure chart to determine which band size (small, medium, large) to purchase. I can’t stress how important this is. If you have a local MS store, just go there and try them on. That’s what I did and medium was my perfect fit. And this is really important because the band needs to be snug when exercising so that the heart rate measurements are accurate. I noticed when I had it loose that the recorded rate was wrong or not recording. And there does come in the work day or night when the watch feels stuck to the wrist. So the clasp allows me to easily adjust it wider and now it bands rests loosely on my wrist and I no longer feel it. So again, I think there should be high marks given to the strap mechanism as it’s well designed.
    • How should it be worn?
      • MS recommends for the best heart rate monitoring to wear the watch with the face under the wrist. I’ve worn it both ways and can’t say which way is any more accurate. [Edit] I do find the heart rate is more accurate when watch is face up.
      • MS also recommends under the wrist for privacy. So as new text messages come in, no one can see them.
      • I prefer not to scratch the face as I type, so I wear it facing up. This has also proven to work great for me as when I’m on the keyboard and receive my VPN authentication code via SMS, I can just glance down at my watch without touching anything or turning my wrist. In the past I had to fish out the smartphone, open the txt message in full view mode and enter the notification code.
      • However, when I work out, I do like to wear it down so that I can easily check my heart rate. [Edit] Due to the accuracy, I’ve stopped doing this.
      • Either case, this is something you just need to test out for yourself and find what works best for your needs. But…now it’s obvious why MS provides the screen protector. Don’t hesitate, put it on!
    • Technology
      • Built in GPS
      • Heart Rate Monitor
      • Step tracker
      • Sleep tracker
      • UV monitor
      • Bluetooth 4.0
      • Skin temperature sensor
      • Microphone (only for Cortana as far as I can tell)
      • Galvanic skin response
      • Ambient Light sensor
      • And a few more I’m sure I’m missing
    • Battery life
      • Goes as advertised if not longer. I can go 2-3 days before charging.
      • I’m finding out the battery life is based on usage.  Recording work outs and normal uses does not put the battery to test. I’ve learned that enabling the GPS really puts a drain the battery. So now I understand why some are claiming they have to charge every night. It’s been too cold to run but we had a balmy 42 last weekend so I took the GPS for a spin. It went from 1/2 life to 1/4 life in that one short run. So again, your battery usage will be dependent on how you use the watch.
    • Lacking
      • Music. I guess we can’t have everything, and I use an older smaller android phone for my music, so it does work out. But it would be nice to have an all in one solution to grab on the morning run.
      • Talking on phone would be nice. At the least listen to VM. But again, I understand they could only put so much into the watch…and it is a fitness watch.
      • Waterproof – only dust and splashing resistant. So this would be my pet peeve…as a fitness watch, folks would want to swim with this, take it on all their sporting activity which goes beyond a nice water spritz.

Microsoft Band Software

If I was gushing about the hardware, wait to you hear my drivel (and also Dribble) about the software. I forgot my band the other day and it hit me how much I realize I’ve fallen in love with this thing. So lets walk through the common tasks and options.


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Main menu Step Details Calories Burned Details
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GPS Run Details Workout Details Sleep details
  • Main Menu shows a nice overview of the current days activities.
  • Step details shows how I’m performing against my goals and I can look at my whole week to compare.
  • Calories burn works in the same manner, showing my current day details with ability to view week history.
  • The GPS run did a pretty good job mapping my run around Landen lake. And it’s pretty accurate showing the times I was dogging it and when I found my second wind.
  • The work out tracker along with heart rate monitor matches up to my strap up heart rate monitor and Endomondo sports tracker.
  • The Sleep mode tracker is a pleasant surprise. I’m learning a lot about my sleep patterns and how it relates to my stress and work productivity.

Setting up the watch and smartphone app is also a snap. The options to customize and arrange the tiles on the watch is another blog post in itself. So I will attempt to get to that one day.

But my main goal for this post was to stress that I think Microsoft has done a great job for their initial release and I highly recommend the MS Band!

Android fan switching back to Windows phone.

WindowsPhoneSwitching back to Windows Phone is not a fair statement. I started with the Motorola Q running Windows Mobile 5.0 (not pictured) and there is no way you can call that thing a smart phone. And I have no clue what OS was running on the Samsung Instinct pictured on the far left. Samsung got hammered for trying to market the Instinct in 2008 as the IPhone (first gen) killer. What a joke, calling it web enabled would be too kind.

So the Samsung Galaxy S was my first foray into Android and was hooked ever since.  It was just a natural extension as  I loved Google Gmail, Drive, Maps, Voice, …everything. So I totally ignored the first Window phones since my company didn’t have Exchange, SharePoint or anything that pushed that MS direction. But that’s slowly changed as we have fully implemented Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013 is around the corner, and Office 365 lync is in motion. So that made me start to take notice.

And then I heard about Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana. Yes, I’m a big original Halo on the PC nerd and who wouldn’t want a sassy Cortana AI? I looked into the different Window Phones and found that ATT was offering their Nokia 1520 as refurbish on their web site for FREE! I’ve bought my last two Android phone using ATT’s web refurb program and completely happy with the quality of the phones. So this was a no brainer in my book. So read some more reviews and poked around to find that the singular common complaint was a perceived lack of apps. I dug deeper and found that the Microsoft store hit a recent milestone of 400,000 apps and then doubled that just this year. So while they may not have the millions and billions of apps that Google and Apple provide in their stores, I really don’t feel depressed that I won’t be able to install Kim Kardisian: Hollywood.  Ok, I lie, I am a bit bummed about that. But seriously, as long as the top 100 apps are supported, I’ll be happy. And so far, the only app I’m missing is ironically enough the Word Press app. But the Windows Phone IE experience is amazing and WordPress has made a mobile version of their Admin page that makes posting this on my Windows phone easy.

So it’s only my second day with Nokia 1520 and I realize that I’ve already adjusted to the new 6 Inch screen. I went back to my HTC X (next to Nokia 1520) to retrieve a contact and it felt like child’s play. I’ve used the 1520 for note taking in a meeting, Lync conference call, and just now getting around to Cortana. She has already help me check my calendar and actually create some events with reminders of conflicts. Not too shabby.

So I will provide more updates as my next area I’m excited to check out is the 20 mp camera and the famed Nokia camera apps.

Back at “When World Cup is over”


Check out all the World Cup Google doodles at Google’s Doodle Archive.

P90x3 is here!

My copy of P90x3 has just arrived!! p90x3I’m starting a 90 day P90x3 Challenge group in Facebook starting Jan 3rd!! So message me if you would like to be included. It’s a great way to keep accountable. And now that the workouts are 30 min, that removes the biggest obstacle for most folks….TIME!!!

In the meantime I plan to understand the workouts, schedule and nutrition guide. And of course get a few workouts under my belt!

If you haven’t decided on P90x3 yet, or understand what all the hype and excitement is about, check out my p90x3 Primer.

And remember, place an order in December and get free shipping. Order before Dec 31st and you also get that free cool P90x3 hat!!

How do I order?  Good question. Here are the links. Refer to the above Primer for details!





P90X3 CHALLENGE PACK:  (This is always the best option when purchasing with Shakeology to truly get the best results. The pricing is the best discount going.)

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