French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Tag: Motivation (page 1 of 2)

Writing about running

It has now been six months since I write twice a week about running. This is my 57th article and I think it’s a good time to reflect back on the past semester. I know you’re curious about my writing process – in fact, I’m pretty sure you don’t give a toss but I’ll tell you all about it anyway.

Most of the time, writing is a process that begins when I run. I already mentioned that I consider running as a form of meditation, but it’s also a source of inspiration. It clears my mind and allows ideas and sentences to emerge. I’ll usually write these new ideas in my special Wunderlist if I don’t forget about it while I’m cooling down or while I’m taking my shower, which happens way to often.

When comes the time to actually write, I will either have a great new idea or an obvious topic (like my latest race) and if I don’t, I’ll pick something in my list of ideas. Even though sometimes, some sentences come in French, I always write in English first. Writing in a foreign language is not me being a snob, it’s just easier to translate from a foreign language to your mother tongue than the other way around. Also, I love using idiomatic expressions, playing with them and ornamenting them with typically British slang. I just have fun doing it and it’s much easier to translate this back to French rather than the other way around. It also forces me to dig into my French to find the best equivalent ; I find a particular pleasure in using dated idiomatic expressions or regional slang (usually from Lyon).

I’ve had a lot of fun writing for the past 6 months. So far, some of my favourite articles to write were:

Now I have to admit that writing 4 articles per week (2 in English and 2 in French) kind of dried my up and I find it more and more difficult to find inspiration or to be funny. It also consumes a lot of time and even if I still have some potential articles in my Wunderlist, it becomes harder and harder to find new ideas. Finally, I usually have more fun writing about what I lived rather than writing about shoes or something less personal. So I’ve decided that I will allow myself to write only one article per week, or even zero if I don’t feel like it. I’ll still write about random stuff related to running, but I’ll try to make it more spot on and interesting and I’ll mostly focus on my personal experience of running.

See you soon!

My best running memories

August 2015, A Guarda, Galicia, Spain. It had been just over a month since I began running. I was still hating it, but I was very motivated by all the weight I had to lose and also by my very recent read of ‘Born to run‘. This book had a lot of influence on me and even though I was supposed to be on a long weekend dedicated to heavy drinking and drumming, I couldn’t help but thinking about it.

Bare foot on the beach

Barefoot on the beach photo by Alex Tian

After a scrumptious lunch of Galician seafood accompanied by generous quantities of wine (all organised by my favourite Galician couple: Wonder Woman and Superman), we went to the beach for a dip into the water. I don’t know what went through my inebriated mind, influenced by the beauty of the moment and the thoughts of legendary runners in Mexican canyons, but I started running barefoot, like the crazy character of Barefoot Ted in the book. Then I hailed Lanky Pole (when there’s drinking involved, you can be sure he’s around) and we went for a short easy run along the sea. This moment was magical, my memories are befuddled now but I still have these amazing feelings deeply imprinted in me: the true feeling of the ground directly under my feet, the slightly salty breeze through my hair, the gentle caress of the sun on my skin, and the pure joy of running shared with a close friend. We ran for less than 4 km, but this run was a defining moment for me. I think it is the moment when I decided that I would start my quest to barefoot running, and incidentally the moment when I started to love running.

I have to admit that there is a flip side to this golden coin: since I wasn’t used to running barefoot, I had such massive blisters under the sole of my feet that I couldn’t walk for the next couple days. In hindsight, this was total madness but it was really worth it and reliving it is what I’m trying to achieve in slowly transitioning towards barefoot running.

Just a week later, The Quiet Roman came to London and I told him all about it. We drank, and inevitably, at the end of the evening we went for a barefoot run in the streets of Greenwich. This was really fantastic too and it finished convincing me that barefoot running was what I wanted to do. Of course, this time we only ran less than 2 km because my blisters had barely healed and I wanted to be able to walk the following day. Nonetheless, you now know my secret motivation for running: the quest to finding these 2 magical moments again.

Going to the gym

One of my priorities when running is to remain injury-free. It’s only been a year since I’ve been running seriously, but so far I’ve managed to increase my weekly mileage without hurting my good self. It came to my knowledge that if I wanted to carry on like that I had to strengthen my core muscles, it helps keeping a good posture and gives you control and strength. By the way, when I run hills with the Serpentine, the coach always insists on focusing on the core muscles, so this confirms that.

Because I hate going to the gym even more than I used to hate running, I decided to hire a Personal Trainer for 5 sessions. Since I’m a complete novice, the idea was to be given a few tips on what to do, which machines to use and how to use them, but also to get some motivation and maybe to start liking going to the gym (the same way I started enjoying running after I’ve been given a few tips). Spoiler alert: I still don’t like going to the gym, even though I don’t hate it anymore now that I start knowing what I’m doing.

The first thing I learned with my PT was that I had to warm-up at the gym too. I used to to warm up for 10 minutes on the treadmill, but now I do that on the rowing machine, it’s as boring as the treadmill but it involves more muscles, including legs, arms and core. The other important thing I learned was to alternate the muscle groups you work out, so the first group can rest while you do a series of reps on another muscle group. For example, I’d alternate the pull-ups machine with oblique crunches. That’s a real time saver and it also prevents boredom.

I also learned a lot of different ways to make my abdominal muscles suffer and that’s pretty cool because it avoids monotony and it makes me exercise the long fibres as well as the short fibres in the same muscles. I’m also trying to work on my glutes (the butt muscles), not only will this help attracting members of the desired gender by showing off a cute and firm butt, it also gives more power to the legs, thus improving speed.

So all in all, even though I still don’t like going to the gym, I now understand this world a little bit better. For example, I understand that mirrors are not only here to fulfil the narcissistic needs of gym rats but also to check proper form of your exercise. Another proof that I don’t hate the gym anymore? After 4 months, I still find the motivation to get up early in the morning to go there on the days I’m supposed to rest from running (that’s only twice a week though). And I find this motivation even if I can’t really see the results (still no 6-pack).

Young runners

Last time I ran on tracks (it was also the first) there was a group of children training with their instructor. Some of them were very young and the others were even younger, which questioned me because some of them were already almost as fast as me. It also reminded me a couple of stories I’d read about young runners.

Running Child photo by Peter Mooney

Running Child photo by Peter Mooney

The first one is the story of Budhia Singh, a running child from India. One day, when he was just 2 or 3 years old, he was punished and was made to run around tracks. The adult in charge of him forgot about him and when the dude came back 5 hours later, little Budhia was still running! That’s an incredible story and it doesn’t stop here: by the age of 4, he had ran and completed 48 marathons, that’s kind of depressing because I’m 3 decades older and I still haven’t ran one. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end well (read the Wikipedia article to learn more about it), he has been forbidden to run until the age of 11 and at now 14 he isn’t an exceptional runner anymore.

The other story is a happier one. It’s the story of a courageous 12 year-old girl from New York who ran a half-marathon by mistake. She was supposed to run a 5K but took the wrong start. Halfway through the race, she realised that something was amiss, she’d already ran for too long. That’s where I admire the little hero: when she saw her mistake, she just though “Screw it, I’ll finish it anyway”. That takes courage and tenacity! After 2 hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds, her dead-worried mother found her with a medal. Then again, I only ran my first half-marathon this year. I’m not sure what to make of that…

The Oatmeal is a runner

If you don’t know Matthew Inman, let me introduce him. He’s the author of the world famous comic blog The Oatmeal. I love the guy, he’s like an American version of me: he’s a fan of Tesla (both the scientist and the car brand) and all thing eco-friendly, he loves science and astronomy, he’s an atheist,  he loves beer, he loves cats, he has the sense of humour of a 6 years old (and yes, I find it funny), but most of all, he runs!

The comparison doesn’t stop here, we both started to run for very similar reasons: I explained my reasons in a silly post, he explains his very well in his comic “The Blerch“.

A photo posted by theoatmeal (@theoatmeal) on

I give advice for running long distance, so does he in a hilarious comic:

A photo posted by theoatmeal (@theoatmeal) on

I tried to give you motivation and inspiration, so does he:

A photo posted by theoatmeal (@theoatmeal) on

I tend to see running as a form of meditation, so does he.

Really, the only real difference between us is that my blog is way more famous than his – or maybe it’s the other way around since he now organises his own races: “Beat the Blerch” and he’s sponsored by big ass brands like Saucony.

Of motivation

I realise I must seem crazy when I say that I run 5 times a week or that I get up at 6am just to run, but I don’t think I am. You can do it too, you just need to find the motivation. Here’s a bunch of tips to get and stay motivated. They worked for me ; we’re all different so they might not work for you but they’re worth a try!

  • Loving to run is the first and obvious source of motivation! The “Pull” motivation (being drawn to a goal) is much more powerful than the “Push” motivation (pushing yourself to a goal). It doesn’t necessarily come naturally for running and I hated it at first, but by pushing myself for long enough, I ended up loving it, and now I’m genuinely looking forward to my runs (especially the long runs). Don’t get me wrong, there are still some days I don’t really feel up for it, but I’ve never regretted a run!
I really regret that run. Said no one. Ever.

I really regret that run. Said no one. Ever.

  • Losing weight was my initial motivation for running. It’s a very good motivation to get started, and I now believe that there’s no such thing as the right shape to run, although the stereotypical runner is skinny, you can be fat and fit at the same time! However, it has been proven that losing or maintaining weight is a very bad motivation on the long term, as you’ll always slacken at some point and go back to your old habits. Running must be an end, not a mean.
  • Having a role model, someone to look up to! For me it’s Lanky Pole, the fact that I sometimes have the privilege to run with him also pulls me in his direction. For him, I believe it’s Kenenisa Bekele, for Emil Zátopek it was Paavo Nurmi, etc… It goes on and on: having a role model is a must.
  • Having a sparring partner, someone to measure yourself to. For me, it’s the Quiet Roman, and I’m lucky to have another three: Music DaddyJack of all trades and the Mad Cook. It can be competitive or friendly, but having someone at your level helps you going further.
  • Having numbered objectives and metrics also works really well for me. That’s the reason I bought my Garmin watch. An app like Strava is also really good if numbers motivate you: trying and beat yourself week-on-week on the same route or other people on specific segments pushes me further.
  • Races are great: the atmosphere always pumps me up and the emulation it generates makes me want to go to another one. Trying to beat my PB is also a great challenge, being competitive with other can be a good motivator, but trying to beat myself and be better each time is an even stronger incentive.
  • Having a training plan is a fantastic motivator. Research shows that having objectives set by others is a strong way of pushing yourself to do things because it has less consequences to break a promise you made to yourself than to a third party.
  • Not snoozing the alarm: just getting up when it rings. I know it’s easier said than done, but once you’re used to it, it’s very efficient and you won’t need hours to be awake.
  • Reading about running is also a great way to get and stay motivated. I found reading Born to run really inspiring (and it still inspires me a year after reading it), but also, read about other runners. They can be inspiring runners or normal people writing blogs like this one. In short, continue reading me twice a week :-p

The peculiar connexion between running and drinking

I took on running to lose weight. And it worked. OK, I went on a low calorie diet for a couple of months, but after that I went back to my old habits of eating lots of burgers and cakes but I still continued to lose weight (it’s a good motivation to keep on running). So basically, I took on running to eat (or to continue eating). But I have noticed that running has an even stronger connexion to drinking. Sure, you should definitely drink water before and after running (not too much though, overhydration is potentially deadly), but it seems the link is stronger than that, more particularly with drinking alcohol and specifically beer.

First of all, there is this persistent legend that drinking beer is good for recovery after intense efforts and helps avoiding muscle ache. I’ve made some research and it turns out this is utter and complete BS. The legend comes from the fact that Emil Zátopek supposedly used to drink beer not only after running, but also during competition. This too is dubious at best, but the guy was certainly not averse to this beverage and it is said that he drank a glass of Pilsner Urquell every day. He also reportedly drank a whole bottle of Becherovka (the Czech version of Jägermeister) and still beat Hungarian olympian József Kovács in a running duel right after. I like this guy more and more.

Running beer

A running beer – Photo by Pedro Plassen Lopes

Also, in my experience, runners are thorough drinkers. Lanky Pole and the Quiet Roman are obvious examples of beer loving runners, but Lanky Pole pretends there are even bigger drinkers in his running club. I myself am tempted to join the Mikkeller Running Club, created by one of my favourite breweries: Mikkeller the Dane (you ought to try their sour beers and their barley wines).

Another obvious connexion between drinking and running is the Beer Mile, a race for which you must run four 400m laps and drink a beer before each lap. A challenge I intend to take up one day, although I certainly won’t come close to the current World Record of 4 minutes and 47 seconds. Will anyone ever break the four minutes barrier and will there be an epic race like when Roger Bannister was paced by Chris Chataway (you must remember him for his historic faceplant)? I doubt we’ll ever see that.

To conclude, it seems that “I run to drink” is a more common motto than “I run to eat”. By the way, you should follow the eponym Facebook page or Instagram feed, I find it quite funny (and very true).

New year… New goals!! #iruntodrink

A photo posted by IRUNTODRINK (@iruntodrink) on

Test: Fitbit Aria

By now you should know that I initially took on running to lose weight. Even though I wasn’t a couch potato, I still needed something to keep me motivated and I found out that for me, numbers are a great motivation. Numbered objectives and metrics are a simple way to help you achieve your ambitions (more on that in a later post). But I also like myself a good gadget so I decided to buy a scale that would help me doing just that.

The choice

I could have bought a simple scale for a tenner at my local corner shop, but I wanted more than that. I wanted a nice gadget with all the bells and whistles, a useless app, plenty of metrics and fancy stuff that I would never use. I also though that it would be cool if it could be part of an ecosystem and use the same app / web interface as the watch I would buy later. So naturally, my first thoughts went to Withings. I was already eying on the Withings Activité, a classy activity tracker that looks like an analogue watch with all the trimmings: a leather band, stylish face and hands, and great features. Withings offered 2 models of smart scales: the WS-30 Wireless Scale and the Smart Body Analyzer. They also had the added advantage of being a French company. But as awesome as they are, their products are just too damn expensive. Anyway, I realised that I would probably want a proper running watch rather than a simple activity tracker so I had to give up on my idea on relying on a single ecosystem.

So I went for the Fitbit Aria. Fitbit has shedloads of different activity trackers that are all uglier than the next (despite what they say) but their smart scale is surprisingly as elegant as the ones from Withings and was much cheaper at the time.

Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scales – Black

Using the scale everyday

Yes, I do use the scale everyday. Yes my weight sometimes vary wildly from one day to another, even though I always weigh myself at the same time of the day (first thing in the morning, before eating or exercising). The difference can sometimes be up to 1 kg from one day to another and this is not due to the scale but to the nature of human metabolism, which is why I weigh myself everyday rather than once a week like most people recommend: it allows me to calculate my average weight over the week.

Configuring the scale wasn’t too hard, although it didn’t work on the first try (the initial pairing process via the computer was a bit flaky). The scale now sends the data without a problem even though WiFi signal is really weak in the bathroom. I haven’t changed or recharged its batteries since I bought it nine months ago, which is also a good point. In terms of features, it allows multiple users in total confidentiality (and recognises them automatically), measures weight and fat percentage and offers a user-friendly user interface on the website. It gives you charts of your weight, fat percentage and BMI over your selected period of time. If you have a Fitbit activity tracker and/or if you synchronise your Fitbit account with a running app (I sync it with Runkeeper), it will give you even more data regarding number of steps, calories spent and sleep tracking.

The web interface is rather pleasant and so is the mobile app, but even though it sounds like it gives a lot of data, it is actually kind of limited if you just have the scale like me. Also, syncing with Runkeeper is supposed to work both ways, but I have never managed to get it to push my weight to Runkeeper, only to receive my daily activities. The major drawback of this scale though, is that it will automatically add you an extra 2 or 3 kilos after Christmas, as you can see on this graph, and you’ll have to lose them again.

Fitbit Aria interface

Fitbit Aria interface (yes, I’m bragging a little bit)


I don’t regret this purchase at all, I still use it everyday after nine months, which kind of proves it is good! So I would definitely recommend to buy the Fitbit Aria, especially if you already have an other Fitbit product or if you intend to invest in one of their activity trackers. However, if you are concerned with privacy issues, then this might be a problem because the scale only syncs with Fitbit’s cloud (the computer is used only once, for setup) so you don’t know where or how your data is stored.

Track session

Last Friday, Lanky Pole texted me something along the lines of ‘Get your arse to Mile End Park Stadium’s  track tomorrow at 11am’. Okay it might not have been that commanding, but I felt compelled to answer by ‘Sure’! So on Saturday, there I was on a track field for the first time of my life, well at least it was the first time that I paid for it and that I went there to actually run.

Running track

Running track – Photo by Dean Hochman

We started to warm-up and I must admit that I really liked the bounciness of the ground, it’s really comfortable to run on. Also, it made easier the warm-up session that Lanky Pole had in mind: after the usual 10 minutes of easy run, we did lengths of high knees, high heels, sidesteps, shuffling, skipping and other silly styles of running. Then we did speed work, each length focusing on a different aspect of the running form and exaggerating it: knees forward, arms moving, etc…

So just after this tough warm-up, I was already knackered. Each of us went to our own training, we both had different kinds of intervals. I had 4×5 minutes intervals at 10k pace, which was quite depressing because my 10k pace is approximately his recovery pace. Also, despite the great comfort of the track, I found running in circles quite boring, which was worsened by the fact that my HR monitor didn’t detect my heart rate, constantly vibrating to tell me to run faster.

I kept my mind busy and observed the people who go to the tracks on a Saturday morning: there was a couple of people training for long jumps, a woman practising the hurdles, a dude in a wheelchair with his biceps bigger than my thighs, a small group of children practising with an instructor, and 2 or 3 guys who were running reeeeeeeally fast.

We did a few more laps to cool down and went on the grass to stretch. Man, after a tough session like this, that felt really good! And Lanky Pole always finds new ways of stretching muscles you didn’t even know you had. In any case, it’s really nice to train with someone when you’re used to run alone, it keeps you motivated.

After that, a conversation started between us and one of the reeeeeeeally fast guys. It turns out this guy was training to qualify for the Olympics on the 800m. We originally thought he was Canadian but it turns out that he was Namibian and I found out later that despite his humility, if he manages to qualify for the Olympics, it means that he will have broken his country’s record! The qualifying time is 1 minute and 46 seconds and the current Namibian record is 1:46:62. I have to admit I was impressed. OK, Namibia isn’t a big country in running (except for Frankie Frederiks 20 years ago) but still! He’s originally a 400m runner with a PB in the low 46 seconds, which isn’t too far from his country’s record (46:14). Impressed again.

Even more impressive was his training: that morning he had to run 10 times 400m under 58 seconds and then 10 times 150m under 20 seconds. That’s just insane, but he said he had prepared himself mentally for the whole week. He also said he doesn’t eat meat, which is apparently bad for recovery (Christopher McDougall draws the same conclusion in his last book ‘Natural Born Heroes‘, next on my reading list). This guy clearly has to right mindset to go to Rio this summer and I hope he makes it. Just qualifying to get there is an immense dream and I wish him all the best. Of course, after meeting him, Lanky Pole and I could only speak of this inspiring guy.

Test: synchronise your running apps with Tapiriik

The issue

I will guess that you’re like me. I have several friends who run and each of these bastards use a different running app, which is a real pain in the neck because I can’t run with five different apps at the same time. For example, I have an Endomondo account just to follow a couple of old friends in France and to participate in UKRunChat‘s challenges. Besides, I used to tracks my runs with Runkeeper where I have other old friends, then switched to Strava where I have newer friend.  Then I switched again to Garmin since I bought my Forerunner 225 but I still use Runkeeper when I rollerblade to work. So I needed to have all my activities on all these apps.

That fragmentation of the data and of the people is a real shame, because the social aspect of these apps is a great source of motivation (more about that in a future post). Also, each app shows the data in a different way, and it’s pretty cool to see the same activity from different angles. So I had a real need for synchronisation of all my data.

The choice

I found several ways of doing this:

  • Specific connectors between 2 platforms (e.g. TomTom has a connector to Runkeeper). This solution works if you have only 2 apps, but if you have 4 or 5 apps to synchronise, it becomes really messy and you’ll end up with some runs synchronised twice. Besides, some connectors simply don’t exist.
  • CopyMySport: I never managed to get this one working, so I concluded it is shit. Next!
  • SyncMyTracks: Really cool looking Android app, it even has a Runtastic connector, which is rare. But I couldn’t test the sync before buying it, so I didn’t test it. Also, this wouldn’t help iPhone owners. Who knows, I may try it in the future.
  • Tapiriik: My app of choice for synchronisation!
Tapiriik running sync

Tapiriik running sync – Original photo by Maurizio Pesce


I like lists and bullet points, so here’s the list of the “pros”:

  • Really easy to use and to connect your apps.
  • Has connectors for all my apps and even more (the guy who developed it is probably more of a bike nut than a runner).
  • Totally free for manual synchronisations and without any limitation with regards to the number of activities to synchronise, or the number of apps you want to synchronise.
  • Synchronisation is done server side and is automatic if you go for the paid version, so you don’t have to remember to sync after each run.

And for the “cons”, they all derive from the fact that it looks like Tapiriik is made by a lone developer in his garage:

  • No connector for Runtastic, TomTom, FitBit, Polar, Suunto, Nike+, and probably a bunch of other apps.
  • This app is rarely maintained, so if there’s a new app, you probably won’t have the connector. And chances are, the apps listed above will never have a connector either.
  • If the server is down, it can take a long time to come up again. The synchronisation may not happen for up to a couple of days, because the guy is on his own to support it.
  • A little bit annoying: my rollerblade activities tracked on Runkeeper are synchronised as “ice skating” on Strava.

All in all, I think that Tapiriik is a very good solution. But if you have some experience with SyncMyTracks, please share!

Older posts

© 2018 French Bloke Runs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑