Sunday, 24 July 2016

Technology that gets us outside

The fallen fawn, outside the tropical garden

With Pokemon Go taking over the world I thought I would do a post on technology that gets people outside. So here are just a few apps or pieces of technology I have found enjoyable in getting myself and others outside, exploring and exercising. 

Note: The photos in this post are from today’s walk around Auckland Domain, amazing parts of the domain I never knew existed.

While I don’t play Pokemon Go myself, my wife does and the game has been a great excuses to go outside for a walk around the park, or to take our dog (Jasper) to a larger park and wander around for 2-3 hours. We often used to take Jasper for a walk along a local beach, but we never walked down to our local park for a few laps. Today we went to the Auckland domain, and explored places I’d never been and others I never knew existed. Without there being Poke stops there we never would have gone. I had a lot of fun exploring some of these areas, and just walking around with my wife.

Incredible pitcher plants in the tropical garden
Geocaching is another activity/app which gets people out exploring their neighbourhood and others. If you have never heard of it, people hide small (or large) caches with trinkets and a book to sign somewhere and list the cache on an app which uses the GPS to mark the area. Then others use the app and GPS to find the cache. I have done a little geocaching in the few blocks around my home and it was really fun but I never quite got into it. I have however seen families out exploring looking for caches which I think is awesome family time.

Zombies Run! is the (free) app I use every time I go out for a run. This app maps my run, times it, gives me time splits and tells me pace, but that’s all boring stuff. The fun part is that it tells a story: you are runner five, sent on missions to scout, collect supplies, run experiments on the zombies etc all under the watchful eye of your radio operator who talks you through the missions (in between songs on your playlist). You also collect materials and supplies which you use to build your base. I really enjoy this app, the story is great, I really enjoy building my base and needing to get supplies pushes me to run further. Running would be so boring for me without this app.

Lastly I have recently bought myself a fitbit, I bought the surge because I really wanted the GPS but that’s not important. The fitbit has been great for pushing me to more around more during the day, and to see how much I can do in the weekends. I am really keen to see how far I walk and how many flights of stairs climbed on a big hike, but for the purpose of this article the daily step count has been great for getting my out wandering around. Often times I have been at 7-8 thousand steps, so I’ve walked a lap or two of the block before dinner to hit my 10,000 step goal.

The Valkyrie fountain

The point of this post wasn’t to get anyone into a particular app or piece of technology, just to show that these things can be used as a positive force. Technology is just a tool and we can and should use it wisely.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

I decided to read this book not for my love of running (I find it boring) more to see what the book is about since so many people speak quite highly of it. So when I started reading it felt like a little bit of a chore to get though, but once I go into the book it kept me hooked and I really enjoyed it.

The book is McDougall’s investigation of running, why his feet hurt and how to run without pain. It starts with stories of the Tarahumara, a Mexican Tribe knowing for distance running feats and McDougalls search for information about them. The first half on the book is mostly about ultra marathons, It them moves into commentary on running shoe design and running style, goes into a section on the endurance running hypothesis (that humans evolved to run long distance) and finishes with a race between the Tarahumara and some of the best names in ultra marathons.

The flow of the book is much more like a novel with a central story, with side stories which add more information and background to the main story. These side sections were laid out pretty well and felt much more natural than in McDougall’s other book Natural Born Heroes (my review here).

With a book in this style I think it is important to take it with a grain of salt, people, places and actions are possibly exaggerated to make for a better story, but over all I really enjoyed the central story of this book. It kept me engaged and reading wanting to know how it all turned out and more background on the various characters. It also has further inspired me to train towards a marathon and an ultra marathon. I would defiantly suggest this book as an interesting and inspirational read.

That said I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the book. It glorifies endurance running, in particular ultra marathon distance. If also supports the endurance running hypothesis. It is my belief that longer endurance running isn’t particularly healthy, it can be done by healthy individuals, but in and of itself endurance running is rough on the body. I’d like to run a marathon as a challenge, but I don’t think it is healthy. As for the endurance running hypothesis, my counter argument would be that we are evolved for endurance walking, that the endurance running is a side effect of that. You don’t have to agree with me that’s just how I see things. As for things I agree with, I defiantly agree with the running style he suggests (fore foot running), and in ditching the fancy super-tech shoes.

So to sum it up, the book is well worth reading, the story kept me coming back for more. I would take his claims with a grain of salt and investigate them further for yourself.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Rolling plate storage

So I finally finished my plate storage, if you want to see the first part of the build click here.

The plan was always to add the last partition for a pair of 5kg plates and my plywood technique plates. It was a fairly simple build, and the sizing was based on the room I had left over so I won't be listing any sizes here.

First step was to add the last partition, for which I had a board already cut from the original build.

Last partition is in
This just happens to be a good fit
After adding the last partition the space that remained was the perfect width for my 2.5kg plates, however I didn't want to store them facing that direction. I used this width, to inform the width of the partition for these plates. This would allow the plates to sit high for easy access. I was lucky in that the space left over at the end of the rolling rack gave enough room for my 4 - 2.5kg plates and 4 - 1.25kg plates, with a partition. I added some more plywood on the 1.25kg side so that they would also sit high in the rack.

Note the extra plywood on the last section.

For strength I removed the last main partition, which I had just set up, so that I could screw the change plate partition from that end. The then put the whole thing back in an screwed it all off. I haven't screwed these from the bottom, but it all seems strong enough for now.

For now my smaller 5kg plates sit in the back section, but the plan is to buy more for my dumbbells, so I will likely build another rolling rack for just 5kg plates, this would leave that back section for clips, fat grips etc.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Into the wild by Jon Krakauer

Warning: This post contains spoilers

I first saw the movie of the same title, and didn’t know the story so it came as quite a shock. The story is of a young man (Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp) who gives away his life’s savings, turns away from his family and spends his life hitch hiking around America. Like most who see the movie I was inspired to do some hiking as the movie casts the story in a romantic and inspirational light. The book is similar though more raw.

The book is really interesting in that it expands more deeply into the motives of Christopher, the type of person he was and some of his home life. It paints an even more confusing story of the young man that the movie does.  It helps to read the book to get this extra information, though it brings the reader no closer to understanding the motivation behind the man’s journey. It is worth noting that the book still doesn’t give a complete story, and attempts to fill some gaps, particularly in Alaska. Supertramp’s diary of the time was numbered, often consisting of only one word entries. Krakauer has extrapolated from these in a way which may or may not be true. This makes for a more coherent book, which is more or less true, though may not be considered strictly factual.

Now for the spoiler, there seem to be two camps on Supertramp, some find him to be an inspirationally tale of someone searching for adventure but getting more than he bargained for, or maybe just got out of his depth. While others see him as overconfident and arrogant walking into the wilderness with no skills, no real plan, improper equipment and ultimately dying needlessly. The movie makes many people lean towards the former. I however side with the latter.

As a quick aside, the movie makes it seem like he ate a poisonous plant by mistake while Krakauer later wrote an article claiming Supertramp may have eaten the correct plant, but what most do not know is that while this plant is generally save, when people are underfeed and working hard it becomes poisonous to the system. Sadly the way I see it, either way he starved to death because he was not properly prepared. Either way, he was already starving and poisoned or not he was going to starve to death. Many people, particularly Alaskans were angry about his death because it was so needless. I feel the same way because so many find his story a source of inspiration. But it’s a story of being intentionally ill prepared leading to death.

There is a line in the book “a challenge in which a successful outcome is assured isn't a challenge at all “. This struck such a chord with one reader they underlined it (I borrowed the book from my local library). While this may be true, having the proper equipment, even just the addition of a map, still would not have assured a successful outcome for Supertramp, but it would have been a more humble sign, a greater respect of the danger he put himself in.

The book is a good read; Krakauer is quite a good author so the odd personality of Supertramp doesn’t affect the reading of the book. I suggest giving it a read to make up your own mind; maybe you’ll think I’m being far too harsh.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Product Review – Injinji compression socks

I’ve liked 5 fingers for a long time, for both running and hiking, but I’ve never really worn socks with them that much. I have a couple of pairs of ankle injinji socks which I wear when the temperature gets below 10° C, or with my ‘normal’ shoes and really like them.

When getting ready for my round themountain hike I really wanted to get some Injinji compression socks to test out. Long story short, I wanted black but the supplier ran out so I accepted purple and white. Also, I did pay for them, this isn’t sponsored, but if injinji want to send me some more socks I’d gladly accept.

So first up, these socks take a full 3-5 minutes I get on, seriously I’ve had a You Tube video playing while I put them on. Once on they feel pretty good, moderate compression of the lower leg, a little bit more in the foot, but not too much. I had no blisters wearing them, but I never get blisters. Now for the good and the bad.


I really enjoyed these while hiking; so much so that I will buy a few more pairs so I can have a fresh pair each day. They were warm enough for walking between 1000m and 1500m above sea level, and the compression helped a lot to keep the pain and swelling down in my lower legs and feet. I’d give these a 10 out of 10 for hiking.


I have worn these on two short runs now, and really disliked them both times. I think they heated my legs up too much and it felt like the compression restricted the movement of my Achilles. It felt like quite a lot of pressure on the tendon, and I couldn’t run as far or as fast as I do without the socks. Obviously this is a personal opinion and a lot of runners really like compression socks. They’re just not for me.

So whether they are good for you or not may depend on what you want them for. I will definitely buy some more for multi day hikes, but I won’t be wearing them running again.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Natural born heroes by Christopher McDougall

At this time I have not yet read McDougall first and better known book ‘Born to run’ so I didn’t quite know what kind of book I was going to be reading. From what I had seen of the book (Natural born heroes) it seemed like this would be a kind of Natural Method, how to manual. I was expecting sections on natural running, strength, parkour, knife throwing etc. Not as in exercises, sets and reps form, but as maybe as a story of how each is part of the natural method, how it is done and how one can integrate it into their training. The book was really nothing like what I was expecting.

Natural born heroes focuses on the story of resistance fighters on the Island of Crete during the Second World War. It follows the story of a band of resistance fighters set up by Churchill and their Cretan allies and focuses in on one particular mission of theirs. The central story is how these Cretan resistance fighters were naturally strong and enduring, and how the foreigners picked up these skills for themselves.

McDougall tells various side stories on ancient Greece and Crete, as well as stories of natural method training. He also tells side stories of his own training in MovNat with Erwan Le Corre, parkour in London, knife throwing and fat running endurance running. These stories were quite interesting, and they were what I was expecting to make up much of the book, with follow up sections as how to guilds and how one might fit these into their own training, but there was little to none of this. This isn’t to say that it was a bad book, just not what I was expecting.

The main story of the book was interesting and engaging and kept me reading. The mix of historical story, with a very personal look at the people involved was a nice mix. The side stories of the past, or McDougall’s own training was a good addition too, but I felt as if they didn’t quite match up as well as they could have to follow from one to another.

In all, it was a good read, an interesting style of story and history and autobiography in parts. Despite expecting something else it was still an interesting book, maybe not quite my style but I enjoyed it anyway.