12 tips and tricks to complete your Couch-to-5 Km (C25K) programme

Four months ago I started the C25K programme and in the midst of numerous business trips, sickness and excuses, I finally finished the nine-week programme last night. Even today, 24 hours later, I still cannot believe it is true (especially I had the heart surgery 3 years ago). Looking back, I find there are 12 things that helped me a lot to accomplish this. So, here you go.

1. Set you goal, run for distance or run for time – while the objective of the programme is to run 5 kilometers in 30 minutes, but it is clear that these are two different goals. So if all you want is to run 30 minutes non-stop, feel free to adjust the speed / goal to suit yourself – be it 4 kilometers or even 3 kilometers.

2. Repeat certain sessions if needed – Each week of the programme is composed of three sessions. If you find difficulties to complete one session or another, don’t rush to the next session according to the programme. Instead, repeat that particular session until you find you’re comfortable to advance to the next one.

3. Find a good running track – If you don’t feel comfortable jogging on the street / sidewalk, try treadmill in gym. There is no such thing as perfect running track.

4. Breathing with your belly – Believe it or not, the best way to breath while you’re running / jogging is to breath with your belly. Here is one resource to tell you how to do belly breathing.

5. Good running shoe – no doubt a pair of good running shoe is important. What really important is make sure the sport shoe you have is good for running, not for tennis, basketball etc. And the pair I have is from Nike with Nike+ Sensor.

6. Good Podcast / Application – No matter how you like to run, running without music for 30 minutes is a very boring exercise. So I will recommend installing some iPhone Applications or download some Podcasts to help you. I employed Podcasts approach and I like the ones from Robert Ullrey a lot.

7. Get your gears always ready – One of the best way to motivate yourself to run is to have everything ready all the time, such that you pack and go to gym easily. The gears include running shoe, T-shirt, shorts, pulse rate monitoring watch / belt, small towel, bottle of water etc. etc.

8. Don’t run in consecutive days – Be sure to space out the three sessions throughout the week to give yourself a chance to rest and recover between efforts. Once you find that the exercise is a painless one, you will like it more.

9. Track your progress – Another motivation is you can see your own progress everytime you finish your run. So don’t just track how long / far you run, but also your weight, your muscle tone etc. Check off each day as you finish the workout, and you will be surprised how much you can achieve.

10. Join the Couch-to-5K running plan Fan page in Facebook and the C25K.com – you will get lots of tips and tricks there, and most important of all, you will get lots of supporters there.

11. Spread the word – I found that if you keep telling your friends how good the running plan is, and tell them your progress; it increases your commitment to your goal.

12. Read a book about running / jogging – Lastly, it is a mental game from couch to 5 Kilometer, read a book about running will definitely help you to prepare for it. The one I read was What I talk about when I talk about running by Haruki Murakami.

Hope these tips and tricks will help you as well to graduate from the programme in 9 weeks !!

Nike+ Sensor

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Best Travel books / guides / sites

After I threw away about “two feet of books” (in other words, I don’t know how many) and an hour’s hard work, I have made my travel bookshelf back in shape. After this “shake-up”, now I have “only” 200 travel books, about half of them are in English, and others in Chinese. Compare to my other IT / photography / web design / usability reference books, business books, comic books and novels, it is still quite a lot.

My travel book library

The reason I bought so many travel books is because, believe it or not, I like to “study” travel books … in other words, understand how they were written, how the information is categorized, presented, cross-referenced etc. etc. In Internet’s term, I like to study the information arhitecture of travel books. However, seriously, after studied so many travel books, I still have not found my ideal book.

All along I believe the best way to plan a trip is not to go to Internet to research, as there are too many information in the Internet and you have no way to tell which one is correct and which one is useful for your style of travel. Searching thru travel books and guides are not necessary the better way as well, mainly because it’s hard to search the details in the physical book. In addition, most books are just a long list of attractions but doesn’t tell you how to connect the attractions together.

Out of the 200 books from that mini-library, the best ones so far are the Daytrips series from Hastings House. All these books let you plan your trip day by day with all the attractions, transportation and dining details.

Therefore I think … will it be great if I can go to one single website and plan my all trips, with all the information I need in a day by day fashion (just like the Daytrips series) ? That idea has been planted in my mind for almost 10 years now, and about 3 and a half year ago I wrote this blog post to illustrate the possible database design

Not sure you have the same trouble / idea like this or not but if you believe you cannot buy the best travel book from bookstores or Amazon, and you think you have to make your own travel guides – let me know. May be it is about time to develop the best travel site on earth.

6 steps to set up an Amazon aStore in a WordPress blog with Thesis theme

After over a year of “part-time” e-Commerce (read – link referrals), I think it is about time for my blog to host a bigger eshop. I have set up the Amazon aStore before as a standalone website, but have not tried embedding it in a WordPress blog, especially one (like mine) equipped with the Thesis theme (one of the best WordPress theme frameworks in the market). So let’s give it a try.

If you’re familiar with the Amazon Associates program, you can probably finish the set up within an hour, in only 6 steps (no kidding !!). First thing first, here is the plan, you first set up your own Amazon Associates account, then you will set up the aStore parameters, and finally embed the aStore in your blog.

Step 0 – Login to Amazon Associates program, click “aStore” in the top blue color menu, and then click “Add an aStore” with your Tracking ID.

Step 1 – Define product categories in your new store. In the example below, I created 4 main categories (you can create subcategories if you want to). In the right hand side, the most important field is how you would like to populate the products from Amazon to your aStore. There are 3 options, and the easiest one is the first one – “Add products by Amazon.com category”. Just search the category and add to your store. You can also add products one by one or add products from a pre-defined listmania.

1. Add Category

Step 2 – Customize the look and feel of the store, I suggest to make all the colors (headers, background, text, links etc.) the same as your blog’s theme colors.

2. Customize theme

Step 3 – Select where to put the category and search sidebar. I picked the left hand side option as it mimics the Amazon store (even though my blog used to have sidebar on the right).

3. Sidebar

Step 4 – Get the store link by clicking the second option – i.e. get the iframe code. Copy the iframe code to the notepad for the next step. The Amazon aStore part is finished.

4. Get link

Step 5 – Now, start up your WordPress blog engine, login to your administrator mode, add a new “Page”, not a new blog post. Instead of using Visual editor, use the HTML editor and copy the iframe statement there. Then in the Page Attributes box, select “No Sidebars” for the Template option. Save the draft and you can preview it. If it looks ok, publish the newly created Page. Wow!! Your eshop with all the Amazon products, payment gateway and delivery logistics is now online.

5. Create page

Step 6 – The very last step is simply to put up your eshop page to the navigation menu of the Thesis theme. Go to Thesis Site Options, in the Navigation Menu panel, turn on the newly created Page and you can edit the display text as well (in the example, I simply edited it to “Store”).

6. Site Options

That’s it … and here is my Amazon aStore in an hour !!

Update : Please note that WordPress.com does not allow embedding iframe in your website. So the above steps work for your self-hosting blog (i.e. download and install from WordPress.net) only.