Ever since my brother and I picked up my bike at Canyon one of the goals was to ride a metric century before the end of the year. I’ve been reading all about these epic rides and despite the advice from every single blogger not to ride 100 KM as a beginner I decided to be a rebel and follow my gut feeling.

Hills, hills, hills

I planned a route in Strava and rode it virtually in Google maps a few times to see what was ahead of me. The route gave me 1.024 m elevation gain, so a good preparation was half the ride! Climbing would start after 10K, and the highest point would be around the 43K mark (289m). I’ve been cycling around the hills the last couple of weeks so I had an indicator of how hard it would be. My biggest fear was the climb of the Epenerbaan which is the descent of the Camerig, the hardest hill to climb in the Netherlands. Besides the Epenerbaan I had to conquer the Korte Raarberg, the Bergseweg, the Eperheide, and the Piemert. After the Piemert (basically halfway) it would be downhill to Maastricht. My last 20K would take me alongside the canal which I’ve been cycling weekly now.

The best rides are the ones where you bite off more than you can chew, and live through it – Doug Bradbury

The temperature wasn’t too bad when I started this morning: around 5 degrees Celsius. The first test was the ‘Korte Raar.’ A steep little hill leading up to it’s bigger brother the ‘Lange Raar.’ The steepest part is around 11%, and it wasn’t too bad. Plenty of time to recuperate before the next hill: the Bergseweg. I followed the advice of my colleague: ride your own pace. Smallest sprocket and comfortably keeping a cadence you can hold for some time.

Don’t blow up!

Trying no to blow up. This is actually what I did the whole ride. After the Bergseweg I followed the road to Trintelen, and from there you fly to Eys. After Eys, it’s the zwartebrugweg. A steep little fucker. Took a few minutes off on top of the plateau with a beautiful view! From here it’s 10 km to Vaals which is uphill all the way. Not too bad though as it never gets too difficult. In Vaals I took a right past the police station. First, it’s downhill pretty fast until you get to the bottom of the Epenerbaan.

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I thought this one was going to be hard but overall pretty much doable. Don’t get me wrong, the part before and after the hairpin is brutal but short of a distance. Before you know it, you will begin the descent of the Camerig to Epen.

In Epen I had a short stop to refuel at the local supermarket just at the base of the Julianastraat climb to Heijenrath. After Heijenrath there is just one more climb to Hoogcruts, and that was all the climbing I had to do for today. The wind was picking up, and I had to hold on to my bike going downhill as the wind gusts nearly knocked me off my bike. After arriving in Eijsden, I finally had a tailwind bringing me in no time to Maastricht.

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A metric century: almost done

Right before Maastricht, my legs felt they were mash… I had been on the bike for 4 hours, and the saddle was giving me some discomfort. Once I was on the Kennedy bridge, I either could continue for another hour or go straight home. I decided to give it a shot and headed towards Kanne, Belgium. I instantly had a fierce headwind again and regretted my decision. I turned around and headed home. I knew the last 10K would be a struggle and not worth it.

I still had an excellent ride, and now I know what I’m into when trying to ride a metric century.

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B.

Best workout apps to get healthy and stay fit in 2019 (part 1)

So what are the best workout apps to get healthy and stay fit in 2019?

Aaptiv

I’ve talked about the Aaptiv before in my previous post. Let’s dig a little deeper into this app. First of all: I’m not affiliated nor do I get paid to promote this app or any other app I’ll be mentioning in this post. Consider these as a personal review with no monetization in mind. Just saying.

So Aaptiv is actually a little personal trainer that lives in your phone. They have hundreds of workouts you can choose from ranging from beginner to advanced. Workouts are grouped in several categories: outdoor running, treadmill, strength training, etc. You can filter by length, trainer and/or intensity. You can even filter by music genre although this will limit the other filters.

What I like about the app

First of all, it’s music. Before I was using Aaptiv I was fiddling around the night before my workout to make THE BEST playlist for my next day workout just to find out I forgot to sync/download these songs from Spotify. Or the songs that sounded rad the night before just didn’t cut it during my workout. With Aaptiv all of this is history. They already put up a playlist with your current workout so no need to switch between apps. OK, maybe some songs suck but they just work during the routine. No need to think about. And no thinking is always a plus 1 in the gym.

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Another aspect I love is the vocal feedback you get. Benjamin (my first trainer on an incline treadmill workout) is pumping me up and tells me what buttons to press during the workout (incline, speed, etc.). It never felt annoying nor did I get to a point I was screaming to Benjamin to shut up. All is dosed and works pretty well. I think this is what makes Aaptiv successful in the gym. Before I was just bored running a treadmill now I enjoy it. I know, I could go running outside but that could be a post on its own (insert mental note).

Another plus (although I slightly changed my mind about this one) is that it’s possible to directly sync your workout data to Strava.

What I don’t like about the app

You can’t connect a heart rate monitor. And that sucks… I use the suffer score in Stava and in Trainingspeak. The workaround is that I simultaneously run the Wahoo Fitness app and record my heart rate. I’d rather see a direct connection with the Adaptive app…

Strava

I don’t think this app needs an introduction. Undisputed the #1 app when it comes to recording your ride, run or swim. I know, there are several other apps out there where you can record your run/ride but with the integrated social element makes Strava the go-to app for me.

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Strava is one of the most popular fitness apps for those with a competitive edge. The app not only records your runs, bicycle rides, and swimming sessions but also creates a competition between you and people who travel the same routes. To get all the benefits of the app and what it promises to deliver, you have to give up a lot of personal data, which has never been handled as well as it should have and quite frankly has put people at risk. Strava syncs with a variety of other fitness trackers and running watches, so you don’t need to carry a phone with you to use it. Although the app (which is available for Android and iOS) offers some privacy settings, you must be willing to make some personal information public, specifically your geolocation data, to get the full Strava experience.

What Does Strava Do?

Like any other app for tracking runs and bicycle rides, Strava clocks your time, distance, speed, and other relevant factors about your activities while you’re doing them. The activities are meant to be done outside. You can record activities with the app and your phone directly (iOS or Android) or by syncing your Strava account with a supported activity tracker, whether it’s a or a bicycle computer.

If you use the Strava app and your phone to record runs and rides, you can see in real time your stats, such as time and distance. At the end of an activity, the data uploads to your Strava account, where analyze it in greater detail. A web app makes it easier to get deep into your data because you can see more detail in the charts and graphs provided.

[btx_quote author=”” style=”border” position=”overlapleft” font=”custom_b”]If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen[/btx_quote]

The hook for most Strava users is competition. After your activity stats finish computing, they go into a pool of other stats, and you get ranked among others in the Strava community. For example, let’s say your running route goes the entire length of Townline Road, a popular running destination. Strava will likely create segments along Townline Road, such as from mile marker one to two. Then the app will look at how fast other people ran that same segment and create a leaderboard showing who has the best time and is King or Queen of the Mountain, with everyone else ranked in descending order.

Who Uses Strava?

Strava remains the go-to app for competitive types who love running and cycling. The Premium membership is a little pricey, but it adds some elements that many cycling and running enthusiasts will want to track. To get the full experience, you do need to be okay with making your geolocation data visible to other people. I wholly recommend new and existing members exercise abundant caution regarding their privacy and data, as well as use common sense and take safety precautions. Many people don’t have a problem with making their data public, but ultimately that is a personal choice.

Similar apps

If the social element doesn’t appeal to you there are similar apps with the above-mentioned feature. Look for MapMyRun, Runtastic, Endomondo or Cyclemeter in the App Store or Google Play Store. For me, Strava is the go-to app when it comes to recording my runs and rides. Oh, I forgot to mention this: if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen…

Mindfulness

I know, a buzzword in 2018 but it helped me get into a morning routine. The reason I’ve been able to do this has something to do with a little app called Calm, the tool that will help you meditate, relax, focus, and sleep better.

One of the features I love about Calm is the overall user experience of the app. As soon as you open it up, you’re greeted with soothing background noises and beautiful imagery. I start to feel more relaxed before I’ve even started meditating.

Types of meditations

You have quite the selection of meditations to choose from such as body scan and walking meditations, plus sessions on topics like loving-kindness and forgiveness. There are also Daily Calm sessions which offer you a sample from the paid programs on the app including choice, resilience, gratitude, impermanence and letting go. I’ve done a few of their sleep stories too and I definitely think they helped me get to sleep quicker.

Guided Meditations

With Calm, you have the option of doing guided or unguided meditations (for those of you who are mega experts at this meditation thing). One thing I’ll mention is that the guided sessions are lead by Tamara Levitt who has a beautiful voice, but obviously, everyone’s preferences are different when it comes to the type of voice you want guiding you through meditations. Tamara’s voice is quite sing-songy which might not appeal to everyone. Then again, you might love it as I do.

Conclusion

I just covered three of my most used apps for getting healthy and fit. I decided to split this post in two because I could rant on for hours about these apps. Next time I’ll dive a little deeper in Lifesum, Trainingpeaks and (although not an app) the Wahoo Tickr X.

What are your favorite apps during your workout? Lemme know in the comments!

E.

End of week 2

I finished W2D3 of the C25K last Thursday. I’m allowing myself more rest days in between runs. I’m afraid I’ll injure myself (which happened in the past a few times). This time I’m going slow and steady. Losing weight and gaining strength is not a sprint. It’s a long distance run.

So what else happened? Well, my Apple Watch broke. The faceplate came off due to a swollen battery. Apple knows about this problem and extended the warranty with two more years. The extended warranty didn’t apply to me. The guy at the store was helpful but not the outcome I was hoping.

I got myself some superglue and glued the thing together. I wonder how long it will last. At least it’s working again. I missed this piece of technology around my wrist. Should be saving money for a Garmin forerunner 935. But it’s not going to happen soon as I’m eyeing to purchase a road bike!

I’ve been looking online at different road bikes. Just a simple bike to start cycling and I’ve got my eye on a Canyon Endurance 6.0 or a Rose Pro SL. Not sure which one to purchase yet but both companies have a great store in Germany. It’s a two-hour drive but worth it. The will do a proper fitting which is a big plus. Once my tax money is my account, it’s bike time!

I’ll keep you posted for week three. Should start W3D1 on Sunday.