Web training: Variety of sites helps Lawrence athletes tackle fitness goals

Marathon training is often a lonely business full of long stretches of road and a trail of tattered soles.

Levi Bowles has been there before, and he has the worn collection of shoes to prove it. He has his running buddies and the folks at the gym to talk shop with, but for the most part, his training was a solo activity.

But his training for Sunday’s Kansas Marathon was anything but lonely. Nearly every day, the Lawrence runner tracked his miles on DailyMile.com, which is a combination fitness log, motivational tool and social-networking hub that Bowles says put a whole new spin on his training.

“In the past, it seemed like I was just doing what a training program told me to do, not paying attention to the data from my runs, and the immediate feedback,” says Bowles, who tried other sites but settled on DailyMile because it’s like “Facebook for athletes.” “Tracking my mileage has allowed me to figure out what kind of pace would be reasonable for a marathon for me, and find a good goal time for the race.”

DailyMile is just one of a string of Web sites — others include MapMyRun.com, TweetWhatYouEat.com, Livestrong.com, Traineo.com — aimed at using social media to help you train for that big race, lose some weight and connect with other folks out there trying to bring fitness and health into their offline lifestyles.

“Since most runners and cyclists are training by themselves, it’s essential to have a place to share the daily experience,” says Kelly Korevec, CEO of DailyMile. “Social media allows athletes to train together and learn from each other’s training.”

Korevec, 27, says he and fellow co-founder Ben Weiner built the site after hearing other athletes’ stories while competing in races.

“We’d go to races and it was always fun to hear people’s stories about the training they had put in, but then you’d go home and it was back to training by yourself,” Korevec says. “We’d train every day but missed the aspect of sharing the stories of our training. Training logs used to be very personal and private. We wanted to bring together this community of athletes and make training something you could share with others and learn from their personal experiences.”

Bowles feels like he’s gotten that benefit since taking his training online. Not only has he shared his workouts, but he can see his training in a whole new light: The site provides charts showing mileage and time spent exercising, as well as interesting representations of calories burned — how many doughnuts burned or TVs powered, for example — by the exercise he’s done.

“I like logging online because in paper-based journals and logs you have to add up mileage manually, and it’s difficult to get a graphical representation of your progress,” Bowles says. “DailyMile, on the other hand, automatically creates charts and graphs to view your progress over time. Also, old-school journals don’t have the social-networking aspect that DailyMile allows.”

Shannon Jones, a registered and licensed dietitian with Lawrence’s Simple Solutions, 1311 Wakarusa Drive, says that keeping a record is important not just for those training for an event, but for losing weight as well. She says studies have proven that people who keep a record of their food intake keep weight off better than those who don’t. She says she likes sites like Livestrong and CalorieKing as a dietary professional.

“Research shows that people who do that lose weight quicker and keep it off than people who don’t. Further to that, those people who are held accountable showing somebody their log or where people have exposure to what they’ve written down, that even takes it one step further,” Jones says. “So, I can see a lot of those same theories transferring over to this exercise log as well.”

That said, she urges caution in approving “friends” on sites that allow you to log your eating and exercising habits, as you might end up drained or frustrated from dealing with “Negative Nellies” or inaccurate advice. She says to remember that only health professionals can provide you with sound, researched advice, especially for healthy weight loss.

“I absolutely see the pros to it, no doubt, but I do think you open yourself up to an interesting set of cons where perhaps the people who are making the advice aren’t professionals and sometimes wrong advice can be given,” she says. “But I do think that there is something to be said to there also being an exterior professional reviewing what’s there and making suggestions for change and things of that sort.”

Korevec says that, so far, on his site there’s nothing but positive energy and he’s hoping it’ll stay that way, because it’s meant to be a place of motivation, not deflation.

“When you tell your non-running friends and family about an epic 12-mile run that you did, you’re often left looking into a blank stare. On DailyMile, you have a community that celebrates the high points and motivates you through the lows,” Korevec says. “People care about your training and everyone is extremely supportive of one another.”