An Interview With Ming Chen

Loyal readers of the site know that, whenever possible, I sharing other people’s philosophies on fitness (and if you aren’t a loyal reader, come on… get with the program!)

I do this for three distinct reasons:

  1. My views on fitness are just that, my views. I want to share as much positive stuff as I can
  2. Sometimes an occasional break from my awesome sarcastic ramblings is good for you all
  3. Because I am selfish, and sometimes I want to hear what someone else has to say…

I say this because this last month I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ming Chen, from AMC’s Comic Book Men and the I Sell Comics podcast.

We met in Washington, D.C. at Awesome-Con 2016, and he graciously agreed to sit down with me for a chat about his passion for running, what it was like growing up a geek, and his love of comic books.

So sit back and enjoy!

(Also, if you just want to listen, the podcast version is embedded all the way at the end of the article…)

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The Keys to Running: Road Etiquette

aka Don’t Be That Guy Part 2: The Wrath of Khan

Editors Note: Spring is here, and that means more and more fledgling runners will be taking to the streets… so I asked our resident runner, Brian Kehs, to give us another entry in the “Don’t Be That Guy” series. Enjoy!

A lot of customs have evolved in the sport of running.

Some seem really obvious, and a lot of them are just common sense. However a lot of new runners may not be aware of the etiquette that has become part of the sport.

We covered some race day etiquette previously, so let’s take at 6 golden rules when it comes to running on the road.

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Product Review: Nike+ Sportwatch GPS

Nike Sportwatch Review 1

I’ve been running with the Nike+ SportWatch GPS for the past six months, using it regularly during my runs.

While this product review is about the Nike+ SportWatch, there are takeaways to be had for any Jerd reader interested in GPS-enabled running watches.

So What Is It?

The SportWatch is a GPS-enabled device that tracks your distance and speed as you run!

It collects, and stores data, about your workout that you can later upload to the Nike+ website, where you can see the route you ran on a map, your pace, as well as elevation and calories burned.

We all know how much we geeks love data!

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The Walking Dead Escape 2014… aka Nerds vs Zombies!

Nerds vs Zombies - The Walking Dead Escape - San Diego Comic-Con 2014 1

I think that by now it is clear that nerds shall inherit the earth.

But if that is true we might be in trouble because, in a lot of survival situations, I am pretty sure zombies > than most nerds!

The Dilemma

We geeks are often faced with an unfortunate dilemma when attempting to go from geek to real-life superhero.

Our hobbies are numerous, but rarely conducive to building a body fit for heroic adventures. We spend our time:

  • Reading comics
  • Playing video and role-playing games
  • Programming
  • Watching movies
  • Trolling the Internet

Then we have the social commitment associated with those hobbies as well:

  • Arguing about the latest issue of our favorite comics
  • Guild raiding
  • Project deadlines
  • Midnight showings
  • All those people on the Internet that need to be trolled

So even though we might know, deep in our hearts, that eating right and exercising is something we should be doing, we are often fearful of not only adding a new time commitment to our schedule, but also the simple fact that it these things are foreign and unknown.

I have said multiple times before (and I will keep saying it I’m sure) that you don’t have to leave your geeky hobbies and interests behind to get healthy and in-shape!

There are so many ways to merge fitness into your geeky lifestyle… and today we are going to talk about The Walking Dead Escape as just one of those ways you can get out and do something physical without being bored in a gym

So load your crossbow; we are about to open the door to a fun, alternative fitness opportunity!

Nerds vs Zombies - The Walking Dead Escape - San Diego Comic-Con 2014 2

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The Keys to Running: Race Day Etitquette

Running EtiquetteIf you are reading the columns on this site, you may still be somewhat new to regular workouts and running. We all have to start somewhere so, with that in mind, here are few tips on running etiquette that will help you blend in and not irritate everyone else around you.

Don’t Be That Guy

Wearing Headphones

Not too long ago, this was one of the more controversial topics in running.With the advent of the iPod and other compact music players, it’s possible to have all your music with you during your race.The question is – just because you can do it, should you? 

A few years ago, I would have said absolutely not to wearing headphones during a race.You need to be fully aware of your surroundings, the race course, and your competitors.  My reasons were for safety and to focus on the event.Official race organizers wanted them banned for insurance reasons, not wanting participants distracted and getting injured.

However, an outright ban on music players proved to be highly impractical, and largely unenforceable. 

Today headphones and music players are only usually prohibited for ‘elites’, those athletes who actually might win a distance race.I’ve relaxed my stance on headphones also.Readers of this site, myself included, will likely never take first place, nor win the cash prize.If headphones help you keep your pace or help you focus, and the race does not explicitly ban them outright, then I am okay with it.We compete because we love the run.  We should enjoy it as much as we can.

However – as I often say – safety first.Always keep the volume to a level where you can hear everything and everyone around you. 

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The Keys to Running: The Walking Dead Escape

… aka How I Enjoyed Burning Calories While Not Getting Eaten By Zombies 

The Walking Dead Escape 2013 - The Jerd

It is I, your old pal the Mighty Jerd, and I have decided to wrest control of The Keys to Running series away from regular contributor Brian Kehs for the day.

So strap yourselves in while I weave a gripping tale of the zombie apocalypse, an obstacle course, ninja rolls, running shoes and survival.

Now if you are a regular reader, and have been paying any sort of attention, you would know just how much I hate running. Seriously… I hate running with a passion.

But that being said, there are always exceptions to any rule and The Walking Dead Escape just happened to be one of them!

So why did I decide to put one foot in front of another repeatedly at a high rate of speed?

What exactly came over me?

Last year at San Diego Comic Con we walked past Petco Park multiple times; seeing all the signs, and the people lined up to partake in The Walking Dead Escape.

It looked intriguing but I hadn’t heard about it ahead of time, so I didn’t get a chance to really see what it was all about. Primarily because downtown San Diego is nothing but a sprawling expanse of shiny objects all vying for your attention during Comic-Con.

For this year’s SDCC though, I made sure to sign up in advance so I could check it out.

Since my wife and I were going to be in San Diego for 5 days, and I knew that anything more than quick hotel workouts just weren’t going to happen amidst the craziness of Comic Con, I figured that in addition to being a cool experience to add to my personal Heroes Transformation journey it would be a good way to get some solid exercise in between all the nerdy goodness I was going to partake in.

Not to mention it just looked cool as hell!

So how did this little adventure unfold?

The Walking Dead Escape

The Walking Dead Escape

While I don’t want to spoil too much of the experience, because a large portion of the enjoyment was directly related to the secrecy the course was shrouded in, I do want to provide a little insight into what the event is all about and just how absolutely fun it was.

Going into it I knew the following things from the website:

  • It was a race
  • There were going to be zombies
  • There were going to be obstacles
  • Some people were paying a crapton of money for the VIP zombie experience

That was about it, and the people working the registration desk weren’t much more forthcoming about what was going to happen within the walls of the stadium either. All they told me was that the course was 30-45 minutes, there were a bunch of different obstacles setup and to not get touched by the army of zombies waiting inside.

This brings me to the most important thing I can say about this event for people thinking about giving it a try – You “win” by making it to the end of the course without getting infected.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you; there were a lot of people who thought speed was going to be the key and who “lost“. So don’t let the fact you aren’t “a runner” scare you off!

Success isn’t measured by how fast you run! It’s measured by not becoming zombie food!

I got there a little early for my wave and took 10 minutes to warm-up quickly and to see what I could ascertain about the course from the street level.

Peeking through the fences I could see one of the obstacles (a tower climb), a few burned out cars and some zombies (or “walkers” if you want to be technical) shuffling around.

Not a lot to go on but what I did know was that they were not joking around with the SFX for this.

Every zombie I saw looked like it stumbled right of the set of the The Walking Dead and into Petco Park (I came to find out that the crew from the TV show was there doing the zombie makeup… how cool is that?!?) and a lot of them were downright creepy.

As I waited for my group to line up at the entrance, it was obvious when the earlier groups before me started; the echoes of sirens and loud screams filled the air as each group began making their way through the zombie apocalypse.

As I huddled with my wave, waiting to be brought to the first staging area to get our “briefing”, I looked over the participants.

The crowd was alive with nervous energy and very diverse, both in age and in apparent physical fitness. Like I said previously, what really set this race apart was the fact that it seemed like fun for everyone and not just for those pre-disposed to running.

The other thing that really stood out to me as being a major bonus to the entertainment?

The crowd itself.

I find that when doing these types of themed events that if you, and the rest of the crowd, immerse yourself in the situation (role-playing if you will) that the enjoyment factor increases exponentially… and let me tell you, there no better crowd than a Comic-Con crowd!

After 10 minutes or so of getting to know each other, and speculating on what potentially awaited us, we all gathered inside the gate of the stadium and it was time to…

Try Not To Get Eaten

The Walking Dead Escape 2013 - Photograph by Jeff BrownIt all began with us receiving a briefing.

The story is that the military is evacuating you and your group of survivors, and it is time to the evacuation facility and await transport.

We were ushered inside and hurried along, coaxed by bull-horns and the yells of evacuation personnel, and almost right away it became obvious that the screams I had heard from previous groups were not contrived… I’m not going to spoil it but the event kicks off so fast, and with such surprise, that everyone immediately adopts a frantic fend for yourself mindset and IT IS ON!

In the beginning there were a few times where I felt bottle-necked (which added to the suspense) but after the first 2-3 minutes the people have spread out sufficiently that you settle into “packs” who seems to be taking things at approximately the same pace.

One of the keys to surviving is teamwork, as there are zombies everywhere trying to get you.

There were multiple times throughout the course where people had to employ a little teamwork and play cat-and-mouse with packs of zombies, drawing them away from obstacles or doorways so that other people could make it through without getting infected.

Essentially this is a giant game of tag, with all of the zombies being “it“.

I came to find out that they all had an invisible substance on their hands, visible only under black light, and that was how success or failure was indicated at the end of the race. At the very end a blacklight was run all over you and you were inspected, if you were clean you were declared a winner!

This allowed people to finish the race out even if the zombies “got them” and honestly at the end of my wave, the ratio of survivors to people who ended up infected was pretty small.

Being able to run fast, while helpful, was definitely not the only deciding factor between life and death as a lot of people who just bolted ahead quickly found out!

In addition to avoiding hordes of shambling zombies (and the sneaky ones hiding around corners and waiting behind doors) there were multiple obstacles to deal with as well.

Don’t let that dissuade you though; in keeping with the event’s theme of being fun for all the obstacles were mostly pretty low-key.

The main intent being slowing people down and allowing the zombies to attack as you climbed down a steep ramp, making your way through rooms filled with vision obstructing stacks of crates or scampered over burned out cars.

The obstacles were pretty well spaced out, and there were two “zombie-free” zones along the way with cups of water for people who felt they needed to take a break. Another nice touch I thought.

Just like a movie, the events built and challenges became more and more intense as the course unfolded culminating in that final epic stretch.

The spectators lining the walls yelling encouragement (and more than few waiting to see people get zombified), the evacuation point within sight and nothing but 5 wrecked cars, piles of concrete jersey walls and 20 or so zombies in front of it. After a 20 minute run I thought it was the perfect way to close this out, so I took a breath and took my shot at surviving the zombie apocalypse.

So how did I fair?

Am I typing this while suppressing an overwhelming urge to eat brains?

Rather than trying to explain it, why don’t you go ahead and just watch instead!

Now, does having such a great time doing this event mean I am going to start running regularly?

Hell no! But it’s nice to know that under certain circumstances even the most hated of exercises can be, not only be tolerable but, downright fun!

Not to mention, I totally plan on doing this again next year (click the link for a video run-through of the 2014 course).

If you are interested in giving this event a shot (I really can’t recommend it enough), head over to The Walking Dead Escape website and see where the nearest event is taking place.

I promise you won’t regret it!

So if something cool like this can get me to actually run, I am positive there is some activity out there for each and every one of you!

Let me know in the comments what cool physical activity that surprised you with how fun it was… and if you have ever run The Walking Dead Escape, let me know how you felt about it!

Let me know in the comments below or email me directly! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel, follow me on Twitter, and like us on Facebook and Google+ (there is content on both not available here on the site)!

(Photo #1 credit,Photo #3 credit)

PS: Make sure to get your free e-book, “The 7 Fitness Obstacles Newbies Face” by subscribing to our newsletter… no spam, I promise!
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PPS: Fan of the Walking Dead TV show? Here’s a fun way to keep fit while watching the show!

The Keys to Running: Running Accessories

“Where does he get those wonderful toys?”

Let’s face it… geeks like love toys! From gadgets to video games, when a geek immerses himself in a hobby it is usually accompanied by a plethora of cool and cutting edge accessories. So here are all the running accessories I use when running. It might seem like a lot for someone who advocates “just get out and run!!!” but the setup is trivial, and nothing here is intrusive or distracting from the joy of putting feet to pavement.

Toys for Tracking Workouts

Running Accessories - Nike+ SportbandNike+ Sportband – The Nike+ Sportband is a very functional, lightweight wristband/watch that communicates with the Nike+ sensor, and tracks distance, calories, and pace, and you can save that data to the Nike+ web site, which will track each and every workout. I love this thing because it has everything I need without getting in the way. It’s a nice first step into the world of running technology as its functions are simple, and starting and stopping are as easy as holding the button down!

The obvious omission from something like this is the lack of GPS functionality. As I have relatively few routes that I know well, the added benefits of GPS don’t help a whole lot for me. I generally don’t map my runs, and the few that I do have interest in I can create manually. It would be a great nice-to-have feature, but not something I need at the moment.

(Check them out here on Amazon.com)

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The Keys to Running: Taking a Break

Exercising on vacationOr as we like to call it, exercising on vacation!

Taking a vacation doesn’t necessarily mean taking a vacation from exercise.  It may require some changes to your routine, but it’s always worth it.  During a vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort earlier this year, the following things kept me motivated and allowed for some exercise during the trip.

The Humble Pedometer

Back in my first post on running, I made the following off-handed, throw-away claim:

“Ever spent an entire day at a large theme park?  Congratulations!  You unwittingly participated in a 10K!”

I hadn’t entirely validated that statement, but it seemed reasonable, and illustrated my intent to show that you probably are more capable than you realize.

In reality, I was wrong. The distance covered wasn’t 10 kilometers, it was closer to 10 miles!

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The Keys to Running: In the Cold

Running in the ColdIf ever there was a good reason to skip a scheduled running workout, the most obvious would be that it’s just too cold outside.  No two bones about it, running in the cold sucks! Now obviously if you live in a warmer climate this isn’t a problem, but for a lot of people it’s a convenient obstacle to deal with and even more convenient excuse. (Of course you don’t want to run when it’s storming, snowing or icing either, but statistically speaking those are pretty rare events; so stop being argumentative.)

Be Flexible

This seems obvious, but pay attention to your workout routine!

It’s far too easy to get stuck in a rut, even if (actually more like especially if) you regularly exercise. For instance, I am a morning runner; I typically finish my run before the sun comes up.  As fall ends and winter begins, it gets increasingly darker and colder as the days go by.  Eventually it just gets too cold out, and I have to give up my outdoor morning run.  I have to find the time after work, on weekends, or move it indoors to the treadmill (see below).  The key here is that I didn’t just stop and wait for spring to arrive, which would have been the easy thing to do.  The weather is changing, you can change also!

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The Keys to Running: Running Workouts

In order to improve your overall fitness level and progress as a runner, you will need to vary your workouts a bit.  There are many other types of runs in addition to the ones listed below, but these should definitely give your workout some variation and help improve your time, your speed, and strength!

Hill Workouts

Running up hills is a great way to increase strength and increase your cardio-vascular system capacity.  It also has a meaningful effect on the power producing muscles, the kind that will allow you to ‘kick it’ in the last 200 meters of a race. Running down hills might seem like a no-brainer, but there is some skill involved here as well!  It can improve your strength, your balance, and teach you how to find your center of gravity (you may feel yourself leaning back more than usual, or leaning forward to overcompensate).  Downhill repeats can help you improve the efficiency of your run, and focus you on your pace and cadence.

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The Keys to Running: Your First Race

By now you’ve picked up the running bug.  It’s a habit, and you are somewhat committed to it.  You physically feel better, and maybe you even enjoy it.  But now you need something more.  Something of a challenge.  You are going to sign up for your first road race.

Running Your First RaceWhere do I sign up?

There are a lot of places to find out about events going on that you may be interested in.  One of the best resources is the website www.active.com.  This has become the defacto online listing of race (and all sorts of other sports) events.  There will be listings by date, by distance, by age category, you name it.  Active.com will show you just about every sort of race out there, so spend some time finding something that looks appealing.

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The Keys to Running: Staying Motivated

There’s been a common theme recently at The Jerd about goals and motivation. I encourage you to read these posts:

So let’s explore how to stay motivated as it applies to running.

What’s the Big Deal?  Just go do it.

Running MotivationEasier said than done.  Distance running in particular can be either an exhilarating rush, or a mind-numbingly boring exercise in drudgery.  It’s important to have *something* that motivates you through a 5K, 10K or longer workout.  In my case my preferred 5K course is literally right outside my doorstep.  I run this course at least twice a week, and have been for a few years now.  I know every hill, every side street, and every street light.  You’d think I’d be a little bored with it by now.  Here are some things that motivate me to keep going.

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The Keys to Running: Buying Shoes

So last time we talked (The Keys to Running: Getting Started) we discussed how running/jogging can be a very easy activity to engage in, and how to get started with it. Now that you (hopefully) have gone out a few times you might have realized your feet are disagreeing with this newfound attempt at fitness. So that means it is time to buy some running shoes! Buying a decent pair of running shoes should be a pretty straightforward and simple affair, right? Oh contraire! It’s not. So let’s break it down by type of runner and shoes.

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The Keys to Running: Getting Started

Running or jogging is one of the easiest athletic activities you can start doing. The barriers to this sport are so low in terms of preparing and equipment that nearly anyone can become a runner. You already know how to run, now you have to make yourself go do it. If you need help finding the time or motivation, see the post – Nerdcore Fitness 101 – Finding Time to Workout.  Beyond time and motivation, people tend to think of distance running as just too darn far to go.  Look at it this way:

  • Can you walk for an hour at a decent pace?  Congratulations!  You can do a 5K.
  • Ever spent an entire day at a large theme park?  Congratulations!  You unwittingly participated in a 10K! Read more