Lessons from Vlogging

What I Learned from Vlogging About Running

Have you ever visited a blog or article and have to scroll 12 miles before you get to the actual content you want to see?  Not here.  I am putting the vlog episodes that I made up front and all the text after.

Episode 01

Episode 02

Episode 03

Episode 04

Episode 05

Episode 06

Episode 07

Episode 08

Episode 09

Episode 10

Why Bother?

I recently started a “Couch to 10K” running program and thought while doing that, as a way to keep myself accountable, that I would vlog about the process. In the past, I have chronicled weight loss and fitness via blogs but never attempted a video version. I have never felt comfortable being on camera. Always hated it. However, being better at talking to a camera would greatly benefit some of the projects I am involved with at work, so the best way to get better is the practice. I also wanted to improve my editing and workflow. How difficult would it prove to film a vlog myself, edit, and release a new episode weekly for 14 weeks?

Running vlog screenshot

Running vlog screenshot

Running vlog screenshot

What I learned: Challenges

  • Workflow and File Management: From Premiere Gal, once I had the general template down for how each week would typically go, I created a base project folder with all of the assets that I would be using each and every week. Because I have so many files on my machine, to save space, I would copy them to an external drive when I was done with each episode.
  • Thumbnails and Titles: There were times that I would change the thumbnail to see if that had an impact on views.  I also discovered later in the process a website that helps show your thumbnail on a mock YouTube feed to see how it would stand out. I began to spend more time on the thumbnails and what text was on them.  I started to pay attention to the thumbnail more than the title of the video.  I would look at the image first and the title second.
  • Recording B Roll Alone: This was by far the worst part of the process, aside from having to listen to my own voice while editing. I could never bring myself to carry a tripod or selfie stick while I was in the process of running.  I would always run and then when needed, stage some shots that I would use later.  I figured out quickly how to organize them better in specific folders based on what the footage was of, i.e. me in the gym, general park footage, me running, etc.  I never got entirely comfortable with setting a camera up and recording myself running.  It just felt so awkward.  Without someone holding a camera and moving, I had to get creative with angles and editing so that every single shot did not look the same and that there was enough simulated movement to keep the viewer from stabbing their eyeballs out with wooden spoons.
  • Time Management and Storage Needed: I had to block off time to record, assuming I was recording at home. I needed it quiet so the family couldn’t be there, which gave me a limited window.  Setting up any lighting or mics took time, as did breaking everything down, took time.  When you are pinched for time, these are all factors that I would have to take into consideration.  I also had no idea how much storage space this would require.  I have plenty of external storage but editing video from files on an external drive (at least for me with my limited setup) is a slow process.  I kept the vlog on my machine and when done, I would move them over to the external drive to keep on the off chance I would ever need to access the vlog I did about why I hated a certain running shoe. Not a big issue as I have plenty of external drives, but the 10 videos I created, along with the resources needed to make them, took up about 155GB of space.
  • How to Improve Speaking: Around this time, I also launched a podcast.  Between these vlogs and the podcast, I quickly found improvements needed in my speech.  I am not sure if I would call them discrepancies, however, there was room for improvement.  For example, I found that I have a tendency to make a small smacking-type noise right before I speak.  There were also a few words that I liked to repeat without realizing it. It’s annoying to have to listen to these and edit them out, but on the other hand, it was great for me as it allowed me to improve and work on not doing it all together.  If I could improve the speaking, that would also make the editing easier and less time-consuming.
  • Speaking on the Go vs. Scripted: In the first video, I was trying to read more from a script and it came across that way.  Some of the best feedback I received from a friend was to talk to the camera like it was a person.  I did my best to work on that as I progressed. Another suggestion was to vlog right after I finished a run, which proved to be extremely helpful.  It forced me to think on my feet and that practice helped me the most.  I became more comfortable talking into a camera, even though it was still awkward walking around the local park by myself holding a camera.
  • Length of Videos: The sweet spot for the video length seemed to be under 7-8 minutes in terms of interest.  Regardless of length, the views just did not hold but for 1/4th of the total video length.  I experimented with some short videos and longer ones as well.  Getting a handle on “scripting” it out helped me think through what I was going to say.  Despite that, I still had trouble coming up with a script and being more precise with the exact video length.  That is surely something I would work on had this continued.
  • Keeping a Schedule: It helped me to create a Monday morning deadline for releasing videos.  I believe I missed that once or twice, but overall did great in keeping to it. Not that there was a massive audience just sitting there waiting for me to drop a new video, but having a deadline has always helped me.  Had I continued to release these, I would have also done some experimenting with premieres and different release times to see which one produced the best results.

AI for Speed

AI has really helped speed up the process when editing is needed.  For example, I took this screengrab and wanted to use it for a thumbnail, but the cars and signs were distracting.  In the past, I would still edit the background but AI has made editing volumes faster.

Running vlog screenshot

Running vlog screenshot

Ultimately, I stopped at week 10. The time requirement got to the point where I couldn’t maintain the schedule. This being a personal project, I couldn’t allow it to interfere with work. Despite having only 4 more weeks to create videos, I opted to pull the plug on it since it just got to be too much.

Wait, What About the 10K?

If by some miracle you made it to this point of the post, then yes, I did run the 10K.  The week 11 video I had planned was to discuss how I had trouble recovering after running for longer time periods.  I had progressed to the point where the workout was jog 17 minutes, walk one minute, repeat three times.  I made it through the workout, but had a lot of trouble recovering the following day.  I felt quite beat up and more sore than I was expecting.  In fact, more sore than was normal, so I knew I had to change something.  I had been talking to a friend who trained for a marathon and from the very beginning, she followed a run/walk interval on all runs.  I tested out a few different intervals and what worked best for me was run 3:00 and walk 1:30.  I shifted to that and then completed that for the entire time of the workout.

On the day I was to run the 10K, I felt unmotivated.  That is actually being too kind.  I felt rather crappy and did not want to run.  I forced myself to get up and get it over with, not wanting to take the time out of my day to do it.  How odd is it that I was able to stay committed to the entire training plan but on the day of the final run I nearly skipped it?

Before I went out to run, I had fully expected this to take an hour and a half, possibly an hour and 45 minutes.  In looking back at my Garmin data, I knew that my average pace when I was running the longer time blocks was slower and I also knew that once I shifted to intervals my running was faster.  However, I also had more walking in the middle.  I was trying to compare some of the average pace of a few of the workouts just to get a handle on where I should end up. I was walking the line between wanting to hit a specific target and also just going out and celebrating being able to finish the training program.

Another piece of information floating around in my brain was the best 10K time I had ever tracked.  Back in 2011, when I was running a lot more than I am now, I ran a 10K and found the screenshot from the Nike Running app. I was also actively blogging then which was nice because I am glad I have this record to look back on.

Nike app screenshot showing the results of a 10K

If my memory hasn’t totally failed me, that was from the Peachtree Road Race. It wasn’t fast by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the fastest 10K record of mine that I can find.  Before running the 10K this past weekend, I had never imagined that I would be anywhere near that time.  I just assumed that the intervals would slow me down.  When I went out to run, I tried to focus on sticking to the plan, running at a little quicker pace than I was used to and making sure I was walking briskly during the recoveries.

When I got to the final interval, I had a little over half a mile left.  Initially, I figured I would just stick to the plan and take the recovery, but when I noticed the overall time and how close I was to my best, I started running again.  I knew I wouldn’t beat the time from 2011, but just being a few minutes away from it left me feeling so accomplished.

As I look at the Garmin data from the race, I am still surprised.  Most of my running has been slower than it was in the past.  I was training to complete the race, not to complete it faster, so speed was never anything that I worked on.  My primary focus was the distance. For those curious, and for my own sake should I ever want to revisit this, here is the complete plan I followed:

Couch to 10K Training Plan

I pulled up the pace information and was pleasantly surprised to see my pace during the actual running.  I was also happy to see how consistent it was.  There was really only one dip, around the 10th interval, and if I remember correctly, that was where I had to run up one of the steeper inclines of the run, so it makes sense to see that change there.

In one of the vlogs, I mentioned that I had picked out an event that offered a virtual option.  I received my race package in the mail several days before I would run the 10K and I decided to leave it unopened.  I only took everything out once I finished the run. There were no fireworks or finish lines with celebrations for me this time around.  It was very anti-climatic, actually.  In the past, I was used to an event with many other people around, all on their own journies, all crossing the finish line along with me.  Maybe this time around I did not need that extra motivation.  It would have been nice, sure, but at the end of the day, I still accomplished what I set out to do.

Gobbler Half Marathon 10K & 5K Virtual Race

This was a worthwhile experient for me to try my hand at.  Not only did I finish the running program and do far better than I expected, but I learned a great deal about how to be more efficient at editing and hopefully a little less awkward in front of the camera.  Once I make it past winter, I would love to train for a half-marathon, or even another full marathon, but this time I have zero plans to commit to a weekly vlog about it.

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