About five years ago, Andy Orrell heard a small but insistent voice that inspired a big change.
"I was about 240 pounds, and my little daughter said, "Dad, you're fat.' ''
Ouch. But he knew the kid was right. So Orrell began making smarter food choices. Then he started running. A lot. In June he's competing in the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon, a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Orrell, 36, has dropped nearly 70 pounds since the day his little girl got him in motion. He has to work at getting enough calories to replace what he loses on long runs, like the 13.2-miles he did last weekend with his Team in Training partners. (That's just over half a marathon, by the way.)
But most of the time, Orrell, who is marketing director at American Stage in St. Petersburg, trains on his own.
Thanks to technology, though, he's never really alone. These days, the insistent voice he hears might belong to an athlete like Tim Tebow urging him to "kick it into second gear.''
"I'm addicted to Nike's free app, Boom,'' explained Orrell, whose constant running companion is his smart phone, loaded with music and apps (he also uses Endomondo) that do everything from track his speed and distance (via GPS), to providing inspirational words from pro athletes like Tebow.
"When you're in the zone, and you hear something like that,'' it can really help keep you going, Orrell said.
So does having just the right music, from driving beats to tunes more appropriate to enjoying the view as he runs over a bridge on a spring evening. If you'd like ideas for your own workout mix, visit Orrell's Team in Training site to get a playlist he's posting for Personal Best readers: pages.teamintraining.org /sun/rnr11/aorrell.
Orrell and I talked a few days after I saw for myself how handy fitness apps can be. Most Saturday mornings, I'm out with my girlfriends, getting ready for the Iron Girl half marathon next month in Clearwater. We're cardio walkers, but agreed we'd get to the finish line a lot faster if we mixed in some running.
Nobody wanted to stare at a stopwatch for 8 miles, so my friend Sharon Kennedy Wynne whipped out her phone with the Couch to 10K app, which reminded us to pick up the pace every three minutes.
Her sister Kathy Kennedy told me about MapMyRun, which does exactly what you might think in a far more efficient way than me driving around clocking routes on my car's odometer. Both Couch to 10K and MapMyRun are available online if you don't have a smart phone.
I haven't splurged for a neat new phone — and the data plan — but I'm intrigued. What about you? Is technology helping you reach your fitness goals? Let me know which apps are working for you, and which aren't. And send a photo — maybe you'll inspire us all.