Have you ever been on an easy 5-mile run with a friend, you hit 40 minutes at an assumed 8 minute pace only to discover their GPS watch says 7.95 miles. You stop, but your friend jogs around in circles until the watch reads 8.0 miles. You can’t help but laugh as you see this, but then again, maybe this is you. While the technology in the last few years is impressive and certainly can help you train smarter, some of us forget how to run free, go by feel and give our watch tan-line a break. It’s important to understand when to use these gismos and gadgets, and when to leave them at home. After all, many of the world records still exist from days long before ipods and heart-rate monitors, and it didn’t take a GPS watch to measure the first marathon completed in ancient Greece.
Here’s a simple set of solutions to eliminate the negative impacts of these running gadgets:
The Problem: First time GPS watch users are sometimes faced with the fact that what they may have considered to be 8:00 mile pace, is actually 8:40. This can shock and discourage many runners. As soon as they see this they immediately pick up their pace to hit their goal. This quick change in training pace can lead to injury or unrealistic goal setting.
The Solution: Everyone likes the reassurance that our pacing is correct. Using a GPS watch is great for this, but first timers should consider running their usual pace and ignore the watch for the first week. After one week running with the watch, check the data to calculate the average pace you ran for the week. With the hard facts of what paces you’ve been hitting, set realistic weekly goals to improve your pace at a reasonable rate that will prevent injury. Runners can also test their pace now and then by running a measured road, trail or track.
The Problem: the one-hour run over hills you ran yields rather pathetic GPS splits compared to the one-hour run you did a week ago on flat asphalt. This can be both discouraging and misleading.
The Solution: Take note of the terrain as you run, and write it in your training log. Overtime you will learn about how much you should expect certain terrains to slow you down. You can also go by feel and just use a normal stopwatch.
The Problem: A training buddy of yours is addicted to their GPS watch and you don’t care to know that you slowed down two seconds per mile in the last 3 minutes.
The Solution: If you are partial to “running by feel” ask politely that they keep their GPS stats to themself and share the information after the run. If you are the addict yourself, consider leaving the watch home every so often so that you learn pace by feel. Also set the watch to only show time and view your pace only per mile or after you finish.
The Problem: You want to run with music but your running partners would rather have conversation and you know it is dangerous to run alone with loud music.
The Solution: When running with a partner make sure they are alright with you using your ipod, but be sure to keep it on low volume so you can still have conversation and avoid dangerous situations. Some ipods are capable of playing out loud without earbuds. This is a great option as long as no one around you minds and you are in a fairly quiet place. Also remember that most races do not allow mp3 players so don’t always rely on your music to get you through tough workouts since you won’t get to listen to it in the tough parts of your race.
The Problem: You want to be able to run without expensive running gadgets, and still train your hardest and smartest
The Solution: Instead of buying a GPS watch, measure a route using your car, a measuring wheel or on an online route mapping site. Measure effort on your runs by feel. Run your recovery days at a pace slow enough to hold a conversation. Instead of listening to music, consider talking, meditating on goals, praying, or even singing to yourself. Sometimes silence can help you be more in tune with your body. If you want an inexpensive alternative to technology that reads out or calculates your pace, consider a watch with a countdown mode. By measuring a route ahead of time, and setting the countdown to your desired time, you can run the route and know that when the watch beeps you must be at the next marker.
Don’t become a slave to your running gadgets. Instead of running circles at the end of your run to satisfy your watch, or finishing your run based on when your favorite song ends, just listen to your body. Your body after all is the best gadget you have, and it can tell you when to push and when to stop as long as you keep your mind in tune.
About the Author: Amanda Winslow, is a junior at Florida State University, and a member of the Seminoles Cross Country and Track & Field teams. She enjoys long runs on the sandy trails of Tallahassee, as well as creative writing, photography and painting (see original artwork above).