I got back from Maine on Sunday night and Monday morning was not easy. I’ve talked before about how difficult it is for me to come back from time away- I feel “off” and tired and lack motivation. But I have always found that running is the best cure for a vacation hangover…and really it’s the best cure for most things.
So on Monday morning I chose to run without the Garmin. I wasn’t feeling like it was going to be a good run. I wanted to run- but I didn’t want to have a bad run. But wait? What is a “bad run”?
A)Is a it a run that hurts?
B)A run that feels like it is never ending?
C) A run where you are not meeting your own expectations?
It could be any of those things, and more. I decided to take option C out of the equation by leaving the Garmin behind. If you are not tracking your mileage/pace/heart rate/cadence etc how can you fail to meet your own expectations?
I went out and set the timer on my phone, just so I would have an idea how long I ran for. I know most of the routes around where I live like the back of my hand, so there is really no fooling myself with mileage. I stuck my phone in my belt and didn’t look at the time at all while I was running (it’s much harder to peak when you have to take your phone out and unlock it versus glancing at your wrist). I did stop to take pictures, and didn’t worry about pausing my time. I did initially reach for my wrist to press the stop button, quickly remembering that there was no watch there.
I felt lost without a set distance, plan, or route in mind. So I started running a flat out and back course than can easily be made into a shorter route back if necessary. I had a general idea of where I would run to, but tried to ignore the voice in my head that was trying to plan, and just go- and turn around when I was ready. This helped to avoid option B above…when it starts to feel like its never ending, you turn around and head home.
Usually when I go out for an easy run I still push myself- whether it’s to go faster or slower based on what I see on my watch. I was thinking about this on my run and realized that “easy” is not a number-based speed. It’s a description of how you are feeling. It’s impossible to measure “easiness” through a gps watch. I was able to think about how I was feeling, and make sure that the run actually felt easy. When I was actually running easy, I was able to relax more. All these things helped to avoid #1…you’re way less likely to be in any sort of physical pain if you are relaxed and running at a pace that feels comfortable.
This most important realization I had on this run was of how dependent I am on expectations- basically my own expectations of what my Garmin will tell me. That feeling of needing to hit a certain mile marker to finish a run. Pushing that last mile to make my average pace a certain number. Analyzing splits, heart rate, and cadence. All of these things have there place in training, but when you become too dependent on them it becomes a habit that is near impossible to break.
Why do we constantly post pictures of our Garmins? The easy answer is that we want to share our workout with others- maybe to inspire someone else to get out and run. Or maybe to hold ourselves accountable in our training. But are there underlying reasons why we share this data? Are we looking for someone to tell us that we did a good job? Or to prove that we are getting faster? Or to justify a slow pace yesterday with a faster one today?
The truth is I think that I need to learn to be my own Garmin. To be able to feel when I am going at an easy pace versus marathon pace vs tempo pace. To be able to know intuitively that my cadence is where it should be or or that my heart rate is in the right zone. To be able to give myself my own recognition for a good workout without a Garmin screen flashing at me to tell me that I just hit a new fastest 10k record.
That being said, I think a Garmin can be fairly necessary if you are training to hit a goal time in a race. I’m not sure how you would know what an 8 minute mile feels like if you don’t know that you are running 8 minute miles (if that makes any sort of sense). So maybe the key is learning to feel those paces using a gps watch, and then practicing without it. I’m not really sure what the answer is- and it is a different one for each runner. But it seems like using the Garmin is like being observed and graded by a teacher…and the goal is to be able to go out sometimes and use that knowledge on your own without being monitored.
I had to laugh when I got home from this run with all these thoughts floating around my head and I saw on instagram that Michele had done the same thing that morning and wrote a post about her feelings about the Garmin here. We have some similar thoughts about it but she has a different take on how it affects her training, so go check that out if you want to hear more about the benefits of leaving the watch at home! Then I saw that Amy posted about her Garmin-free run, too! Check out her post here! I think we all must be needing a break from the Garmins!
How often do you run without a GPS watch?
How do you think dependence on a Garmin affects your running?