Garmin, Polar, TomTom/Nike, Fitbit, Jawbone, and Suunto are just a few types of gadgets you may see on the arms of trail runners on any given day. You can monitor your heart rate, distance elevation, and even sleep patterns, but what do we really gain from knowing about this this information, and is it beneficial?
Over the past 10 years of my life my thoughts on these gadgets have changed. I was first introduced to running watches by my husband who gave me the forerunner 201 in my early 20s for Christmas. I loved it, I hated it. I tried to run longer and faster too soon, competing with the numbers on this monster of a watch that covered almost my whole forearm. I was disappointed if my 14 mile loop was slower than it had been the previous week. It frustrated me, and I eventually set it aside in exasperation, and burn out. Who was I racing against day after day anyway? I was so caught up in beating my splits and forgot to listen to my body and take a day or two easy. It only took a few months for me to misuse it; it became a torture device, and was put aside for several years.
In my 30s I came back to fitness watches again, this time with the Garmin 310. I decided that I would use the watch (and sometimes the heart rate monitor), rather than let the watch use me. It now helps to remind me when, on easy recovery days, to slow down and on workout days to hit my target. It seems to temper my excitement of training, and has helped me stay uninjured (knocking on wood now.) I love my watch for races now too. I often get swept up in the excitement of the adrenaline fueled starting line and take off too fast in my glee to break my taper and run a race! It also helps me pace myself with food and water, every so many miles I can easily remember to rehydrate, or eat with out spending time doing mental math.
I am not the person who uploads their data onto spreadsheets and geeks out at the graph options, though I have several more statistically inclined friends who love to, and at times I wish I did as well. Running with them on the trails I hear them delight in the joy of looking back over weeks, months, and years of their running progress. For them, it seems to be all wrapped up in their love of training and running.
I think that whatever gets you out and aids in your training is great. If a watch motivates you to get off the couch and go hit a target of time or miles, I say great! If it helps you stay away from injury, I say more power to you and your gadget!
I do still think, however, it is important to all have days we just simply unplug from any and all gadgets and just enjoy the trees and the fresh air. Don’t neglect your one on one personal time with the trails, leave that tech-gadget home from time to time and just enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of nature!
What is your favorite gadget, or do you have a love/hate relationship with all things (trail running) technical?