The Benefits of Not Tracking Your Runs
In the digital world, it is so easy to be plugged in all of the time. This is also true of your running. There are so many ways to track your run. Whether you have a smartwatch such as an Apple Watch or one specifically made for exercise such as a Garmin or Fitbit, exercise watches are valuable tools that provide very interesting and important data.
Even if you lack a fancy watch, your smartphone can provide some of these basic services for you. There are numerous running apps you can load onto your phone to track your run. A simple (and often free) app can give you a lot of excellent data!
Prior to diving into the benefits of naked running, let’s discuss all of the information your watch can provide. Indulge me. This will help prove the point of the benefits of naked running.
My First Running Watch
When I started running, I would put on my basic Ironman Timex watch and run a loop. I had some loops memorized. “If I go X,Y,Z I will run 3 miles.” As I dove headfirst into the sport more and began training for my first half marathon, I realized I did not have enough loops for the distances I would be going.
Then, I began running more by time, approximating how far that would bring me. “Okay, I will run for 65 minutes this morning because I need 6-7 miles.” Once I got home, I would jump on my bike to measure out the distance using my bike’s odometer. When it was too cold for my bike, I would either track it in my car or just estimate my mileage.
Insert: first group run and an introduction to a running watch. The coach had a Garmin and he showed me how it tracked his mileage and pace. Wow! Game changer!
When I went home and told hubby about the watch, he asked a lot of questions. The next gift-appropriate occasion, I was gifted a shiny new Garmin. Game changer!
With this Garmin, I could not only measure the distance I was traveling, but also my pace. The watch beeped at regular intervals (I set mine to go off each mile) and would tell me my pace. I could check pace “on the fly” and also got a readout for each mile. How cool is that?
There were other perks, but I never dug into them. I just ran happily with those couple of pieces of information.
Fitness watches now tell you even more.
Distance Traveled – How far have I run? Important if you are training by distance.
Location – As a safety feature, many smartwatches can actually show where you are located.
Pace (on the fly) – If you are trying to hone in on a particular pace, these watches can help you do so! This can happen with a glance and/or a “buzzing” or “beeping” reminder.
Pace Measured by Distance – At the end of the workout, you can see a readout of your average pace per mile (or KM, or half-mile, you get the drift), and your overall pace.
Heart Rate – For athletes’ heart rate training, this readout is important!
Cadence – The number of steps you take per minute, many runners work diligently to improve their cadence.
Workouts – Many smartwatches allow you to input workouts. This enables you to do everything from set intervals for running and walking to inputting particular distances. For example, my watch has repeats as well as intervals input so I can make the workout start with a few pushes of a button.
Music – You can even have music with you coming straight from your watch!
Text Messages – Watches have grown in sophistication. Ones with their own data plan can push messages and calls without your phone near. Other watches only send those notifications if you have your phone in near proximity.
Phone Calls – Yup. Some watches can even send through a phone call.
It’s Enough To Make Your Head Spin!
On the one hand, all of that information right on your wrist is wonderful. On the other hand, it can get to be a lot. For some runners, having access to all of that is always important. However, for others of us, it can really get to be too much.
Personally, I find that I can get way too concerned about pace and forget to just enjoy the run. And although I love my smartwatch and I like that it sends me notifications when I am busy at work, sometimes when I am running I just want to be left alone. That can be hard to do if you get a ding every couple of minutes that someone is sending you a text or you are pushing a button to ignore a phone call.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just leave it all at home and get back to the basics.
Calming the Noise
I was running with some high school athletes I was coaching. Well, actually, I was chasing them down. The run was an out and back down a recreation trail. With woods on both sides of us, the sounds of nature were all around. As our fastest male runner, Scout Gerndt, was heading my way (I was still on the out, and he was hammering it back) he said to me, “Do you hear all of that? Frogs. Birds. It’s amazing and they are missing it.”
In the blink of an eye, he was past me and continuing toward school. I began to watch the runners coming. One, two, three. Runner after runner had headphones in. Sure, they were completely dialed into their run and pace. But what were they missing?
That was a very defining moment for me. Since then, I give myself the opportunity to run some without music. That way, I am completely in tune with everything around me. I especially enjoy this if I am running in the woods.
You can also become a slave to worrying about pace. Give yourself some grace and do some runs without any kind of smartwatch and just enjoy the run. If data is very important to you, you can always put some painter’s tape over the face of your watch.
Forgetting about pace can work in two different ways. First, you can just relax and enjoy the run. There is another way this can work, though.
If you are running with someone who is notoriously faster than you, you may want to leave your watch at home. Peeking at the pace that is faster than your normal can leave you feeling nervous about your ability to hang on for the whole run. And guess what? Sometimes you realize you are capable of more than you ever imagined when you just run and stop watching and worrying.
My friend Daphne Matelene refers to a sexy pace. You know, that nice, easy pace where you can still look good and carry on a conversation. Most of us don’t run at a sexy pace nearly often enough. Forgetting pace gives you good margin in your life. Running without a watch on your really easy days can help you achieve that.
Coming Back from Injury
As you claw your way back from injury, this is another great time to ditch the watch or tracking device. This is not the time to worry about cadence or speed. Again, you can benefit from giving yourself some grace and just work on getting some miles under your belt.
As someone with a chronic hamstring injury that creeps up and gives me a difficult time now and then, when I am trying to return to strong mileage, I need to just slow down. I have found that when I take the time to warm up properly, my hamstring stays happier. If I stop worrying about pace, this is more likely to happen.
Watch? Or No Watch?
If you are reading this thinking to yourself that, as an author, coach and runner, I am unsure of which side of the fence I am on regarding if you should run with a smartwatch or not, fear not. I am intentionally and very purposefully balancing on the fence. Why? Because both have real value to a runner.
If I am working on a tempo, pace or speed workout, I always wear my smartwatch. When I need to measure intervals? Yup. I need my watch. However, for a nice easy run through the woods, I might either take it off or cover the screen. Why? Because I also value that quiet time in my own thoughts.
Running and maintaining your sanity requires some balance. You just have to give it to yourself!