Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Naked Running - Its Good But Not Necessary

Many on the popular running magazines/websites have posted about the virtues of running naked.  You know, sanz Garmin or whatever device you use.  The claims of us having become so dependent on technology, while true, don't necessarily hold up in this argument IMHO.  You see, its not the watch that is the problem.  Its the OCD runner that keeps checking it that is.  In other words, the lack of ability to temporarily tune out and just let things be.  So while removing the watch is an easy solution to the problem, I'd like to argue that the benefits of running with a watch outweigh the cons that come with it.  So met explain further...

There are many reasons why people say to remove the watch, such as:
  • Obsession with pace at all times takes away from running enjoyment
  • Inability to self pace
  • Complete reliance on readings from the watch, resulting in panic when watch isn't working correctly
  • Self judging pace readings to determine how "good" a run is and speeding up to "beat" a time
  • You can scare yourself into running too fast even though it might feel fine, preventing breakthough performances
I'm not arguing that these aren't valid reasons.  And in fact, I'm probably just a guilty in achieving some of these.  However, there are also many other reasons why wearing a watch is beneficial:
  • You know what pace you are running with one, which serves as a consistent metric
  • Sometimes the mind can keep you from your potential and seeing numbers can be motivating
  • Mental math is much easier when you factor in your current pace/distance vs nothing/guessing
  • Properly pacing simulation workouts and/or races becomes much easier with a guide (the watch)
  • Utilization of features such as uploaded workouts, virtual training partner, etc can enhance the user experience
  • Recording workouts and tracking them on a regular basis ensures you are training most effectively
And it is this last point that in my opinion serves us most beneficially.  If you document your workouts, you have a better grasp on what you are doing.  Now can you do that without a GPS watch?  Sure.  But for me, it is the combination of the readings that I get, that provides the value, which is something you wouldn't otherwise get.  Things like HR, splits, elevation, etc all play a valuable role in analyzing the data.  For example, I track training stress on a rolling basis, which is based on a combination of duration, distance, and effort (HR).  I do this so I can verify what my body may/may not be signaling.  Have what feels like a bad run?  Look at that rolling fatigue and I guarantee you'll have an answer.  In most cases when I have bad runs, it correlates exactly to that metric.  It also helps me know where the threshold is, so that I don't cross over from very fatigued to overtrained due to stacking too much work into a given period of training.  So without this information, it leaves one having to do a lot of guesswork.  But since I can quickly discover these things, I can adjust workouts on the fly to schedule an easy run or a day off (gasp!) to let the fatigue settle before moving on to some tougher workouts.

Now like I said, there are plenty of people who can just get by without this information.  And that's fine.  But I think that most people, especially those that are self coached, getting the numbers is an important part of training.  Now with that said - if you don't USE the information, then it is just data.  In order to get the value, you need to use it in a way that allows you to make sense of both the macro and micro elements to your training program.

In the end, we all have our reasons for using devices or for going without one.  So when I don't feel like wearing one, I simply cover it up, but record the data.  Because when the run is over, those numbers play a role in how my workouts are managed.  Without that information, I'd be training naked...and nobody wants to see that!

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