Technology Obsession

Posted: August 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

Technology has become an integral part of running.  Runners, by nature, tend to be very quantitative and need instant feedback on their training.  It’s wonderful to monitor such important data as average pace, average heart rate, maximum heart rate, calories burned, total running time and distance. Today’s  GPS technology is a marked improvement over the Timex watch with only a stopwatch feature I relied on for so many years.

But there is a significant downside to this modern technology.  I have witnessed runners I coach become obsessed with all the data that’s at their fingertips.  Runners circle the parking lot at training to make sure they get to the next full mile or a designated distance.   I have witnessed runners  visibly upset because the scheduled run was slightly shorter or longer than the designated distance.  These same runners cannot reconcile their GPS not reflecting precisely 26.2 miles when they cross the marathon finish line.

The biggest downside to modern technology occurs during races.  Runners tend to micro-manage their race strategy.  They monitor their average pace so closely they overlook far more important aspects to achieving the goal marathon pace.  Marathon courses, particularly in Boston, aren’t conducive to running a consistent pace because of  their topography.  Consequently, it’s likely that a runner’s average or goal marathon pace will be slower or faster; causing a runner to panic or become erratic with their pacing.  This burns fuel unnecessarily and wreaks havoc on them mentally.

The reality is that a runner will not be capable or running any faster than they are physically and mentally prepared to run on a given day…regardless of the data on their GPS.  I have convinced many of my runners to not monitor their average pace during the marathon or, in a few rare cases,  to not wear a watch at all.  That’s almost like asking a runner to not where their running clothes during the marathon-they feel completed naked without their GPS.  But, without exception, 100% of these runners have enjoyed personal bests.

This occurs because runners tend to focus more on their form and breathing and actually enjoy all the marathon offers when they aren’t consumed and obsessed with technology.  It’s a far more enjoyable experience.

iPods also have provided a wonderful distraction from the difficulty of running by allowing runners to listen to their favorite music.  I’m always surprised when I observe runners wearing an iPod during a marathon because they miss all the encouragement and comments from the spectators.  Listening to their favorite music has a downside, too.  Certain music can also contribute to erratic pacing because some songs are more motivating than others.

Balance is the key to enjoying the benefits of running technology.  I recommend running entirely by feel at least twice a week.  It may ultimately require therapy, but you should leave your GPS and iPod at home.  You should focus on establishing a good rhythm and perfect form by practicing efficient running form.  Listen to how your feet are striking and how quietly you are breathing and suddenly you’ll feel more engaged with the one thing that will provide the result you desire…efficient running.

Running by feel…not by data from modern technology… will yield far greater results and return your running to a higher level of enjoyment!

  1. mfuryhop says:

    Love this post! I still haven’t run with a gps watch or a timer, but I have bought one for my boyfriend for his training. I notice that when I run with him, I’m wondering what our pace is and what mile we’re at! He stopped listening to music on his runs when his player died. I feel so less motivated when I run without my ipod. I have to say I love yurbuds headphones because they do not completely drown out everything. I can turn my music low and still hear it while hearing my feet strike the ground and traffic around me.

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