For Mother’s Day I got Lisa a Garmin Vivofit fitness tracker, which tracks ‘steps’, calories, and even monitors your sleep motion. We have been talking about this for her off and on for a while – she had a Striiv for a while until it died an untimely death. The Striiv was more of a ‘smart pedometer’ with integrated games and challenges to keep you moving.
As soon as Lisa opened the Vivofit, she got it synced to the app on her phone and set up her goals and settings, put it on her wrist and started tracking. Throughout the day she was very aware of where she was compared to her goal, and when we were sitting for a while the ‘red bar’ came on to tell her to ‘get moving’.
It really had me thinking about how motivating she finds having the tracking on her all the time, and how much tracking has meant to me – and how I have also suffered from an over-dependence on GPS. I have also been seeing several articles around separately on tracking and not tracking – including one PRO tracking on Olive to Run with the first comment being about STOPPING tracking – so I wanted to round up a few thoughts on each:
Here are five reasons you SHOULD track:
1. Knowledge – I will never forget running with my brother in April 2012 with his Garmin … and I learned how short my runs were and slow I was – it was sad and disappointing. The following day as I started my run I used my smartphone to track my runs. I kept doing that for a month until I got the Nike+ smartwatch, and have had some sort of tracking on my wrist or phone ever since. Using a GPS tracker lets me know how far I run, how fast, the hills, and so on.
2. Progress – every runner knows that no two runs are created equal, regardless of pace or distance or time. So naturally there are days when we feel like we are doing great and days we are struggling – but how do we know if we are making progress? To do this you really don’t need a GPS – you could just time yourself running the same distance or route. But the bottom line is this – monitoring progress really requires tracking of SOME type.
3. Accountability – whether or not you share your stats publicly, keeping records of what you are doing allows you to look at how well you are tracking your goals. What ‘accountability’ looks like for you depends on what motivates you, but in general it has been demonstrated that sharing your workouts, upcoming races, weight and eating, and so on tends to keep you more focused on keeping up positive habits.
4. Goals – Most software systems allow you to set goals and then give your ‘badges’ or awards when you hit those goals. I mean, how great is it to be out running and get to the end and get a ‘fastest mile’ notice! Whatever your goals are, having some metrics around them allows you to work to meet those challenges and assess your progress.
5. Learning About Yourself – are you a fast starter? Strong finisher? Great at hills? Even pace? By running the same routes multiple times you can discover an awful lot about yourself as a runner. I remember running later in the day for the first time and discovering how much different it felt for me.
Here are five reasons you SHOULD NOT track:
1. Running by Feel – one of the best things this winter about not having any tech on me (or any accessible without digging through layers in the depth of winter), is that I have developed a sense of pace – if I want to stretch my run and still have to get home by 6AM, I have to figure out how I am running and sense if I can add 0.5, 1.0 or 1.5 miles at the end. Sure with a quick look at my watch I can tell – but that teaches me nothing about my running.
2. Listen to Your Body – there are some days a 9 min/mile pace is tough, and other times it is a breeze. Two weekends ago in the midst of a long run I had punishing hills and managed to keep my pace close to 9/mi … it was grueling but rewarding. But I didn’t look at my GPS at all – I came to the hills and pushed myself to keep increasing the effort to maintain what felt like a constant pace … and it worked!
3. Over-dependence on the GPS – another learning experience was my trail marathon last summer … I went out WAY too fast, the GPS was uselessly blinking in and out … and I ran a pretty terrible race. I took that as a challenge that I needed to learn pacing … and the best way to do that was to stop staring at my GPS! I know I still have issues, but I have done much better throughout last fall and winter. I think it is similar to never driving some place without a car GPS – you never learn the route.
4. Addiction to Mileage – If doing 30 miles is good, then 40 must be better, right? NO!!!! Training plans generally have you gradually increasing as you hear to the taper, but it should always be GRADUAL. Also, it is very easy to get competitive with other runners online. I have been fairly consistent with between 50-60 miles per week – when I did the 80 mile week a couple of weeks ago I was really exhausted. I loved it and let myself go with it because it worked for me, but I know my comfort zone in summer is closer to the 60-70 mile range.
5. No More Easy Days – if someone told me to go out and run a very slow, casual pace … it would be hard enough. If I had my GPS on and it said 11 min/mi I would freak out and speed up! As it is I think that between blogs and social media people don’t really follow the ‘easy run’ paces most training plans call for. Actually, this weekend I was driving and saw a neighbor’s son – who does sub-20 min 5Ks regularly – running what was no faster than a 10 minute pace in our neighborhood … and all I could think was ‘now THAT is an easy pace’. I remember seeing it somewhere caleld getting caught up in the ‘FOGS’ – fear of going slow.
Keeping It Real
So … what are some of the big reasons I worry about this?
– Overdependence on technology
– Crappy sense of pace
– Desire to be faster and build endurance
– I NEVER want to go back to my ‘low and slow’ runs!
So yeah, I am a terrible offender of all of the issues around GPS watch over-use!
So what do YOU think?