Is seems to me that there is a new paradigm going around in the running world.
That to be a serious runner or to be taken seriously as a runner you have to use a GPS device.
My GPS devices
You know the watches, smart phone apps and other devices that key into the Global Positioning System to give us data on where, how far and how fast we did it.
That way you can accurately measure your mileage, time, pace, heart rate, elevation gain or loss and a map of where you ran.
Which means that you will become a better runner and be able to prove it.
Needless to say I bought into that paradigm hook, line and sinker.
Back when I got my first smart phone, I started using the GPS apps, I really liked the ease of being able to know about how far I ran, a voice telling me my mile splits, along with other things and be able to post it to various online running logs/website to share with other runners what I was doing. Enough so that I “moved up” to a Garmin and then over to my TomTom GPS watches.
What I loved about GPS
These GPS devices provided me with almost instantaneous data on how far or fast I had run and cued me in on each mile split and could do so many other things to help me train more effectively and closer to the ideal training paces for my racing goals.
However, the real cat’s meow…and the part that I really used the most (loved it), was the data that the GPS devices provided me to study after a run, automatically uploading my run’s GPS data to multiple online running logs.
Those sites that have all those wonderful charts and graphs about what I did on the run, the ability to compare my run with other runs on the same course, keep track of my course PR’s, PB’s, and then announce my successes and failures to the world of Twitter, Facebook and all the others within seconds.
It was so easy and so great, how did it become…
You know something – towards the end of 2014 using a GPS device got overwhelming between always worrying about whether they were charged, waiting to connect to GPS, if they would keep connection, and if the data would upload correctly, so that…
I could study, compare, analyze and sort through all the data that I was getting about my runs.
It got so that one the first things I would do when I got done with the run was plug my device into a computer and upload my latest run, so I could see the data (does this sound familiar?).
There was very little after-glow or enjoyment of the run…I had to see the data to know if I had hit the goals for that run, met the objectives of the training for that day and would be disappointed if I hadn’t.
All this GPS data collection, otherwise called running, was turning running into something that I did to produce the numbers, graphs and charts, so that I could be a better runner.
My running had become secondary to the numbers it was producing for the data analysis after I was done.
Something had to change
Yes, I can hear it now…you need to know all the information that a GPS device provides to get the biggest bang for your training, meet your daily training goals, give your coach a chance to see where you are weak and what your strengths are, so that you will improve at an optimal rate.
After all if you measure it you can “improve” it.
That sounds pretty business-like to me.
Which might be what many people want, need and expect in today’s world of having to measure everything, in the idea that constant improvement can be attained and is desirable.
Ummm sorry, well not so sorry.
At some point in our efforts to measure everything down to the smallest detail, did we/do we loose track of what is important?
I am not an elite runner or anything more than a middle of the pack runner who runs because he enjoys running, not someone who enjoys compiling, reviewing and analyzing data about my running.
The last time I used a GPS device was January 11th and now almost two weeks later, how is it going?
To be honest, other than the usual winter doldrums and being sick of the cold, my running is going great.
At first, when I stopped running with a GPS device turned on, it was hard to let go of the data collection runner I had become. I was so frigging worried about how the data would look on the graphs and then I would remember that there wouldn’t be any graphs or data points to study.
Actually after the first few runs, I relaxed, huh I didn’t hear that…I relaxed during my runs! Especially on the treadmill, I didn’t realize how much I ran around my arm swing to ensure the acceleromotor was getting accurate data on there. I am liking my treadmill runs a lot more now.
More quickly than I though I would, I stopped worrying about what the GPS was going to show me about my run and whether I was meeting the pace goals or if I was off target…instead I just ran.
My mind wandered, it went here and there, I thought about this or that, but I wasn’t stressing out over how much I was slowing down going uphill or if I was going too fast down one.
I just ran comfortably, pushed when I thought I should be pushing or Bennie wanted to go faster, slowed down on runs that I had decided that they would be recovery runs. In other words I just listened to my body and started to enjoy the runs more.
I have worn just wear my old Timex Ironman watch and I might get a mile split in if I remember to look at my watch when I get close to where I think the mile point is, otherwise I get the time at the end of the run.
Timex Ironman Watch – Yeah a bit old-school
After the run, there are not many data points to follow or study, no automatic uploading to multiple web sites, no broadcasting to the Internet that I finished my run, at least until I do my boring blog posts, no charts or graphs to look at.
Spreadsheet ending 1/18/15
Nope, instead I get to eventually add the run to my spreadsheet and I get to think about how I felt during the run.
Not measuring the run, but more thinking and writing about how I felt during the run. A wholistic view, versus the data driven view. Yeah, I still keep time, distance, weight and show mileage stats, but the maps, graphs, minute data analysis are gone.
Yeah, a pretty drastic change in direction in a short time.
The reality is that
I had returned to the pre-GPS days of the dark ages and was connecting more with how I felt, versus having to review and dissect each run under a microscope to know how my run went.
Sometime going backwards, can be going forward.
For me, running without a GPS device has been a positive change and one that I will probably make permanent. I am cancelling my “pro” version of Strava, I really don’t need it (though I will miss the social interaction with other runners there) and all the other websites that I auto-posted to, well I suddenly disappeared a couple of weeks ago and that isn’t going to change.
Does this mean I will never use GPS devices again – no. I am not a Luddite by any means and enjoy the modern conveniences of our electronic devices. At the same time when they begin to interfere with, become a distraction or I become over-reliant on one, is it a good thing?
GPS devices are a tool and the data they provide can help us improve as runners, which means they have a place in my tool box, but I have a feeling that I will use GPS more for trail running or if I am attempting to hit very specific pace goals in a training run. Otherwise, they will stay in the drawer, until I need that tool.
However, I do not plan on them re-gaining the control of how I look at my running.
I don’t want to get back to where I feel that I have to measure and analyze every run and go back to believing the most important thing about running is the data that some device gives us about what we did.
No, I still believe the important thing about running is that…
That we get run.
Then again, maybe I am just a crotchety old bastard who got tired of technology getting in the way of enjoying my running.
When does a GPS device stop being a positive part of your running?
Can you become addicted OR over-reliant on a GPS device?
Thank you for reading and being patient with a cantankerous old fart’s blathering and babbling on about the changes that I am going through as I get older and the fun that I am having as a part of this process.
Originally written by Harold Shaw and published as part of http://haroldlshaw.com