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June 26, 2015

Who’s in Charge? You or Your GPS?

Written by Ashley Benson
Originally posted September 6, 2014. Written by Dena Evans.

Technology has improved our lives in myriad ways.  GPS devices have allowed us to track our endurance efforts, recording our pace, distance, heart rate, and many more metrics besides.  While providing a wealth of information, our relationship with the technology can become complicated and far more entangled than we could have possibly imagined.   These devices are best as a tool to help us train effectively and analyze where we have gone.  While possible that your GPS device can provide some accountability, take this quiz and see where you are on the spectrum of maintaining a healthy balance and perspective with your wrist-born tech.

 

Do you always round off your runs or walks to an exactly even number (5.00 miles, 3.50 miles exactly, 40 miles precisely for the week, etc), even if you are doing a lap around the parking lot or go up and down your driveway three times?

If your answer is yes, you probably enjoy order over chaos, and completion of your goals.  You might also like to look at tidy numbers on the screen. None of that is bad in and of itself, but it is always good to remember that training has a purpose and shuffling in circles for 27 meters to make a full mile doesn’t really make you any more prepared for the race.  Consider spending a week where you purposely don’t end on an even number in any run.  Encourage yourself that your achievement of the total includes the experience of the effort along the way and that your training need not be 100% perfect 100% of the time to be in a position to achieve your goals on race day!

Do you have a floor or ceiling pace under or over which you never go on training run / walk days?

If your answer is yes, you probably are trying to faithfully complete your training efforts at the paces prescribed by your runcoach pace chart.  However, always make sure that you listen to your body.  If you have a sore / tight muscle, feel tired from the prior day’s workout, are sick, or have another legitimate reason to be in true recovery mode, it is fine to slow dow.  Occasionally what felt like your easy pace turns out to be 30 seconds per mile or more.  Recovery is key to being prepared for the next hard day.  Sometimes, that requires doing a little less and easing off a bit (and being ok with that when you look at your watch).

Now that you have a GPS device on your wrist or in the palm of your hand, do you find yourself checking your pace almost reflexively every 50 meters along your route?

If this sounds like you, you might be just excited to have a cool toy to consult. But, with constant reliance on the watch or app (which is not always 100% accurate due to trees, weather, and other factors), you might also be at risk for missing a chance to understand and gain a feel for what your race pace or other paces might be.  While you might want to keep careful track of your mileage, occasionally pick a route you of which you already know the distance, and run it without your watch, gauging your effort based on what you perceive to be the pace.  You can log the miles accurately as you have measured it previously and using your total time, can figure the pace. However, you have taken an opportunity during the run to stay in touch with your instincts and listen to your body.

Do you avoid certain routes because of spotty satellite reception (and the shorter distances/ slower paces you might be given credit for on your device as a result)?

If your answer is yes to this one, you are human! We all like to see our best selves recorded and the greatest return on our efforts.  However, if the preoccupation with the numbers is causing you to miss out on tree covered paths, excellent trail running, and safe routes on bike paths that travel through tunnels, consider mapping these on the computer and manually entering in the distances, or just noting your estimated differences when uploading your info.

Data is helpful, but we should not become overly reliant on it.  As humans, we can use machines and technology to help us to our goals, but nothing replaces the individual effort and commitment we all need to achieve our goals on the day.  Continue to trust in your ability and instincts. Let your GPS devices and apps be tools, but only one of many, in your arsenal.


 

 
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