Running with gadgets

I think the best thing about running is the simplicity of it. You just need to lace on a pair of shoes (or not, you running hippie you) and step out the front door. There’s not too much to think about. And then, come the gadgets…

It’s not just the running shoes, or the clothes. Those are important, and it’s hard to do the job at all without them; I wouldn’t want to step into 6am Vancouver March slush in a cotton t-shirt (call me soft, I can take it). It’s the add-ons, the things that are… helpful? I speak, of course, of the “wrist-top computer”.

Back in the day, I had a great watch. It had a very sophisticated interval timer, and this other feature where the backlight would come on if I flicked my wrist. It told me when to stop, when to go, and how long I’d been going for. Simple… effective.

Then came the next step: the heart-rate monitor. I never got particularly religious about my use of heartrate monitors (to the great frustration of coaches) until I hit my most scientific training period. For a while, every workout was logged on the HRM, and the coach downloaded the results every week. I was living in Canmore during a dry summer, and by the end of my first month I had a noticeable tan-line on my chest from the heart-rate strap. Was it helpful? Probably to stop me from going too fast during easy workouts, but I’m not certain that heart-rate ever had a significant effect on my workouts.

Now I’m on to the next step: the GPS watch/HRM. It’s pretty cool. I’ve suddenly learned that my easy runs are much faster than I thought they were, and that my run to work is 14km long. There’s a madness about quantifying everything (and the Google Earth tracks of backcountry ski days are great). Will it help with training? I don’t know. It’s a cool toy – but I’m still working on being convinced that anything is a substitute for good pace feel.

What do you think? Are you tied to training devices? Or are you a stick-in-the-mud like me, using toys but not convinced they’ll ever help?

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