Tuesday, 20 September 2016

How using my Garmin less is making me a better runner

I'm a bit of a stats nerd.
The thing I was most excited about when I got my Garmin 220 was the multiple data screens, the ability to have 3 sets of data on at a time, and to show lap pace on the main screen.
But I'm also very aware that I'm a slave to my watch.
I find it hard to switch off from my pace on my long runs or easy runs, and always end up chasing my time down when I'm supposed to be taking it easy.
I listen to my watch and not my body.

I think it was when I was researching my "Runners - stop calling yourself slow" post that I stumbled over Tina Muir's blog, and her post "5 reasons why running slow is so hard". Anyone who is experienced in running knows the importance of slow running, but the majority of people who are experienced in running suck at running slow.

And I'm as guilty as anyone. I'm obsessed with my pace and my stats and my mile times, and even on my morning runs I instantly get nervous when a lap time over 11 minutes flashes on my screen. And even on my long runs I often feel I'm pushing a little bit too hard and instead of slowing down, my ego kicks in and starts wondering how fast I can run this long run. Even though I know that's not the point!

So I started doing two things. 

The first was that I started to wear my Garmin inside my wrist on my long runs. This way, I couldn't see the pace I was running at easily, but I could still see my watch if I needed to to check my turn-around point or to pause my watch at traffic lights.

And it totally worked. I could just run by feel. I didn't speed up if a lap was slower than I expected. I didn't feel disappointed if I didn't hit a certain pace for each mile. I was thinking of the whole run, not just living in each mile. On long runs in particular it really helped me to switch off, relax and enjoy the run at whatever pace I felt like.

So I started doing it on my easy runs too. 

In the morning when I wake up to run before 5.30am, I'm always tired and it takes me a mile or so to get going, and I usually feel disappointed with a slower first mile, even though I know this is meant to be an easy recovery run! This way, it doesn't matter. I can run easy without accidentally pushing myself when my ego gets in the way.

Then the next thing I did was turn off my auto-lap.

In the three years I've been running I have always had some kind of alert every mile, whether it was an audio alert back when I solely used Endomondo, or flashing up on my Garmin screen. 

But a few weeks ago I found it was interfering with the manual-lap I was using for a tempo run so I decided to turn it off just for that run.
But when I mentioned it in passing to Phil, he was really surprised I used the autolap as he never uses it. So I decided to give it a go.

One thing I checked early on, thankfully, was that my lap times per mile would still be recorded on my Garmin app, even if there weren't alerts on my watch, so I could still be a stats nerd, only retrospectively after a run. 

So now for easy runs and long runs, I just run. I run by feel, I don't let myself get distracted by the odd slower mile or beat myself up if my pace isn't what I expected. It's made me a more confident and conscientious runner who appreciates that not every run is going to be my best.

Plus, it's resulted in a few PBs.

Last weekend I went to my old parkrun, and instead of focusing on my lap pace, I focused on my overall pace (for races, I still have my watch visible, but autolap off). This kept me focused all the way through the 5K, not just on each mile, and I took 30 seconds off my past PB.

And this weekend I did the Stockport 10K, and using the same method of focusing on my overall pace, got a 10K PB of nearly a minute (53:50) on an exceptionally hard course. When I checked my laps later I saw a couple of 9+ minute miles that I know would have totally thrown me off if I'd seen them during the race, but instead I could identify when those difficult, hilly parts were afterwards, instead of letting them throw me off during the race. I let myself focus more on recovering from the difficult bits and making back time throughout the course, rather than seeing the race mile by mile.

It's 4 weeks til my half marathon, and the 10K was kind of a test on whether I want to have my autolap off during the race, and right now I think I do. I have a goal pace in mind for this race and I don't want to be distracted by the odd slower mile and wear myself out catching up.

I'll always love my Garmin, and I'll always love my data, but I don't want to be a slave to the numbers.

Charlotte x

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