Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Don't Hate the Garmin or the Techy
And a Little on Running Shoes Too!

Wow! Thanks everyone for all the interesting and insightful comments. From the high school/college track stars who've been running for 10+ years to the elder statesmen and stateswomen who's training for his/her first marathon, all of you collectively showed me why running and the running life is meaningful and purposeful no matter the goal, no matter the pace, or even when or where we train. Believe it when I say I truly salute each of you for being truly awesome and inspirational athletes. You all ROCKED MY WORD this week with your encouragement and support. Thank you.

After reading through all your thoughts and observations, I agree with the general contention that I need to deemphasize running as a daily training requirement and rediscover running for it's own sake. The hard part though is figuring out how this task can be best accomplished in a manner that makes the most sense to me. Yes I can, as many have suggested, just leave the Garmin at home and run for a specified time or to a specified place without caring, worrying or even acknowledging such essentials as speed, pace, elevation, heart rate, etc. "Heck, why don't you just throw the damn thing away," as one of my friend advised me the other day, "You know you're at the cusp of slowing down anyway, why make this painfully obvious to yourself!" I chuckle at the irony of these propositions, not because I disagree with the general premise of these suggestions - namely that I'd probably enjoy running more if I weren't so enamored with the numbers and data, but because I actually do remember the times before the age of Garmin, when the only electronic gear I wore while running was a digital wristwatch and pace calculations were mostly based on my perceived effort. Speedwork was loosely translated to running in the Central Park really fast and an interval workout was constructed around how many reservoir loops I can manage without bumping into unsuspecting tourists walking obliviously in the other direction. I can point to the exact date on my running log when my Garmin Forerunner 305 arrived at my apartment doorstep because ever since that date, my running has never been the same. No longer was I confined to just running in Central Park, no longer was it okay to know I ran "around a 7:30 pace" for "approximately 6 miles". My running log transformed from three simple columns in a composition notebook to a excel file with three separate spreadsheets. Almost instantaneously I began training better and over the course of a few short months, made greater strides in my running than I ever have before. Now, four short years later, I have learned almost everything there is to know about my Garmin and I owe much of my growth and success as a runner to my constant companion. So now do you all see why I can't help but laugh and snicker when others blame my attachment to Garmin as the ultimate source of my distress? Yes, you're allowed to say that over the course of my running career, I might have become a bit too dependent on technology, almost to a fault, but seriously is that really technology's fault? There must be a better way to handle overtraining and competitive stress than by getting rid of technology altogether, no? The whole notion of reverting to a simpler running life seems awkward to me.

On a side but similar note, can anyone else appreciate how this anti-technology sentiment is suddenly becoming the latest popular trend of the running community? (Um, barefoot running anyone?*) Why must we hate something that has for years been helping us to improve the way we live? Maybe the problem isn't with technology itself but with the way we use it? Maybe we're just not applying the technology in the best way possible to satisfy our own individual needs? Lots of blood, sweat, money, and manpower have been put over the years to developing products and services that are meant to help mankind. Maybe we ought to give these people the benefit of the doubt before we poo-poo their innovations and trash their inventions. For all the conveniences and luxuries we use yet take for granted in our daily lives, we owe them at least that much, don't we?

Just my two cents. Yes, you're welcome to disagree with me or share you're own. I'll try not to hold it against you. Have a great rest of the week and weekend.

[*I promised myself I won't get into this debate. Luckily for me, these guys basically share the same viewpoints as I and are much more eloquent in their discussions and objective in their arguments than I can ever be so go read their Q&A if you haven't figured out where I stand on this controversy. The only other point I'd like to make, which no one seemed to as yet, is that maybe it's not the shoes themselves that are the problem, but that we as runners are never fitted with the shoes that are right for our feet. In the same way that there is an optometrist who fits the right prescription lenses to the right person with near/far-sightedness, maybe it's time that there is a person whose job it is to figure out the right running shoes for the right type of feet. With the hundreds upon hundreds of different types and styles of shoes out there, I think it is foolish to suggest that anyone on their own can ever figure out the right pair of shoes to fit their needs. Not only so, but since the foot is a dynamic physiologic structure that changes in response to age, training, weather, and weight, the right shoes are going to change from year to year. So what's right this year will not be so next year. How's a recreational athlete ever suppose to figure all that out by him/herself? That, my friends, is the single biggest factor why the number of runner's injuries have supposedly increased so drastically in the last 20 to 30 years. There are simply way too many shoes and not enough knowledgeable people to help us runners decide what to wear from year to year, because if there were such people around, I can guarantee that the whole shoe vs no-shoe debate would grind to a complete and sudden halt.]

24 comments:

Lauren said...

I absolutely love this post! Though I have to admit my training log became much more complicated with the arrival of my Garmin. :D

Complicated isn't always bad!

D10 said...

I think the lesson we have to learn is that every now and then we have to ditch the watch and just go out and run for the pure joy of it.

The whole shoe thing too, I think we make things a lot more complicated.

Jesse said...

I credit much of my love of running to technology gadgets that give me my pace, distance, etc (it started with a Nike+ system, and now its a Forerunner 305). I'm a numbers guy, and having all of this data at my fingertips fuels my running in an odd way.

As for the barefoot issue, from my blog you obviously know my stance. I've been doing a lot of thinking about the issue lately, and I believe that what running in Vibrams has done for me, more than anything else, is forced me to concentrate on my running form. My form has changed dramatically (shorter strides, higher cadence, different foot-strike, ...), characteristics that I see in elite athletes (who are generally wearing shoes). Had I spent diligent time and effort focussing on my form while still in shoes, I believe that I probably could have seen similar results. At one point (in shoes), I tried to focus more on my running form, but when I got tired, having all of that technology on my feet allowed me to return to my sloppy self and not receive any significant amount of bio-feedback from my body. Good or bad, when I get tired in my Vibrams and let my form slip, I feel the repercussions immediately, and am forced to once again pay more attention to my form. So, for me, I've started to change my view on the Vibrams to that of a tool to help me run smarter. I may go back to "shoes" one day (and I'm pretty sure I'll always wear shoes while trail running), but I want to spend enough time in the VFF, to the point where proper form is more natural and instinctive to me.

Hopefully by the time I return to shoes, there will be more knowledgeable people out there to help me get my feet in the right pair.

Vava said...

Never would I suggest you chuck the Garmin, for I wouldn't do it myself. However, I think that perhaps those of us who are "stats junkies" when it comes to training might benefit from a short period of Garmin-free running as a reward after a milestone race is completed. As I wrote, my intention would be to go for a month or two without the Garmin after I finish my firt marathon, just run three or four times a week with the only goal being having a good time, exploring streets and parks. Heck, even stopping to admire the view for a minute here and there!

Whatever happens, I hope that you continue to run well and enjoy it, because it sure seems that Garmin does not prevent you from doing that. Cheers!

Brian Morrissey said...

Technology is neither good nor bad. It's neutral. Some people are into it, some aren't. I wear a watch but only track my pace in big chunks during training. This works for me. Some people want more tech, others less.

Betsy said...

Maybe the key for you is to try a different challenge in running. Not just a marathon, but rather a trail marathon, for example. Throw a different challenge into the mix. That might increase your joy and decrease your despair over the numbers.

aron said...

haha see i dont really have this problem, i mean yes i never run without my garmin but there are SO many runs where i dont even look at the time or pace AT ALL. i just like to have it to document everything :) but recovery runs? no need to look and i dont... took me a while to get there though. i do think though that trails are where i can REALLY get out there to just run and not think about anything else at all. i know they are hard to find in the middle of nyc but maybe venture out post marathon and see what you can find. thats where i found my renewed spark for the roads :)

Dwayne said...

I love the Garmin simply because it let's me know if I'm winning. Since I'm not blessed with enough talent to challenge for any kind of win versus other runners, my victories are won on the spreadsheet that shows my gradual improvement. And I need the Garmin to fill out that spreadsheet.

pen said...

Great post Lam. I've been struggling with the garmin/no garmin run debate for a while now. And I do just go out for a nice relaxing run without the garmin sometimes.

EZEthan said...

My name is Ethan and I'm an Garmin addict. I couldn't imagine ever running without it, mostly because I'm very statistically oriented and I really like to be able to document and compare my runs... One compromise I occasionally make is that I'll put a piece of masking tape over the Garmin face before I run... that way I still get my HR, pace, distance, route documented but I can also run freely at whatever pace feels comfortable without compulsively checking my time every 30 seconds.

Also I can definitely see where the tech backlash comes from... you take a sport like running which is essentially free and then you milk peoples pocketbooks by introducing 100$ plus shoes, technical fabrics, electronic gizmos... Personally I love most of that stuff but I do feel a twinge resentment when a company tells me I "need" it.

marathonmaiden said...

i don't have a garmin and i hunt for the cheapest shoes / the best bargin! but i also feel the numbers crunch. i hate to think how obsessive i'd be if i had instant feedback to numbers. but i think overall i'm pretty happy with my running because it's subjective to me even though i document my running with a stopwatch.

i agree with others who have suggested looking for a different challenge, like running on trails. sometimes it just takes a new twist on an old favorite to make things fun

The Happy Runner said...

Great post. I just caught up with a bunch of your posts because I've been way behind.

Running for pleasure, just for the fun of it, is so worthwhile. I've been loving that lately.

lindsay said...

" I can point to the exact date on my running log when my Garmin Forerunner 305 arrived at my apartment doorstep because ever since that date, my running has never been the same." this is SO TRUE for me too. i totally used to just have a notebook with date/mileage/time. now i have like 12 spreadsheets :)

for me it's not so much 'technology' bogging down my running - i just need to find that peace/balance with it again!

...i'm avoiding the whole bf/vff running craze too. blah.

DumpRunner Matt said...

I just feel that not every run has relevant data. To me, this adds to the noise. Which is why running sans a garmin is something I advocate for middle of the week, mid-effort runs at least once in a while. (Plus it’s nice not to have to wait to find a satellite.)

You don't have to toss it out.

I also found the Science of the Sport post to be a great read

Spike said...

I oft run with the Garmin but never look at it until the run is complete. Trying to run more on feel. Also, try running backwards. jk.

Julie said...

Hi Lam,
Okay, so this is how I feel about the Garmin.....last year when I started running I was sporting my very cool Timex watch...not:) My watch was just an ordinary wrist watch. I used it and really didn't look at it until midway run or close to the end. I just got my Garmin for Christmas this year and I do like it for a few things:) I love the stop watch, calorie counter and pace speed. It is nice to run with the Garmin sometimes but I have to say that I agree with Spikes comment. Sometimes is just nice to run on how I feel and setting my own pace. It is kind of nice not have to worry about racing against the Garmin and just enjoying the run:) As always, I enjoyed your post! Woo hoo, tomorrow is Friday:) Enjoy your weekend Lam!

X-Country2 said...

I HAVE to have music, but that's the only thing I need.

kevin f forde said...

While I don't use a Garmin I think we as runners have a lovehate relationship w/ running technology.
Sure it's great and sometimes we ponder on how we managed w/out it but for me some of my favourite runs are when I leave the stop watch behind and just run.
We as runners tend to over think the whole process,which broken down to it's base form is woefully simple,place one foot in front of the other....and keep repeating it,running a simple exercise for complicated people as I like to think of it!
As for shoes,yeah the romantic notion of running barefoot is just that a notion,sure it may work in the wide open plains of Africa,the Austrilian outback or the county fields of Ireland,but for the masses in the urban jungle,not so great a notion.
Like technology running shoes have come along way over the years,I've become the poster child for Eastbay online,if they're on sale and the discription says they're good for cushioning,I'm flexing the credit card!!

Matt said...

Have to agree with this one...love the Garmin; I'm such a numbers nerd.

Running and living said...

I love my Garmin and, like you, I believe it helped me get faster. I think we are going from the extreme of loving technology to hating technology. Eventually there will be a middle ground. Hopefully. And yes, we need to take responsibility here, technology is great, but we need to use it responsibly and stay in charge. Same things with shoes, though I tell you, I started using Nike Frees and they are amazing. To have the sole flexibility to really push from your toes makes a huge difference!

Anne said...

I just got a Garmin and I admit I'm pretty much in love.
Still, I see the point of going for the odd run without it...which, is not synonymous with "since we got that tellyphone no one talks in person anymore" :)

Pete said...

Great post Lam - I've also made great gains in my running since my Garmin arrived, and 2.5 years later I still have it with me on every run. Glad you cited the Science of Sport series on the barefoot debate - they do a great job.

One thing I've realized from watching hundreds of running gait videos is that the way the foot interacts with the ground during footstrike is incredibly variable, and I don't even think with all of the shoes out there that there is necessarily a perfect one for every person (and I doubt there ever will be). The best we can do is give our best possible recommendation, and hope that it works out.

Ian @imofo said...

Thanks for your blog; just discovered it and it's a gem. What we don't get from technology is feedback on the conditions, and how our run actually felt. What did our body feel like? Where was that pain, and when did it come on? Technology is great and helps to make massive advances in training through the data we can collect but we can lose sight of other key performance indicators along the way if we're not careful.

J said...

Finally getting around to reading this post. I think you know I dont wear a garmin nor do I feel the need to. I know most of my routes and what time i should be arriving at each pt/mile to then translate that into pace. I buy the cheapest shoes I can get that will still give me good cushioning. I mean getting 300 vs 350 miles isnt that big a deal to me when i save 40 dollars! Running is what you make of it and I just try to enjoy it while going fast at the same time!

 
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