Thursday, September 15, 2011

Guest Posting; Technology & Training

Today I am excited to have my first guest posting by Paul from Steady Pursuit. Paul is an incredible athlete that I have a high level of respect for, if you haven't had the chance to check out his blog you should head there now. He is a very insightful man that has an amazing way of putting his thoughts into well written posts. You should check out his blog Steady Pursuit ASAP!

Here's what Paul has to say about technology and training:

GPS watches were first released circa 2003 and quickly caught on in popularity, changing the way we plan, train, and race.  I was late to adopt the technology and replaced my 30 lap memory Timex with a Garmin 410 forerunner this past January and quickly fell in love.  A few sensors later and I was using it for biking and running.  At first I just used the watch to know how far I had gone and to log data for after the fact review.  It wasn’t long before I was a power user modifying screens, setting up custom interval workouts, setting pace alerts, and taking real time data from the watch to shape my performance.

Problems started to surface the further I got into my training plan and the more I replacing thinking with a glance at my watch.  The combination of a pace centric training plan and having pace readily available on a watch led me to do truly stupid things and relearn some basic running lessons.  I could not be bothered by things like strong winds, or blistering heat and humidity to slow my pace.  I took uphills too fast and slowed more than necessary on flats and downhills.  When I missed target paces I was disappointed even though my effort was greater than similar successful workouts in optimal conditions.  I was not in control of my runs, my watch was my master and Run Less Run Faster was issuing the orders.

Pace is the sexiest metric there is for training and racing.  It tells us how fast our race time will be.  It can also be the most deceptive as any pace centric training plans will admit.  Something every adverse condition run had in common was an elevated heart rate and calorie burn on the order of 10% – 20%.  An equivalent performance in normal conditions would have featured a pace proportionately faster.  After I had over exerted myself in the first half of a run the second half was all punishment and I was unable to recover and finish strong or at all. 

While technologically possible, don’t expect any companies to offer equivalent performance pace readings calculated from wind, temperature, and elevation changes soon.  Doing so would require adding temperature, humidity, and wind sensors causing runners to look like hospital patients.   In adverse conditions having a historical knowledge of where heart rate should be for any portion of a run is the only honest metrics available.  If the forecast is disagreeable it is best to adjust expectations and plan for a slower run before taking the first stride.

Better than any product is experience.  By putting in miles under a variety of conditions we become increasingly familiar with ourselves and are able to accurately gage pace and heart rate as well as the effort left in our heart and legs.  When I glance at my watch these days I confirm what I already know from the sensations my body feels during running.  This leave me thinking, are GPS watches and even training plans like scaffolding that help build our knowledge and understanding of ourselves that can marginalized over time?

Don’t get me wrong, training with GPS is great.  Long gone are the days of planning runs around convenient mile marks, guessing distance using perceived pace and total time, and having to go to the track for intervals.  Training plans and theory are great too.  I have learned a lot about overload, recovery, periodization and the like.  Problem is training plans are generic and everyone is unique.  Plans are designed for the majority of runners but some runners will need to push the limits and deviate to realize their full potential.  The combination of training plans and training with GPS led to me losing a lot of the enjoyment I get from running.  Recently I left behind Run Less Run Faster and started doing my own training that can’t be found in any plan and greatly reduced the role my watch plays in my training and racing.  If running ever begins to feel like a chore for you I suggest you think about doing the same.   

Thanks Paul!                         


  1. Great post! I love my garmin but enjoy just running for feel and to my music somedays.

  2. Great post! I agree with Lauren. I love to not be so structured once in awhile. It is liberating to just run at the pace my body feels like running.

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