Your watch is not so smart

Hi Gang!


Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope you all get to spend some time doing something you love with someone you love. If you really can’t manage that today, try to do it tomorrow or the next day. It’s a good habit to get into.


I’ve been thinking a lot about tech and how it influences our running. I came of age in running first without even a watch (I would check the clock in the kitchen, then head out for a run, and if I remembered I’d check it again when I came back), and then throughout most of my running development, with a regular digital watch which just captured the time. It was up to me to figure out effort and guess on distance. It’s funny what they say: you pay attention to what you can measure. I could only “measure” perceived effort, so that is what I paid attention to.


Now of course, most of us wear GPS watches to monitor exact pace and heart rate in real time, and we can see what training others are doing on shared training apps. Our watches tell us whether our run was “productive” or “unproductive” and whether we’re gaining or losing fitness. Our apps track us all the time and measure us constantly against our “best ever” day or week. We can also see what other people are doing and feel inspired or a little badly about ourselves in comparison.


There are definitely some benefits to be had by having this level of knowledge. But I think we have to constantly fight against relying too much on it for feelings of self worth or even for telling us what to do and how hard to push. I often think: “who designed these things? Some nerd who loves data and tech and knows nothing about training”. Seriously. The best coaches of the best athletes in the world are still constantly tinkering and experimenting and coming up with the best formulas. Do we actually think the dude or dudette who programmed our watches knows more than our coaches or even than we know ourselves? If so, we’re giving them way too much power over us. Similarly with the training apps. They are designed to be addictive because they are there for profit. They are not designed to make anyone into a healthy or particularly fast athlete. They feed on social status and insecurity and a desire for approval.


It’s interesting that the more confident and seasoned runners I coach rely noticeably less on their tech than most. They are in tune with their bodies and trust what their sensations are telling them. When they are tired, they take a rest day. They supplement with cross-training when they need to and don’t worry about counting mileage. I coach some very fast/experienced international class middle distance runners who have all trained and competed at a high level. The other day, we were doing a track workout, and they were supposed to do their last 200m “Fast”. They were flying. I asked them what they ran and they all looked at each other. Did anyone get it? No – no one got it. They weren’t fussed. “It felt like 31. Probably 31” they agreed. They’re all in tune enough with their bodies and abilities to not worry too much about the data. (especially at this point in the season when their races are in the summer). They got the effect they needed and were confident in that.


If as a coach I could leave you all with one gift, it would be the gift of self-knowledge and trust in self-appraisal. There is ultimate freedom in that. Get to know yourselves as athletes – you will always always be smarter than your watch or device. I remember seeing a tweet after Kipchoge ran his most recent marathon world record in Berlin. It was two days later. The tweet was: “somewhere, in Iten, Kenya, Eliud Kipchoge’s watch just buzzed at him and said: Unproductive”. It’s funny because it’s true.


Tomorrow we’re back to hills! Pottery Rd. I’ll aim to be there at 6:10/6:15.

The workout: 2-3 x hill followed by 1K tempo. Try to get into the tempo segment with minimal rest (like regroup, cross the street, and go). Repeat up to 3 x’s.

If training for Boston or Toronto, don’t go too hard up, especially in the first sets, but a bit quicker on the downhills. By the final tempo section you’ll be running with a fair bit of downhill stress on your legs. That’s the point. ATB people and ppl training for flat marathons, steady up, easy down (we don’t have to focus too much on downhill stress and it’s playing with fire there bc downhills are muscularly and mechanically stressful!)


Beach ppl meet at Glen Manor and Queen at 6 a.m.


That is all – see you in the am!