Garmin games

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Image by larskflem via Flickr

Earlier this evening I went for a run with one of my Team LUNAChix teammates.  We had a really great run, and it seemed like everything was perfect.  Our pace was nice and relaxed, the conversation was good, the miles flew by, and the temperature was ideal.  At one point we started talking about our Garmins, and the relationships we’ve developed with them.

The conversation forced me to reflect a little bit on how much I depend on my Garmin.  If you follow me on Dailymile, you may have seen that on Sunday, I was having some trouble with it (the Garmin, that is).  I went out that afternoon for my long run, and turned it on to acquire satellites as I usually do.  Except this time, it wouldn’t even go to the “loading satellites” screen, and there was nothing I could do to get it to acquire.  I ended up just using it as a watch, without the mileage tracking.  When I got back home, it basically crashed.  I couldn’t get it to switch from the workout screen, or charge, or do anything.  So I did the only thing I could do: let the battery die, then charge it back up, and cross my fingers.  This has happened before so I knew there was a possibility that it would work, but because I’m really not in a position to afford a new one at this point, I couldn’t help but worry that my Garmin had tracked its last mile.  This worrying got me thinking about what I would do if my Garmin did die.  Would I just bite the bullet and buy a new one, then eat ramen for a few months?  Would I find a cheaper version or go back to the Nike+ system?  Beg Nat to let me use his 305, which just sits on his desk collecting dust?  Or would I (gasp) try to run without it?

I’ve gotten so used to having it all the time that facing the possibility of not having it was really nerve wracking.  While running tonight, I realized how much I rely on it, and how much I take it for granted.  I also realized that it’s not always a helpful tool.  For instance, the other day when it just wouldn’t pick up satellites, it really annoyed me, and the last thing I want to do before going for a run is get all worked up and annoyed.  At times when I’m not in the best mood while on a run, and I look down and realize my pace is slower than I thought, my mood drops even lower.  There are also times when I can feel great on a run, then find out that I was running more slowly or covered less distance than I thought, and instantly feel like crap about it.  And where does all that get me?  Nowhere.  I mean, now that I’ve actually articulated the way I sometimes get with my Garmin, I see how silly it is.  A great run shouldn’t turn into a bad run just because it was slower or shorter than I thought it was–neither one of those things affects the way I felt while I was running.  But that’s the problem: too often, I let the Garmin become a distraction from the way I feel during the run, or a tool to use to beat myself up a little bit.  I mean, I also have great times and a lot of positive experiences with it, so I should be clear about the fact that it’s not all bad.  But it may be time to think a little bit more about how I’m using it.

My running partner said that she had put hers away for the winter and only recently taken it back out and dusted it off.  She said it felt really good to run without it, and I know that other runner friends of mine have gone for runs without their Garmin or a watch, and said that it can be really peaceful and liberating.  The idea of leaving the Garmin behind every now and then and taking time to tune into my body and really get a chance to get into the run completely is really appealing.  I mean, one of the reasons I love running so much is that it gives me a chance to connect to my body physically and emotionally and yet I’m taking that away from myself when I get hung up on my pace and mileage.  So I’m thinking about leaving the Garmin at home once a week, and seeing how that feels.  The idea makes me pretty nervous, but then again, most things that have to do with stepping outside of my comfort zone do.

I’m interested in hearing about your experience with your workout tracking system.  Do you find yourself getting too caught up in the numbers to enjoy the activity, like I do?  Have you tried taking a break from tracking?

Embrace:Me 30-day challenge, day 12: I’d originally planned to just do 5 miles, but felt so good while running tonight that I decided to extend it to 7.  I’d had a somewhat long, rough day and really needed the brain break.  Of course, we’ll see tomorrow if my legs agree that this was a nice thing to do!

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11 comments

  1. I do not have a Garmin, but I have thought about buying it an awful lot. I also don’t have a ton of money that isn’t already dedicated to something else, so it would be a stretch, but it sure sounds like it would be neat!

    Personally, I kinda think the “numbers” might help to give me a little more incentive to run. I can see how it could go too far, where you get obsessed with the numbers, and I also think it may be a bit more challenging because it wouldn’t let me “lie” to myself (for example, I couldn’t say “oh I ran 4.93 miles, that’s close to 5, we’ll call it 5 miles”). I guess ultimately it is a tool, just like all the other things we use on our runs. It won’t necessarily make it easier, and it won’t necessarily make it harder, but used properly it can help.

    1. I managed to buy my Garmin when I made a little (well, a lot, let’s be honest) more money a few years ago. Even though I say I might just bite the bullet and replace it if it dies, I don’t think I could. Those things are expensive! There are some less expensive models that I might consider, though. Have you looked into them at all? Running Warehouse is a good place to check.

      You’re right that it is a tool. I need to keep that in mind, that it is not something that determines whether it was a good run or not, just something that can give me some factual information about it.

      1. It probably would help. I’ve found that mine isn’t great when it comes to giving me an accurate pace while I’m running, but is good with average pace. You can also set it so that you have a “running buddy” that goes at a certain pace, and it will tell you if you get too far ahead or fall behind. Do you know anyone who has one? You should try borrowing it for a run or two.

  2. It’s a new relationship, between G. and I, so I guess I’m no reference for that matter. One thing I really like about it is that the HR monitor gives me a good idea of my effort each and every day. On days which my pace is slower than usual, my heart rate is higher, so I know I might be in need for sleep or a little stress relief cure. I take it like that: numbers are numbers. You can interpret them like you want. The pace says one thing, the HR another.

    Leaving it behind is definitely a good idea,even if it’s just for to give a new spirit to your run.

    1. I didn’t get a HR monitor with mine, but sometimes I wish I had. It would be interesting to get an idea of what my heart rate is like, and really pay attention to it for the reasons you list. It would definitely be nice to have that kind of indication that it’s time to get some rest. I bet it really helps you to train the way your body needs!

  3. you left us hanging!! does it work? 😉 i have the 405, it acts up sometimes (the bezel), so annoying.

    you really made some great points – i let garmin determine my mood sometimes too. i don’t feel like i am garmin dependent. i mean, it’s nice to have on a workout-run when i want to maintain a certain pace, but i can run without it too. i’ve been running my routes for 4 years now, i know where the mile markers are anyway. plus i enter everything into a spreadsheet so i don’t need the garmin training center either.

    1. Haha, I did leave you hanging! I didn’t even realize it until you pointed it out. Great editing on my part…Yes, it works. It was just a hiccup, I guess. Good ol’ Garmin.

      It’s funny because I’ve been running the same routes for years, too, but I’ve kind of gotten lazy about keeping track of the mile markers. I know vaguely where one mile rolls over into the next, but I don’t bother to really pay attention because I know my Garmin will do it for me 😛

  4. When I first started running, I ran using a watch with a simple timer. I started it when I set out, stopped it when I finished and felt accomplished. “Look, I ran 45 minutes today. I ran 60 minutes. I ran 2 hours and 40 minutes.” etc. And after I’d done a couple marathons, I got a Garmin.

    And I am a slave to that thing…

    There are times when I set out without it, and the runs are actually pretty good. But like you said, too often I let it dictate my mood. And for some reason I feel like I need to know the exact mileage. But I NEVER refer back to my Garmin Training Center data. I do look back at Daily Mile to see my cute little graphs of the year though.

    Lately I’ve got my 305 set on a display that just shows me how long I’ve been out and the time of day. Then when I finish I get to see the pace & distance. It’s been a good move so far, because I can indulge the need to see how far/fast I went but not stare at it the whole time.

    1. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that we have the same feelings toward our Garmins 🙂 It’s also funny that you never look back at the Garmin Training Center–I don’t either, but I also do like the graphs from Daily Mile! Cartoony graphs with bright colors always get me hooked. And I like how there’s only so much past information you can access on Daily Mile. I feel like it puts much more emphasis on what you’re doing cumulatively than it does on whether you’re getting faster or going further, etc.

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