With technology booming by the day, there is a plethora of tools out there now that can assist us in our day-to-day training. There is the Nike+ training technology, the satellite mapping of a Garmin, Suunto and Timex’s HR Monitors, and the most functional and useful of them all, the generic stopwatch.
While each of these has its own benefits when used on different training days, it would be expensive to own each separately. It would also be crazy to own just one; yet base all of your training off of the type of information that device gives you.
For example, a Garmin is the best friend to a frequent traveler of unfamiliar places. There is nothing better than having a device that will tell you exactly how far you have run when you are in an unfamiliar location. A device like a Garmin allows you to pick a direction (or multiple directions) and simply run for however far your training calls for on that day, without worrying about finding a specific route or marked path/course. This makes the joy of experiencing new places during travel-runs more free and fun.
Now, for those of us who are ultra-competitive and driven, a HR monitor may be your most useful accessory. Everybody needs recovery days in their training and, if you are like me, that normally means you have to hold back from what your body naturally tells you to do … GO, GO FASTER, GO HARDER! This is the worst thing you can do on a recovery day, so if this is you, use a HR monitor to make sure you don’t exceed a certain HR (typically ~140bpm). This way you ensure that you are giving your body the opportunity to recover for your next hard effort.
Lastly, a generic stopwatch, or any other timepiece that has a “chrono” setting, is the most functional of tools. Most workouts are done by running for a certain amount of time at a perceived effort or by covering a certain amount of distance in a certain amount of time. For these, a watch is essential to tracking your starting and ending point or for making sure you are “on pace”. At the very least, every runner should own a watch; if for nothing more than this purpose alone.
Now, let me get to the real point of this article. There is one running tool that is often overlooked, but the best for gauging the majority of your runs … FEEL!!! … And the best part is it’s free! While I touched on this idea in my description of using a watch for running for a certain time at a perceived individual effort, let me further explain now.
In this article, the author speaks about a runner’s “natural pace”. While this is a very real concept of running and will typically accelerate as training and fitness improves, there is also (as with everything) a point of negative return. He fails to mention that running too hard on recovery days will eliminate your body’s ability to recover, which runner’s who become obsessed with speeding up their natural pace tend to do. This practice will actually hinder further fitness progressions and can be known to cause injury.
The best rule to follow on non-quality days (non-hard efforts or workouts) is to run at whatever pace feels comfortable to your body on that day. It’s important to realize that this pace may not always be the same. In days following really tough workouts or in really extreme weather, our bodies will not feel as comfortable running at quite as fast of a pace as it normally may. It is okay (and ENCOURAGED!) to slow down on these days. It is more important to put the time in on your feet and finish the distance at a slower pace than it is to complete the run faster and eliminate your body’s ability to recover. This can hold true for workout days as well, but that is a completely different article and would require much more detail on when to push through and when to back off.
So while I definitely don’t suggest watches, garmins and other training tools become shelf-sitters, I do recommend listening to the most important training tool on the market a little more often … yourself. Trust in what your body is telling you and don’t get caught up pushing for the sake of pushing on a day when your body is telling you it needs to recover. Feel your training and I promise you that it will be the quickest path to improvement.