This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
Used properly, a great tool
Last week, I was listening to the Science of Running podcast with Steve Magness and Jon Marcus when I heard Marcus drop the line "Let the watch report, not direct".
I’ve wanted to write on this topic for a while but that perfect quote left me needing to write about it.
My view on racing with watches is pretty well established. What about training with watches, though? I’m not opposed to wearing a watch while training, am I?
Of course I’m not. However, I think too many people use their watches in the wrong way. Instead of letting the watch report on their training, far too many runners let it direct their training.
What does that mean? It means you’re checking your mile splits on your easy and long runs and adjusting pace to hit some "ideal" or, worse, checking more frequently than every mile to hit that "ideal". It means you’re checking splits in workouts instead of working by effort. Essentially, it means you’re letting the watch dictate what you’re doing while you’re doing it.
What should you be doing instead? Keep wearing the watch unless you can’t break the habit of checking it while you’re running. It is a great tool for reporting on how things went after the run is over. If you can’t stop looking at it, run watchless for a while to break the habit. Then bring it back out.
On easy and long runs, try to not check your watch at all unless you need to in order to determine when to turn around. Instead, let effort dictate your pace. I’m a big fan of "conversational pace" for easy and long runs. Essentially, if you’re running with someone, you should be able to hold a conversation. You might not be able to recite poetry but you should be able to say more than just a few words without having to stop and catch your breath.
In workouts, run by effort instead of targeting a pace. I drive the runners I coach crazy at times (I probably drive some of them crazy all the time) because, for the most part, I try to avoid giving them target paces for workouts in favor of target efforts (5K effort, 10K effort, half marathon effort, etc.).
In the end, look at your watch less during your runs and let it be a data recorder while you’re running. Then, once you’re done, you can look at the data and see what it’s telling you.