3 Pro Tips for Running With a Smart Watch

Ever been on a group run and hear an annoying beep every mile? It’s your friend, who treats her smart watch—Garmin, Suunto, or any watch with GPS and pace-estimating capabilities—like a third leg. Or maybe this is you! Take a breather and read on for why over-depending on your watch can be detrimental to your running.

Signs You May Be Over Dependent

1. Do you throw a fit (internal fits included), if you forget your smart watch when starting a run?

“Now I can’t upload this to Strava! Now I won’t know if I beat my time from last week!”

2. Do you check your watch every five minutes or less? Chances are you are checking it like you check Instagram while waiting in line at the grocery store. This is mindless and unnecessary.

Why You Don’t Need It Every Time, All the Time

1. You need to simmer down, relax, and realize that your run will still happen sans GPS proof.

Barring a key interval workout that relies on a smart watch, there are no runs that you can’t enjoy and execute without a watch. This is especially true if you have the option of using a non-smart watch that has a simple stopwatch function.

It would be healthy to forgo the GPS function on your smart watch on your recovery runs, every once in awhile. Prove to yourself that you don’t need excessive data in order to validate your run, hard effort or not.

2. Even if you’re running intervals, you should rely more on feel than on pace. You can, indeed, run without knowing your pace—that’s where “going by feel” comes in.

As reported in The Sport Journal, while pace and effort have a positive correlation, they are not synonymous. “Effort level should not be reduced to a particular velocity or pace. Too many additional variables interact with the velocity-effort relationship.” These additional variables include altitude, temperature, and wind.

Thus, recovery runs are supposed to feel easy. Your pace depends on feel, but you shouldn’t rely on a pace to justify feel. For example, if you’re in a good training phase and feeling strong and recovered, your recovery day could be faster than it was six months ago.

Running coach and writer, David Roche, defines recovery runs as “slower runs at anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of maximum heart rate.” Again, this means recovery runs are not dictated by pace.

3. A final reason to never rely on a piece of electronics for a run: inevitable glitches.

Many GPS systems endure glitches that aren’t corrected until after you upload your run to a site like MovesCount or Strava. And even these training log sites experience problems, like wrong start times, as was experienced by MovesCount users occurred early this year.

Instead of being a slave to your watch, try treating it as a fair-weather friend.

Do you run with a smart watch? How often? Share with us in the comments.

About the Author

Clare Gallagher is an ultrarunner for The North Face and travels extensively for races and philanthropic work. She studied coral ecology at Princeton University where she also ran cross country and track. Clare has taught English in Thailand where she started a non-profit environmental stewardship program, she has scribed in emergency rooms across Denver, and she writes regularly for various running blogs.

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  1. […] and aerobic exercise in general, start with 20 minutes, or 2 miles. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a smart watch. If you prefer to wear one and log your runs, follow these tips to ensure your watch doesn’t […]

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