While the many devices and apps for tracking runs have brought new opportunities to coaching, added new motivational dimensions, grown a global running community and enabled anywhere, anytime running events to happen at the press of a button, there are some drawbacks and pitfalls to becoming too device dependent.
What are some of the pitfalls of becoming overly reliant on devices?
1) Not Running with Feel
To improve as a runners it is good to learn to read your effort levels and body signals. Effort and pace are not always directly proportional. When your body is having a great day at the office and conditions are perfect, then you can measure your effort almost purely based on pace. However most days, you are not having a perfect day at the office, conditions are not perfect and the route is not flat. To be able to pace yourself effectively, you need to be able to judge your pace on effort, independent of the numbers your device is throwing at you.
Being overly dependent on your device in races also means you don't develop good racing skills. You could also end up playing it safe (because the watch says you are going to implode) and miss out on those sweet spot days where you just flow, fearless and fast. Being device dependent can make you afraid of taking that risk that looks like a heart implosion on your phone, but a PB on the clock.
When it comes to training, being overly dependent on devices can also result in you going too hard on easy days. Easy days should always be run on effort. The effort must be easy. Duh. What device dependent runners struggle with is that the pace of "easy" varies from day to day depending on your level of fatigue. If you are trying to stick to a fixed pace, you could be running harder than you should. On easy runs I always advise runners to only use the watch to tally up the total time or distance required. Don't even look at the pace. Feel the run.
While most modern devices are fairly accurate, they are never 100% accurate. These inaccuracies can be very misleading and cause frustration and confusion to runners. Use the watch as a guide but not the gospel. In races, always work your splits on the kilometer boards not your watch's k-splits.
3) Danger of Being Anti-social
Zoning out with headphones or running ahead to keep a certain pace, takes away from one of the best parts of running, enjoying great conversation with fellow runners. Don't be a loner geek, save the tunes and lactate threshold for solo workouts.
4) Fuels a Dangerous Obsession
Devices and the apps attached to them, can become an unhealthy addiction, stealing from the joy of running which lies in its simplicity.
So every once in a while, ditch the devices and soak up some simple soul running.
Run free, run with joy!
Professional running coach
Cape Town, South Africa