Why Some Top Runners Prefer to Train Without a GPS Watch

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As a embellished faculty runner at Notre Dame after which on the College of Tennessee, Dylan Jacobs dabbled with a tool that a lot of his teammates thought of indispensable.

However on these uncommon events when Jacobs succumbed to look stress and slapped a GPS watch round his wrist, he virtually instantly remembered why he had resisted the temptation within the first place.

“The runs just felt so much longer,” mentioned Jacobs, 23, a three-time N.C.A.A. champion who just lately turned professional. “That was one of my main problems with it. I wasn’t enjoying myself or looking around. Instead, I was kind of looking at the watch every quarter-mile to see how much longer I had left.”

GPS watches — standard manufacturers are Garmin, Suunto and Coros — come geared up with satellite tv for pc know-how and coronary heart fee screens to supply a buffet of features. Need to know the way far and how briskly you’ve run, or what number of milliliters of sweat you dumped in Central Park final weekend? How about your common stride size? Your cadence? The listing goes on.

For a lot of, GPS watches are a remarkably helpful coaching instrument. However there are different runners, together with world-class runners like Jacobs, who’ve a tough time understanding the fuss. To them, a smorgasbord of information is extra hindrance than assist. And get this: Some runners don’t put on watches in any respect.

“I like to focus more on the feel of everything and not worry too much about the time,” Jacobs mentioned.

Heather MacLean, an Olympic 1,500-meter runner, recalled a interval of her life when she loved the utility of a GPS watch. As a pupil on the College of Massachusetts, she grew to know the worth of sleep — and extra necessary, that she was not getting sufficient of it — whereas working in a neuroscience laboratory. So she started utilizing a Garmin Forerunner to observe her relaxation and regulate her schedule.

Later, as a first-year professional with Group New Steadiness Boston, MacLean tried to be constant about carrying a GPS watch however was hampered by a few points. First, she was at all times forgetting to cost it.

“I would just let it die all the time, and I’m super lazy with that kind of stuff,” she mentioned.

Second, MacLean realized her watch was draining the enjoyable from her runs. It was particularly obvious to her throughout a low-key stretch when she was merely making an attempt to construct health.

“I hated that every run I went on, I felt like I had to check my pace and my distance and whatever else,” she mentioned. “So I just decided that I was going to lay off it for a while and switch to a regular watch.”

She by no means went again. MacLean, 28, who now wears an Armitron Dragonfly that she mentioned she picked up for $10 at Walmart, acknowledged that there have been sure exercises when a GPS watch would come in useful, like when she did a tempo run by herself. (Tempo runs are quicker than straightforward jogs, and regularly run at a prescribed tempo.) However Mark Coogan, her coach, has lengthy prioritized effort over tempo, and MacLean logs her coaching in minutes moderately than in miles.

“I know I’m at the elite level now, so not everything is going to be joyful,” MacLean mentioned. “But when there are things that bring me a lot of joy, I’m going to invest in them. And one of those things is the ability to avoid focusing on my pace during my runs.”

With out the stress of feeling as if she must account for each mile — or, perish the thought, publish her exercises for public inspection on Strava, the exercise-tracking platform — MacLean has additionally gotten higher about listening to her physique. She has no qualms about bailing on an additional exercise if she is feeling beat.

“And I’ll tell Mark that I’m going for a walk instead,” MacLean mentioned. “And he’s like, ‘OK!’”

Sam Prakel was a highschool standout in Versailles, Ohio, when the assistant coach of his cross-country crew launched him to the magic of GPS watches. Prakel invested in a single. It was a mistake from the beginning.

“I just started running too fast on all my runs,” Prakel mentioned, “and it became harder to recover from them because I was so focused on my pace. I learned pretty quickly that it wasn’t good for me.”

Prakel opted as an alternative for a Timex Ironman, which he wore by means of his freshman yr on the College of Oregon. When the band snapped in his sophomore yr, he ordered one other. Prakel, 28, has worn the identical no-frills watch ever since — by means of his time at Oregon, the place he was a five-time all-American, and in more moderen years as a professional miler for Adidas. He has by no means wanted to alter its battery.

The reigning U.S. indoor champion within the males’s 1,500 and three,000 meters, Prakel has a system that works for him, which is a throwback in a way. What did any runners do earlier than the arrival of GPS watches? They estimated. In Prakel’s case, a 65-minute run is roughly equal to 10 miles and a half-hour jog is sweet for 4 miles. He doesn’t should be exact.

“As long as I do the same things every week and keep it consistent, that’s all that matters,” he mentioned, including: “I feel like I’m in a better place when I don’t have all that data to worry about.”

For some runners, aesthetics additionally matter. Luke Houser, a junior on the College of Washington who received an N.C.A.A. championship within the males’s indoor mile final winter, wears a vintage-inspired Casio with a digital show and a gold steel band. His teammates merely check with it as “the gold Casio.”

“I just think it looks cool,” he mentioned. “I’ve never been interested in cadence or heart rate, which I don’t think is ever that accurate anyway. All you need to know is how you feel and the time. That does the job.”

Kieran Lumb, who just lately broke his personal Canadian report within the males’s 3,000 meters, is properly conscious that he’s the kind of one that is prone to the candy lure of information.

On the College of British Columbia, Lumb majored in electrical engineering. Later, whereas working at Washington, he earned a grasp’s diploma in data programs. And for the longest time, nobody who knew him was shocked that he maintained an Excel spreadsheet to catalog his sleep, exercises and one thing he referred to as “rated perceived fatigue.”

“Just trying to do a little bit of data science on myself,” he mentioned.

The twist is that Lumb, 25, who now runs professionally for the athletics attire model On, has not worn a GPS watch since he was a aggressive cross-country skier rising up in Canada. He made the change as a university freshman to a Casio calculator watch that didn’t actually have a correct lap operate for observe exercises.

“So I’d just have to remember all my splits,” he mentioned, “and it was awesome.”

Lumb famous that as a result of many runners are naturally aggressive, they’ll grow to be obsessive about numbers. And the enterprise of constructing it to the highest of the heap as an elite runner may be particularly taxing.

In consequence, Lumb’s coach, Andy Powell, tries to maintain issues so simple as doable. For Lumb, that has meant ditching his Excel folder in favor of Powell’s old-school strategy: weekly exercise sheets that his runners fill out and file in three-ring binders.

“There’s something nice about slowing down and writing it by hand that I find almost endearing,” Lumb mentioned. “It’s taken a while for me to be less neurotic, but it’s liberating.”

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