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Avoiding Technology Overload with Effort-Based Summer Running


I don’t own a smartphone. I don’t have twitter, instagram, or pinterest. I bought myself a camera three years ago and have taken approximately ten pictures per year. The more I use Facebook, the less I like it. I struggle at watching television or movies unless there are other people in the room with me with whom to share the experience.

My techno-media shortcomings leave me with a host of burning questions: How come so many instagram photos present with disconcerting cases of jaundice?  Why don’t more people admit that Modern Family is kind of annoying? And most importantly, what is life like with “apps”?

None of this makes me some kind of Luddite or morally superior Heidi of the mountains (more likely, it underscores the simple fact that I’m socially obtuse). Truthfully, I LOVE the internet, I love my little Timex watch, I love microwaves and stoves and cars and Excel and electricity and airplanes and satellites and warm comfy beds and hot showers on cold days.

Nevertheless, I’m becoming increasingly aware that my individual technology saturation point seems to be on the lower end of the spectrum. I get easily overwhelmed by too much interaction, too much feedback, too much everything, and it often feels as if all certain technologies do is suck up my time, complicate simple stuff, and cause me to overthink things.

Case in point: the Garmin/GPS watch.

Garmins are a lot like Facebook. There are days when I just can’t get enough of all the interesting nitty-gritty details, but most of the time I just want to kick it in the screen and yell WHY ARE YOU OVERSHARING. STOP. YOU ARE CHOKING ME IN A DELUGE OF NAUSEATING INFORMATION I DON’T NEED OR CARE ABOUT BUT MY EYES ARE SHACKLED TO THE SCREEN IN ABJECT HORROR AND I CAN’T LOOK AWAY.

But let’s back up a bit. I was very generously gifted a Garmin a few years ago. I’ve used it a solid number of times — about once a week in my marathon prep and 10K prep speed workouts, and even for my goal 10K race this past spring. It gave me great confidence to be able to hit goal paces in workouts, I’m thankful for the freedom to get speed feedback on a road instead of a track, and I have absolutely no doubt that I’ll use it again for workouts once I approach racing shape.

Now that it’s summer, however, the mere thought of strapping on the Garmin makes me blanch. I know there are people who use a GPS watch for every single run, and I suspect it must take a certain type of mindset to be able to wear one all the time without overreaching. If I had to wear one every day, I know that even on runs when my system is clearly requesting a recovery jog, I’d feel that tiny bit of pressure on my wrist and in my head from knowing  the effort is being recorded. I anticipate that I’d either be dancing around burn out or managing an injury of some kind, and I definitely wouldn’t look forward to my runs as much as I do now.

I want to put in a solid chunk of miles this summer. That’s my only real goal right now. Maybe I’ll start building in some more objective speed in the fall, but for now, I am completely enamored with effort-based workouts. Here are two of my favorites:

3-5 x 10′ hard/5′ easy. I used to do this workout a lot a few summers ago, finally brought it back this week, and was pleased to remember how satisfying it is. I run each 10-minute segment at what feels like 10-15K pace. Is it really 10-15K pace, or is it a lot slower? I’ll never know the truth and I don’t care! Lalalala! All I know is that my lungs are laboring and I’m focused on keeping my turnover light and fast. That’s quality stuff, and I don’t need a GPS watch to corroborate what my queasy stomach and gulping breaths are already telling me.

Hill presses. I pick the hilliest route I can think of, run steady on the flats and downs, and really push, press, work the uphills. It seems to turn the run into a hybrid strength-speed effort and I love that sense of efficiency. (This is not how conventional racing strategy tells you to race hills, but I’m just putzing around in the woods, so who cares?)

So “effort-based” has been the theme of my summer training. I want a monstrous base, a slow, patient build-up, and a few runs that are harder without being taxing enough to add significant stress on top of the mileage.  A Garmin won’t help me accomplish this. These effort-based runs, on the other hand, are what will help me get honest, acclimated, and in tune with being uncomfortable. There’s no data to get bogged down in. There’s no pressure. There’s no information overload. All I have to do is go out, run hard, and forget about the details. It’s exactly the sort of primitive, intrinsic running I need to be doing… for now.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/26/2012 12:24

    I wear a Garmin for every run. And you know why? By uploading the truth, I see what a lazy fat ass I am. You’d think that’d motivate me to do more…but it doesn’t.

    You’re competitive and self motivated, kind of disgustingly so with your whole “HEY GUYS I RANDOMLY RAN 25 MILES AT 7 MINUTE PACE TODAY!” SHIT. So you probably don’t need something else to remind you of shit you’re already aware of.

    Also, Modern Family is fucking annoying. It outlived what charm it had. (Which wasn’t much to begin with.)

    • 07/26/2012 16:42

      Sounds like your mentality is a little unhealthy. May I humbly suggest you sync your Garmin to a smartphone app that replaces your pace and mileage numbers with cheerfully-colored Post-it platitudes?

      When I get twitter I promise to tweet things like the quoted every single day. ❤

      • 07/26/2012 17:55


        also, i posted a picture of my flip phone on twitter today. i’m an anomaly.

  2. 07/26/2012 20:38

    I love unofficial workouts the best, so I will steal both of those. Especially the hill one. Sounds like a good time. And can you and AR start a blog of just banter? I could spy on this all day.

    How’s the big transition working for you? Is it weird for the summer days to not be 18 hours of daylight?

    • 07/28/2012 09:34

      Transition-wise, the living is easy since I’m done working and not in school yet. A month from now, when I’m deep into the day-to-day of a new city and life rhythm, things might be bumpier. I fully expect I’ll have a few private weepy breakdowns over my decision to leave Juneau, but since I’m still “in between” AK and my next thing, I honestly haven’t processed the move yet. That’s how it goes, right?

      As for the more reasonable daylight hours, they rock. It’s wonderful to be at a latitude that gets a proper summer.

  3. 07/26/2012 21:02

    First of all, thank you for finding that stuff on Desi’s profile. It made my life.

    Ok now I’ll actually talk about your blog post: I hear ya! I pretty much only wear a garmin while racing or occasionally a long tempo. It stresses me out too! I don’t need to see that I’m booking a 10:30 pace :). It’s like weighing myself after eating 20 cookies. No thanks.

    However, if I try to do speedwork without a pace measure, I go slower because I am lazy so I do that with a normal watch on a track.

    • 07/28/2012 09:34

      I couldn’t believe the Desi thing. You’re famous!

      I’m almost 100% sure I go slower in effort-based workouts than I would on a track or with a Garmin… but sometimes, to me, it’s worth not knowing.

  4. 07/29/2012 00:12

    I’m like AR — I wear a Garmin on every run, but since my good race at the GC, I have a new strategy: I press the start button then don’t look at it until the run is over when I press the stop button (the beep feature is buggered which helps). I just like to have the pace/HR data for afterwards.

    Totally agree with effort-based training — it’s worked well since the Cerutty & Lydiard eras and it still works.

    • 07/29/2012 20:08

      That was exactly my strategy in rowing (erging)… I knew the data had to be recorded, but I often put the screen down so that I didn’t know “the truth” until the end of the workout. Kind of a nice compromise — you get all the numbers and mostly nix the mind game.

  5. 07/31/2012 09:21

    I gave up my Garmin almost completely a while ago. It didn’t motivate me to try harder and I hated, hated, hated the psychological effect it had on my running/my runs. It became impossible for me to run by feel and it mechanized something that should have been natural. Yes, I like the idea of being able to do speedwork anywhere. But, I also like the idea of feeling good after coming in from a hard run. Especially during this crazy, humid summer, a “hard” run might be a minute per mile slower than usual… and suddenly, my feeling good over a solid run becomes feeling shitty because my Garmin has pointed out to me that I suck.


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