5 TIPS FOR GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR SPEED+DISTANCE MONITOR
Speed and distance monitors have revolutionized our ability to track training. No more guesstimating. We can now know, in real time, how fast we’re running, how far we run, and myriad other training insights. As with any breakthroughs in running technology, we need a few rules to get the most from them. Here are my five GPS guidelines.
RULE NO. 1: DON’T LOOK
Don’t look at your GPS for the first 10 minutes of your run. GPS users often start their runs too fast because they let the watch set the pace instead of letting their body settle into it. Listen to your body. Let the pace come to you. Don’t force it on yourself early in the run just because the watch says so. And, even when you do take that first peek at your watch, don’t surge to hit your intended pace. Flow into your normal pace over the next mile or two. Trust me. You’ll feel the better for it.
RULE NO. 2: LET THE PACE VARY
If you ran without a watch, your pace would vary across the run. You’d run faster on some sections of the route and slower on others. This is natural. But if you’re constantly checking your GPS, you’ll find yourself worrying more about perfect pacing than flowing through the run (besides making yourself susceptible to Runner’s Elbow–an overuse injury from too much watch-checking). Get comfortable with pace variation and don’t worry so much about your exact speed at any given time during an easy run. Instead, just see what your average pace is after the run.
Pace variation occurs during speed workouts too. It will vary from mile to mile, lap to lap. That’s natural. You’ll know if you fall out of your optimal training range by checking your GPS, but as long as you’re within 5 or so seconds of your goal workout pace, you’re on target.
RULE NO. 3: DON’T QUESTION THE RACE DISTANCE
Each week I receive an email (or two or three) from a runner providing his race time but inevitably stating, “But the course was long because my GPS said it was 26.8 miles, not 26.2 miles.” The GPS estimates the distance you run, but race courses are measured along the shortest distance, using more precise tools. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll run this shortest distance for the entire race, though you should try to run every tangent as best you can. As a result, all your races will likely be “long.” In the end, it’s what the race clock says that stands, not what your GPS says.
RULE NO. 4: DON’T RACE THE GPS
We’re all competitive. I get it. But when it comes to training, faster isn’t always better. Training zones are just that: zones. They have a fast end and a slow end. You need to be within the pace range to get the benefits of the workout. Exceeding the optimal pace range and entering a new training zone isn’t necessarily better. Therefore, don’t try to beat the GPS. Use it to help you stay in the correct zone on workouts. That’s one of the greatest uses of the device.
RULE NO. 5: LEAVE IT AT HOME
The GPS is one of the best advances we’ve seen in monitoring training to date, but let’s not forget that it’s just another training tool. Its role is to help you train better, which ideally means learning to train by your internal GPS more than your external GPS. So if you’re going on your regular run that you’ve done dozens of times, leave your GPS at home. Run by your internal GPS. Knowing when it’s time to leave your watch at home.
Now, get out there and locate some satellites!
INNER GPS TRAINING
Steps for using your GPS to tune your built-in pace calculator:
Step No. 1
Match your effort levels with your GPS readings for three to four weeks of easy runs as well as workouts. Pay attention to how you feel at different paces.
Step No. 2
After completing Step No. 1, start your watch at the beginning of your run or workout, then don’t look at it again until you’re finished. See if you can match your inner GPS with the external GPS.
Step No. 3
Leave your GPS at home on a few runs, knowing that you can now train using your inner GPS–valuable for days when conditions warrant running by effort, not by data. Also valuable on the days you forget to charge your GPS. Read more about training your inner GPS.
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