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10 Reasons to Ditch the Garmin

Up until a couple of years ago, I rarely ran with a watch if I could help it. And when I did wear one, it was usually because I was running for time instead of distance. Which meant that unless I went and mapped out the route later, there wasn’t any way to tell what pace I was running. The year I qualified for Boston, I timed myself on treadmill runs (you can’t really avoid that) and long runs, not because I wanted to keep a specific pace, but because I wanted to have a general idea of how long it took me to run 20 miles. Those long run times were the only running “data” that I had going into the marathon. That year, I managed to take 19.5 minutes off my marathon time – my biggest marathon PR to date.

But then I got a fancy Garmin as a gift, and this girl who once loved running free and un-timed suddenly became a slave to numbers. I thought I would hate all that feedback, and would hate always seeing my pace in front of me or exactly how far I had gone. But the truth is – it was love at first run. I loved not only having data on the run, but also being able to upload it and see what my runs looked like over time. I loved that I could run in any direction, without any sort of plan, and still know how far and fast I had gone that day. In short, I was hooked.


I know many of you feel the same way about these little wrist computers. They’re a great tool to have when you are actively training for something. But they’re also incredibly easy to become addicted to. And even though I just spent the first part of this post talking about how much I love my Garmin, sometimes I think the dependence becomes too much. Like so many others I read about, I became a little obsessed with seeing the numbers on every run. If I got ready to run and found out that my Garmin wasn’t charged, it threw everything off. “But how will I run without knowing how fast I’m going every single step of the way??” It’s a little ridiculous, really.

Now that I’m not actively in training, I’ve decided to ditch the Garmin – for most runs. And instead of feeling panic at the loss of so much “valuable” data, I can tell you that it’s been wonderful. So wonderful, that I think it’s something you should do too.

10 Reasons to Ditch the Garmin (for now)

It’s true – runners love their numbers. Average pace, fastest race times, miles per week, miles that need to be run at X pace in order to hit X time – our life revolves around them. I know breaking the cycle by ditching the Garmin has been discussed before, but here are 10 reasons why I think it can be great to run without the feedback. I promise it won’t kill you.

garmin 405.jpg

1.) Break the addiction

Pure and simple – you won’t break your dependence on the watch if you never let yourself run without it. I know this seems obvious, but you need to give yourself more than one day. Running watch-less multiple days a week will help you break free of your dependence. I promise it may feel weird at first, but that’ll soon pass. After a few days, seeing an uncharged Garmin before you head out the door on your run won’t even phase you.

2.) Stop worrying about mileage

I am one of those runners who, when I get to the end of what was supposed to be a 5 mile loop and see 4.83 miles on my watch instead, will run up and down the street until I get to exactly 5 miles. Why? I could tell you that it’s because those last .17 miles are just so important, but really it’s because I just like seeing the even number on my watch. Plus, who wants to go out and run 4.83 miles? That’s not as good as 5, right? Five full miles will make me a better runner – 4.83 ? Not worth it.

The beauty of it all is – once you ditch the watch you won’t know whether you went exactly 5 miles or not. And you’ll find that you don’t even care, leaving you free to actually finish the run right in front of your house, instead of 3 blocks down the street.

3.) Stop worrying about pace

Even on days when I’m not trying to run for pace, it’s hard to not keep checking the watch to see how I’m doing. If it tells me that I’m running slower than I want to be, there’s a huge part of me that wants to pick up the pace until it’s back where I like it. Even if I manage to not look at the watch during the run, I still know that the time is being recorded, ready for me to pick apart and analyze later. Running without a watch is the only way that I really, truly don’t care how fast or slow I’m going. I just run.

4.) Embrace the freedom

It’s amazing how freeing it can feel to just shed one little piece of running equipment. There are no paces to hit, no exact mileage to run. Just you and the road.

5.) Run simpler

That freedom you get from ditching the watch takes you back to the simplest form of running. How fast or far you run doesn’t matter. Instead, the run is just about being out there, about experiencing the miles, and getting back to the reasons you fell in love with running in the first place.

6.) Zone out on the run

Besides the fact that you never actually get anywhere, one reason people hate running on a treadmill so much is because of the constant feedback. You can’t escape the monitor that tells you how far you’re running, how fast you’re going, how many calories you’ve burned, and (if you just grab onto the handrails) your heart rate. The watch does the exact same thing – it just lets you know all that stuff without being chained to a treadmill. Having so much feedback all the time makes it really hard to zone out. The watch beeps, you have an urge to glance down at the numbers, you check to see how much further you have to go. None of that helps you “get in the zone.” Ditching the watch gives you less to think about, making it easier to spend the run getting lost in your own thoughts.

7.) Your arm stays warmer

Okay so this may not be at the top of your priority list, but if you ditch the watch your forearm is likely to stay much warmer this winter. It’s amazing how great NOT having a huge chunk of metal against your skin or having to lift a layer or two to see the numbers on the watch feels.

garmin layers

8.) Easy runs become easy again

I’m one of those runners who has certain paces in my head that I feel like I should be hitting, and paces I don’t really like to go above even on easy days. But running is weird. We all know that some days a certain pace will feel so effortless while other days we’re struggling to hang on. So when I go out for what is supposed to be an easy run and see that my pace is a lot slower than it feels like I’m running, instead of telling myself that I obviously need the extra rest today so should slow it down, I push through, often trying to speed up a little in the final miles. At the end of the run, I may have hit the arbitrary pace that I feel is acceptable, but I haven’t exactly had a nice, easy, recovery day either.

When there isn’t any feedback to tell me otherwise, I run as slow as my body wants to go. It may seem silly that I can’t do this normally, but it’s all a part of the “Garmin Effect.”

Which brings me to…

9.) Relieve the pressure and run stress-free

Wearing that watch can put an unnecessary amount of pressure on you. Just like I described above, when you know something is always recording how fast you’re moving, it creates pressure to hit certain paces. I know this isn’t completely logical. No one (literally no one) cares how fast I complete that 7 mile run except for me. But when I’m being timed, it’s as though the stakes are higher. That run will be recorded forever. Everyone will know I ran slow today. And I will be annoyed with myself that I couldn’t hold the pace I wanted to.

Getting rid of the watch means removing that pressure – the pressure to hit a certain pace, the stress of getting caught behind a group of walkers or a slower runner who might mess up your average pace for that mile, the stress of getting stuck at a stoplight or stop sign (should I pause my watch? Try to sprint across? My pace is ruined! My watch will say I’m slow when I’m really not!)…all of that will be gone.

10.) Become more in tune with your body

Finally, and most importantly, running watch free means that you can’t rely on a piece of technology to tell you how fast you are running, or should be running. Instead you just run by feel. When you don’t have the numbers to tell you if you’re hitting a recovery pace or a tempo pace, you are forced to look inward. A few weeks of running watch-less can help you become more in tune with your own body. You’ll know an easy pace because you know what it feels like to run it – the rate of your breathing, the length of your stride – these will help you determine how fast you’re running, not the watch.


When marathon training starts up again in January, I’m sure my Garmin and I will be reunited. Like I said, the watch can be an incredibly useful tool. But that doesn’t mean you need to run with it all the time. If you find yourself tied to your Garmin, I encourage you to give it a break even if just for a few weeks. After awhile, you might find that you don’t even really miss it…

Any other great reasons to ditch the watch that I missed?

43 Responses to 10 Reasons to Ditch the Garmin

  1. Hello! I am definitely addicted to my Garmin watch, but totally agree with your reasons to ditch it. I always catch myself staring at the pace, and if it’s not at a certain number I will get upset and/or pick up the pace when I really shouldn’t. Focusing on numbers is not always such a good thing! Those long runs when you just zone out and RUN are the best :)
    Kara´s last post ..Anyone need an NYC tour guide?

  2. Awww, I just got a Garmin and I am seeing the symptoms you cite above already… But I will say it has made me more likely to get up and run, because I’m a gadget nerd and it makes me happy to see all that data!
    Janine @ThePurpleGiraffe´s last post ..What is my burn? a.k.a The Calorie Question

  3. I love this post. I have NEVER worn a watch. I brought one to wear when I ran Boston, but I went to put it on and it was dead. I did a little math along the way to figure out my splits, but running by feel is amazing. I ran even splits, the whole race (minus the first mile of getting through the crowd). I think there is a huge benefit to running by feel. It also helps you listen to your body when you’re running. Full disclosure: I run on the treadmill, a lot, so I do know my pace most of the time, but, I think it is very freeing to just go for a run and not worry about anything. For most of my outdoor runs, I have a distance mapped out and just go run. Thanks for this post! (it makes me feel more okay with not having a garmin, or wanting one for that matter)

  4. I love this! I totally agree with #8. I think this is especially true when your goal is time specific and you know what your pace should be. Even on an easy run, if I’m running “slow” I’ll try to pick up my pace. I love my garmin, but there is definitely something great about putting it away every once in a while!
    Becca´s last post ..Should we care?

  5. I love my Garmin. My parents got me one of the cheaper models that doesn’t display my pace while I am running. It only tells me how far I have run and how long I have been running for. I actually like it much better like that because if I want to know my pace I have to do the math in my head
    Shannon @ Mon Amour´s last post ..On Negativity & Finding Support

  6. i am garmin-obsessed (in any finish photo of a race you can see me stopping the damn thing instead of celebrating my finish). but this upcoming training cycle i am ditching the garmin on easy runs because, looking back at my last training cycle, i was running the easy runs way too fast. no wonder when i hit 50 miles for the week i was so exhausted!
    Kristy@RunTheLongRoad´s last post ..‘Tis The Season

  7. If you live in a city, you won’t have to wait five minutes to have the satelites load up! I’ve wasted so much time just standing around staring at my garmin when I could already be one the road!
    Mileage was a concern of mine, but once I knew my regular routes I could know which one I wanted to do when I wanted to run 4, 5, 6, 7, miles.
    Great post!

  8. I don’t have a Garmin, just a $15 timex from Target, so I am either lucky or unlucky enough not to be addicted. I rarely time my running unless I’m doing a specific speed workout like a tempo run or a track workout or something. I probably SHOULD time my long runs, because I’m running my first marathon in March and I’d like to have some idea of how long it takes me to run 18 miles (though part of me doesn’t want to know…)
    The one thing about a watch, and this is really nerdy so watch out, is that I really do like doing all the math associated with keeping track of your time. During my last half marathon I found myself in kind of a dead stretch where there weren’t many interesting things to look at and I just started doing math in my head based on my times. I calculated my pace per mile, my pace per kilometer, how many more minutes I’d be running if I kept up this pace, etc. It kept my brain busy for a couple miles when my thoughts were starting to go negative.
    Sarah K´s last post ..Best of the Web

  9. Having a Garmin simultaneously increases and decreases my anxiety when I run. Prior to having one, I’d always push for more and more, because I’d be so scared that my method of mapping was inaccurate and I wasn’t meeting my distance goals. Or, I’d be obsessed with sticking to the same route, because I knew *exactly* how far various markers on it were, but that’s very problematic when black ice covers the ground in my area from November-February and sometimes it’s just not possible to run in familiar places, so random trails become necessary. I am someone that thrives on numbers and that can be counterproductive because when/if there are problems with my Garmin it ‘spoils’ the run…almost to the point of it ‘not counting’ if I don’t have a Garmin record, which is ludicrous.

    I’ll never run without my Garmin now…full on addict right here! I do experience feelings of shame when I end up with a slow run and feel compelled to log it in my training week, but I don’t look at my pace while I’m running because I prefer to do things ‘intuitively’ as you say. But I’m not a proper runner when it comes to training at all, as in the whole ‘follow a plan to improve’ thing. I just try to get in a certain number of miles in a week, at varying paces/efforts. I really admire organised runners such as yourself – one of the many reasons your times are so much better than mine!

    ~Jessica~´s last post ..WIAW – Festive Feasting

  10. Great reasons! I am a little too garmin obsessed! I got mine about a month or so after I began running so all I really know is garmin running. Sometimes I wonder if this hurt me in the beginning to learn to run by feel. I think I am catching up now though because even without looking at my garmin I have a pretty good sense of what pace I am going.
    Celia´s last post ..what is causing races to sell out so fast?

  11. Well maybe not for this time of the year, but in the summer…No Tan Lines!!
    Anna´s last post ..Cuckoo for (overnight) Cocoa Oats

  12. ooh I needed to hear all of those reasons! I too, am a little obsessed with my Garmin and pouring over the stats of each run. I can’t really imagine running without it – isn’t that ridiculous? I need to leave it at home one of these days, especially since all of my runs are slow and easy right now, and pace doesn’t and shoudn’t matter anyways!
    Kelly´s last post ..Running in the cold

  13. I am obsessed with my Garmin too! And recently it just flat out died on me. So after having a panic attack, I called Garmin and a new (refurbished) one is on the way. In the meantime, my second panic attack was facing marathon training for possibly TWO WHOLE WEEKS without it! So I borrowed one. Also, we all slow down when we see numbers that we “shouldn’t” see on our watches. I think we can get faster if we ditch it and not let our minds get in the way. (I think I read another post from Emily recently about this). Not that I am taking my own advice though…

  14. I stopped using my Garmin all the time a while ago. It’s so liberating! I think it’s very important to be able to “feel” what a pace is without seeing the numbers on a watch. This is an important skill that takes time to master. I used to check the Garmin every 5 seconds (or at least it felt like it). I think I am much more engaged on runs now. :-)
    Jessica´s last post ..Warrior Dash?

  15. I feel like I’m so weird in that I’m not obsessed with my Garmin — I like it as a tool for certain things (long runs so I don’t have to plan out my route, tempo runs, etc), but I definitely don’t like it for everything!
    Meggie´s last post ..What Else Would Write About Today

  16. nice post … very encouraging and truly insightful tips … thank you.here you can also find some inspiration for start running.

    issty´s last post ..5 Breathing Exercise to relax and relieve stress

  17. I’m Polar obsessed, at least during training. And I’ll be more so when I get heart-rate tested at the start of my next marathon clinic.

    However, I’ve been running for time since my summer burnout. So I have my watch, but just for the clock. It’s been so nice not to have to look down all the time. I figure out my mileage after with gmap-pedometer, but it’s only as accurate as it would be if I was in a car. The few metres up or down don’t concern me. Mostly it’s just to tally it for the year.
    Alanna´s last post ..Three Things Thursday: Spud’s Christmas, Longer Runs, and A Five Fingers Question

  18. I didn’t wear my Garmin last night and thought of this post! I think it is really important to take it off during the off-season.
    Liz´s last post ..The Big News

  19. I think I need a 12-step program to ditch my Garmin.

    Sometimes, though, I do just wear a regular sport watch out on a run and just time myself. Baby steps, right?

  20. In my last 1/2 marathon, I set the display on my Garmin to not show pace/time/distance (just switched it to the interval screen) and swore I would only check my pace at miles 7 and 11. I ended up setting a 13 minute PR. Now I’ve gotten into the habit of running with my Garmin but not paying attention to it. I like to have the data but unless it’s a race I just upload it and forget it.
    Carly D. @ CarlyBananas´s last post ..3TT – Including That Time I Stalked A Guy on A Tempo Run

  21. This post inspired me yesterday to do my usual 3 mile weekday run without the garmin. Oh. My. God. Amazing. The 2 best parts were not worrying how long I had to wait to cross a busy road, and enjoying the whole run. Usually I get myself all worked up that it’s only 3 miles so I should be able to run it super fast. It felt awesome to just run with a steady effort. It felt especially awesome to finish right at my apartment, rather than 3 blocks away where 3 miles actually is. I loved this post!

  22. i am completely addicted to my garmin. if it’s not charged, i don’t run. if i run on the treadmill, i still wear the garmin + footpod so i have a record of the run. if the garmin starts acting wonky, i end the run for fear of having “inaccurate numbers” (AHHHHHH!!!). and, like you, i ALWAYS need to run the extra .17 miles, for fear of having “unrounded numbers” (AHHHHHH!!!!).

    i need to break the addiction! great post!

  23. Yay!!! Thank you for 10 reasons not to spend all of my extra $$. I have been dying for one – thinking it might help me become an actual runner.

  24. I have ditched my Garmin for the past few weeks as well and it has been both liberating and terrifying because I am afraid that when I start wearing it again I will see that I have lost fitness.
    I am happy to hear that you PRed without one in the past. I know it’s possible, but the addicition to numbers is hard to let go of.
    Rebecca´s last post ..Chasing the Cars and the Good Feelings

  25. Great post! I recently forgot my Garmin for a 5K, but ended up running a great time.

  26. […] keeping to the same the pace as best I could, and leaning back a little.  I don’t have a Garmin and may never get one. It didn’t hurt that the only hills in this race were at the beginning.  There was a little […]

  27. As a former high school runner, I learned to run without a Garmin. I got back into running a couple of years ago and was shocked at the Garmin addiction! I agree with all 10 reasons, especially #10. It’s something when you can “feel” your pace – then you know you are really in charge. Thanks for writing this! I have a couple of runner friends that I know I’m going to share it with. May the road rise up to meet you and may the wind always be at your back!

  28. So true. My Garmin died 5 miles into a half due to a charging issue at the hotel, and it ended up being really freeing to just listen to my body during the race. I finished in the same time as usual too! After that I went for a few more runs sans-watch, and I enjoy the freedom. But I still can’t shake wanting the stats too.

  29. I’ve only had a Garmin for about 3 months and I can definitely tell a difference in mindset on my runs. When I run without it I just feel so much more free and natural. And since I’m not really training for anything at the moment, you’ve just inspired me to take off the watch for a little bit. :)
    Liz (Little Bitty Bakes)´s last post ..Easy 3-2-1 Sugar Cookie Dough Dip

  30. I am also obsessed with my Garmin, but I always run with my heart rate strap, and also try to run for effort, not pace. I do check my pace when it beeps at the mile splits, but between those, I keep my Garmin screen on my heart rate, even during races. Also it helps that lately I haven’t been running alone, and my pace is just whatever I need to do to keep up with my friends.
    Maggie´s last post ..Photo Post of the Weekend to Distract You From the Fact that It’s Monday

  31. What a great post! (Visiting from BlogHer!)

    I do a lot of winter treadmill running, because I’m a wimp. And I get obsessed with the monitoring; what important reasons to try not to get so worried about the numbers.

  32. I did my first run without a garmin in a long time. Love it!!

  33. Noooo you can’t take my Garmin awayyyy!
    haha just kidding-but I love that first picture. So true!
    Ali @SeeAliEatSeeAliRun´s last post ..A long time coming

  34. This is one of the worst articles I’ve read. I never comment on these types of things by the way, but my reaction was so negative that I decided to comment. Running without a watch may be a good thing if you’re only exercising for fun (which is ok). But, if you’re training for something, then having a watch and tracking your times is a must. I speed skate, and I’ve spent time observing several Olympians. The elite athletes time everything. This article seems to make the assumption that every athlete is just doing their sport for fun.

    • It’s ok to step away from the Garmin sometimes and just run. Not everything needs to be timed or pace focused. I trained for 5 halfs and two fulls without timing myself and just running for distance. And hopefully the person who is doing their sport is doing it because they like it and have fun with it.

    • Hi Bob, I think you may have skipped over the meaning of what she was saying, she did not say “Ditch the Garmin for Good”, she said “Ditch the Garmin for NOW”. I believe her opinion is one where she is saying that it is okay for her, (and for others if they choose), to have some down time between intense training periods when you can actually run for the pure enjoyment of it. That ditching the Garmin every once in a while will not cause your training or your body to fall apart. I believe even Olympians, swimmers, speed skaters or runners, have times where they choose to leave the Garmin behind, and do what they love to do to give their mind, body and spirit a break. Everyone needs that, and feeding the soul every once in a while can refuel the body when it comes time to get down to the business of training hard again.

    • I know people love their watches, and you might notice that I mention in my post how I think they can be a great tool when you are actively in training. I also mention how I plan to use it again once I begin training in January.

      But the reality is – I am not an elite runner. And I’m pretty sure the majority of my readers aren’t either. I take my running pretty seriously, but I don’t depend on it for my livelihood. Which means that I do not need to record every single run. The point of the post is that there is nothing wrong with taking a break from analyzing all your runs once in awhile. Running un-timed and just for fun when you are between training cycles is a great thing to do to avoid burnout.

      I would also hope, like Jerry said above, that any athlete has fun doing their sport. I run because I love competing and pushing myself, but also because I really just love running. I genuinely have fun doing it. If you want to record your time for every single run than that’s great. But for me, taking a break from the Garmin is not only freeing, but it helps me return to training with renewed motivation and excitement.

  35. I love this post!! One of my main reasons for ditching the garmin is that it takes too long to load and since I’m usually running late (ok always!), I don’t have the extra 3-5 minutes to spare. Especially when I’m meeting running buddies. Also, seeing mileage like 4.83 drives me crazy, I’d rather just assume I’m running nice, round numbers :)
    Megan (The Runner’s Kitchen)´s last post ..A How-To Guide for Holiday Races

  36. […] was day 2 of garmin free running. (check out Lauren’s article here for more reasons why it rocks) I officially […]

  37. Totally agree! Great post!!

  38. One more reason- you can run for the same reason you started (and have not stopped) running in the first place: because you love it. Time, precise distance, speed, elevation and heart rate were never the reasons you decided to step outside and spend time alone willing your body and breath to keep you moving forward.

    Great post. I have a Garmin and I wear it during marathon training during maybe 2 or 3 long runs. I might wear it at my next 5k just to see if I can watch my pace and push to a new PR. Other than that, it stays on my dresser looking all high tech and fancy…
    Tina´s last post ..There’s No Place Like Home (10 reasons to love the at-home workout)

  39. Kate (Embarrassment of Riches)

    What a timely post…the Science section of the NY Times just ran an article about the unreliability of GPS watches (LOVE how the manufacturers say we “expect too much from them”). http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/health/nutrition/gps-watches-may-not-track-runs-accurately.html

    Like my iPod, I never want to be a slave to my Garmin. I don’t want to panic if one of them quits in the middle of a race! Plus, I suspect my pace is usually calculated incorrectly – at any given point, it says I’m running a 7 minute mile (not likely) or an 11-minute one (even less likely).

    The most maddening – and possibly dangerous – frustration I have with my Garmin is that it takes several minutes to locate satellites (in New York City!) At 4:30 in the morning I’d rather not stand around by myself staring at my wrist!
    Kate (Embarrassment of Riches)´s last post ..Christmas lights in Dyker Heights

  40. I’ve run three marathons and several half-marathons, all without my own Garmin. However, I have benefited from my co-runners shouting out stats as they lapped me/I lapped them. I can deal with little else besides a standard timepiece on my wrist, but I appreciate the data. A good friend’s brother is an engineer on the Google+ Watch and that has been fun, if only for its uploading simplicity. Whatever this article says, the reality is if you want to improve your time you need to know your stats. I improved my marathon time by 20 minutes with real information. I would at the very least recommend it a Garmin or Google+ (or friends with!) the last 2 months of training.

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