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Trusting My Internal Clock

I’ve talked about this before, but Garmins can be a mixed blessing. The feedback from them is great. And sometimes, when I look down and see a number that I like (whether it be pace or miles), it can make me feel on the top of the world. But other times it seems as though the watch’s sole goal is to crush my running confidence. I look down and see a pace that seems too slow for how I feel – and then suddenly, I feel even slower and completely out of shape. Or I see one that seems way too fast to maintain and then freak out. It’s a bit funny how one little watch can have so much impact on how we feel about ourselves and our running.

brideontherun.JPGRunning without a Garmin on Saturday was one thing that made the race so stress-free

In the spirit of being less dependent on my Garmin, last night I tried an experiment. I have been running with the watch more often these days (now that the training hiatus is over, it’s time to start getting my butt kicked by that thing again), but I still don’t want to be obsessing over the numbers on every run. I respect the watch as a helpful training tool, but there’s something to be said about trusting your body to tell you how fast/hard you are running, instead of a little digital computer on your wrist.

So last night, as I stood shivering on the corner in my shorts waiting for my watch to find satellites, I concocted an experimental workout in my head. The goal would be to keep a comfortably fast pace, without actually looking at my watch to make sure that I was doing so. I was just going to run at the pace that my body felt was quick but maintainable. I don’t know about you, but for me this can be a scary thing. Do you ever have those days when you feel like you are pushing hard and yet find out that your pace is actually really slow? I was afraid that after a sick day on Monday, my legs were going to trick me into thinking I was running fast while I was really just slogging along.


But I squashed the doubts. After the satellites had finally loaded (and after getting the most disgusted look from a woman walking by who saw me standing outside in shorts in January – do my shorts disturb you that much?!) I was off. I settled into a pace that felt quick, but still relaxed. I turned on my music and got into the zone. I had no idea how fast I was running, but it felt great.

I kept that up for about 4 miles. At that point I went around a corner and was blasted by an awful headwind. I felt my pace slipping and wasn’t sure I’d be able to hold on for the 1.5 miles home. It was time for Phase 2 of my experiment.

I finally let myself look down at my watch and realized I was running a sub-7:30 pace. Even with the headwind. Seeing that number displayed was the extra motivation I needed to keep pushing through. At that point, I shifted how I looked at the watch. Instead of a device whose data stressed me out, this was something that was making me want to run faster. I wanted to see if I could beat the times it kept displaying for me. My goal became to speed up for the last stretch and finish strong.

It wasn’t my longest run ever, or my fastest run. But when I finally finished in front of my apartment, I was so excited. Because the pace had felt relaxed and almost easy the entire time. Without seeing any numbers beeping on my watch, I had just run a pace that felt great – and that pace was quicker than I had expected.

Not only that, but after getting home and seeing my splits, I was surprised by how consistent they were.

Mile 1 – 7:31

Mile 2 – 6:41 (this number is a little suspicious. I went under a spot where I sometimes lose satellite reception, so I guess the real pace is a little slower)

Mile 3 – 7:32

Mile 4 – 7:31

Mile 5 – 7:15

Mile 5.5 – 3:24 (6:46 pace)

Sometimes when I don’t have that constant feedback staring me in the face, I assume that my splits are going to be all over the place. It’s easy to start thinking that I need my watch to keep myself on track. Who would’ve thought that my body could do something like that on it’s own?

I will still be using my Garmin for Boston training. I want to be able to keep track of my training paces, and having a watch is a good way to ensure that I am running fast on fast days and easy on easy days. But it’s time to start trusting my body more. I want to start doing more of these runs where I let my internal clock set (and keep!) the pace. I think that after so many years of running, it sort of knows what it’s doing.

30 Responses to Trusting My Internal Clock

  1. If you do the running coach certification, you’re going to be great at it! This was the FIRST thing my coach told me I needed to do. I’m terrible at recognizing what is “easy” and what is comfortably difficult when I run because I’m consistently just looking at my watch (which forces me to go faster and then I die and have to walk). Within a week of working with her I’ve found that “easy” pace and haven’t walked on a run once!

  2. I try not to look at numbers too much when I run (I have an ancient Garmin that I rarely use anymore, but I use a pretty basic HR monitor/watch all the time.) This is a good reminder to use it as motivation and not a tool to beat myself up :)

  3. I’m certainly not fast but I’ve pretty much ditched the Garmin in races. I seem to do much better without it. I still use it for everyday runs and do watch the pace but try to go more on feel and just use the Garmin to watch more for distance!
    abbi´s last post ..Consistently Inconsistent

  4. First of all…running that race in a veil was the cutest idea!! It looks like you girls had so much fun and I love that you incorportated running into your engagement celebration :)
    You describe the dilemma of the garmin here really well. I’ve had mine for a year and it feels like I am still figuring out how to use it in a constructive way and not judge every step I take by the number on the screen. When I feel myself slipping back into that pattern I pull out Fitzgerald’s “Run” book and read a chapter or two. It makes so much sense to me and gives so many helpful examples and research-based evidence why it’s good to trust your body.
    Sounds like your training is going really well so far, Lauren! Keep it up!
    Corey´s last post ..Running means having patience

  5. I have started doing that too… trying to race the watch on harder days, instead of being intimidated by the pace it gives me, I think “Okay, lets see how long my legs can hang on!” At least, I try. My easy days it still gets me. I get bummed out if I see a slower pace, even if it’s perfectly within my range for recovery/easy runs. I have the older garmin, but I changed the display on those days to show just distance run, so that I have no other information. Although sometimes I still find that I will settle into what feels like a comfortable/easy pace, and later discover I was still going faster than I probably should have. What do you do in those cases? Force yourself to slow down further? Or just settle into what feels comfortable regardless? I try to go based off my breathing, but I still end up 20 seconds or so faster than “easy pace” (I’m getting my pace ranges from using the McMillan calculator for my goal marathon time :)).

    Anyway, I love reading your posts, and I love that there are other people out there whose brains work just like mine :)

  6. I am in the process of getting back into running. Like you, I am very competitive – mainly with myself.

    I have signed up for a 10 mile race in February and I keep telling myself – I am running for distance – and not for time.

    This morning on my run, I didn’t let myself look at my garmin – I only looked when I heard the mile beeps to see what my pace was. It was such a relaxing run! I need to do that more often.

  7. I generally don’t use my Garmin in races (oddly enough) because I find that I’m constantly looking at the pace and if I’m not doing as great as I think, I end up not enjoying the race at all.
    Lee´s last post ..Weird But Good

  8. Lately I have been feeling a lot of pressure while running and it has been driving me nuts. I hate running without a Garmin because I want to be able to look back at my training but I hate always feeling limited by the clock
    Shannon @ Mon Amour´s last post ..Signed Up

  9. I agree! We need to trust ourselves more and not depend on technology so much. I just got a Garmin for Christmas, from my husband, but we already had one that we “shared” while out on training runs. Last night we both had our watches on and our distance and pace times were WAY off from each other! I think that his was more accurate than mine based on how I felt I was doing.
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman´s last post ..Garmin Quirks and Bruschetta Chicken

  10. That’s great! I need to stop obsessing over numbers too. That little screen can make me have a terrible running experience or a great one.
    Rena @ milehogger.blogspot.com´s last post ..Running without music

  11. Its funny, when I first got my garmin and I was running faster, it was so motivating! I would see how fast I was actually running and want to go faster! Now that I’ve slowed down due to different reasons, it just punches me in the face. I have been working on not looking at it while I run and only using it to track distance. Maybe someday I’ll see those splits I like again.
    Laura´s last post ..The Importance of Balance

  12. I have the same exact watch! I am trying to look down at it less but I too have grown quite addicted. I am running in a marathon in 4 days but maybe after that is done I can attempt some garmin-less runs… I’m sure the freedom would be good for me.
    Tia´s last post ..One.

  13. Yes, yes, yes. Nice splits, Lauren! Obviously I can relate to this post. That Garmin is a blessing and a curse all in one beeping little package. Great job not giving in to the mental game and just running hard.

    I CAN’T WAIT TO SCREAM FOR YOU IN BOSTON! That is, if you don’t blow by me too quickly.
    Ali´s last post ..I Want To Run Faster

  14. Sometimes I think the constant feedback from the Garmin makes my pace even less consistent. As soon as I see a pace that is off from what I expect, I speed up or slow down regardless of what my body feels like. Unfortunately, like you saw in your second mile, sometimes my Garmin’s pace is just bouncing around because of poor satellite reception. I recently used MapMyRun app on my iPhone to track my run because I forgot my Garmin and since I kept my iPhone in my fuel belt, I couldn’t check it constantly. I ended up running the pace I was hoping for most of the run and actually speeding up for the end of the run! Good luck with your training with or without Garmin!

  15. Great post! I am obsessed with my garmin and hate when I feel fast but look down and my numbers are slow! As you said the thing is a blessing and a curse. I feel naked running without it but I think I should do it more often!

  16. I’ve often had the same thoughts concerning my garmin. Last week I ran a race and gave my garmin lots of attention. My splits were a second apart. This week I ran the same basic course as a training run and paid no attention to it. The pace changed of course but the splits were still within seconds of each other. Not sure what it means, but it makes me wonder if sometimes I hold back on a day I am feeling great because of what I see on the Garmin.

  17. totally know what you mean! It was too dark out this morning to check my watch during my mile repeats this morning (and I’m too lazy to hit the light button), so I just went by feel and was pretty pleased with them! It was nice to not stress out about pace mid-way through the repeats too. Going to try this more often, for sure. I think you’re on to something!
    Kelly´s last post ..Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

  18. I definitely try to avoid looking at my garmin from time to time when I’m running and just go by feel! When I first started running with one of my running friends we did the same 6 mile route twice a week and EVERY TIME we’d be bang on the same pace and she’s never ran with a garmin in her life. It was crazy!
    Amber from Girl with the Red Hair´s last post ..Our Invitations

  19. I wear my Garmin for all my training runs, but I’ve been looking at it less and less lately, and I’ve been really surprised at how consistent my pacing is – and I usually find that I’m running faster than I thought I was, which is always a nice surprise! And it’s definitely more enjoyable to not be obsessively checking my watch every 1/4 mile.

  20. Great post! Really sums of my love/hate relationship with my Garmin. Are you currently using the training plan on your training page for Boston?
    There are SO many plans and I like the one you posted.
    Jenn´s last post ..Upcoming Races

  21. I love your experiment. Since pace is dependent on so many factors (temperature, humidity, wind, etc), a more accurate measure should be by effort!

    Keep it up! I am just amazed at your practice run pace :) (your mile 2 was way faster than my tempo run!)

    Happy Running and I need to rub off some marathon magic from you – wish me luck on Sunday – still going for the 3:35 :)

  22. I can never look at the Garmin during my runs – it’ll just stress me out! Instead I go by feel – if I could push it, it’s a go and when I feel tired or out of whack, I pull back. Guess what…my run paces have been pretty consistent with how I feel.

  23. I just got a garmin for christmas so I haven’t had it long enough to see how I’ll be with it. I’m not super competitive so I know I won’t obsess over numbers but hopefully it will help me to push myself!
    Sarah´s last post ..Last Day of Vacay?!

  24. I try to remind myself that I need to trust my body before anything else – harming, goals or what anyone else is doing (especially that). It’s not easy, but your body knows what it needs best of all.

    I just found your blog through HLB. I’m not too far from Providence – just over the MA line! Neat to find someone local. Congratulations on the engagement! I had so much fun planning my wedding.
    Sarah @ The Strength of Faith´s last post ..Done.

  25. Garmin can mess with my head when I run. rather than focus on pace, I honestly focus more on heart rate. It can really make me feel OK if I am struggling and then I look down and my heart rate is OK. I know I am not working too hard and ought to feel better. And if I am really pushing and see heart rate way high, I think, ok, better dial it back to save some for the last part of the workout. But pacing? not so much for me. And the virtual runner guy I don’t trust anymore.

  26. I definitely need to do workouts like this! Whenever I tempo or do other speedwork, my eyes are glued to my watch to see what my pace is. I’ve never been good at running by feel, and I usually end up running faster than the pace I’ve told myself I need to run. Somewhere along the way I convinced that unless it feels really really hard, then it’s not speedwork. Not true, especially for marathon training! Learning to run “comfortably hard” is what should be appropriate because that’s what I anticipate the marathon being.

    I think it’s easier mentally to run when you feel comfortable (even if it’s a fast comfortable) because you’re not spending all that energy thinking about it. Having someone be “the keeper of the watch” would definitely be a good way to do this, as they’re in charge of the pace. Time to recruit some people who can do 7:15′s in their sleep…
    Susan´s last post ..2012, ready or not

  27. I love this. The pace I can run now is soooo discouraging that it would be wise for me to do a Garmin-free run or two each week. So glad your experiments worked out, speedy! :)
    Jen´s last post ..In need of sleep

  28. Isn’t it so funny how knowing your pace can totally change a run, for better or worse? For me, it’s usually best not to know until after, but it can be encouraging like it was for you! The worst is when it brings you down and makes you start running worse — if only Garmin could add a function for mood so it could hide the numbers if your mindset wasn’t matching the Garmin….
    Meggie´s last post ..What’s Up Wednesday

  29. What do you suggest for feet pain? Custom Orthotics?

  30. Do you do any “easy/recovery” runs? Those are my mental break runs. I have a route I know the distance of so I don’t even look at my watch at all. Even if the first few miles are slow and crappy (I also have a decent uphill for the first mile), my body figures itself out after awhile and I’m generally pleased to see my final pace.
    Andrea´s last post ..TBT12 Day 17 – Friday is “the weekend”, right?

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