Running Naked! (Well, Watch-less...)

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Returning to running from injury can be a nerve-wracking adventure, but getting back into it is an exciting time if you frame it right. Each week is a celebration, healthy legs are fully appreciated, and even a hot and humid afternoon jog is a joyful event. This sport is full of new discoveries, and sometimes it takes time away from the sport to remember why it’s so fun in the first place.

My favorite discoveries lately have come with disconnecting from my watch. I remember one of my teammates saying “I don’t feel whole without my watch” and realized I felt similarly. Then a friend who coaches mentioned that many of her athletes get thrown off when they race the Chicago marathon (my goal race for this fall) because the GPS signal gets blocked by the tall buildings.

So I got curious--an important tip we have all gotten from our sports psychologist--and asked:

  • why do I feel this way?

  • what value does this watch provide me?

  • should I be so dependent on this piece of technology?

  • why do I allow it to tell me how much value I have on a given day?

I didn’t like the answers, so I challenged myself to see how long my watch could sit uncharged. That was 4 weeks ago! Here’s what I’ve learned since:

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  • Not using a watch is slightly inconvenient, but totally worth it. I accidentally glanced down at my bare wrist a few times during the first week, but broke that habit pretty quickly. I’m late for everything anyways so it’s more motivation to learn time management!

  • Getting rid of a watch tan is much easier in the spring when you’re planning a wedding and I’m assuming much more difficult at the end of the summer when you’re getting married (wut).

  • Running by feel is tough, but running without pride and stubbornness is tougher. I can’t tell you how many times I forced faster paces at the end of the run so my splits would be even on strava--and now that pressure is gone!

  • Leaving my watch at home encourages me to run with friends, and I get to fully focus on the conversation and our surroundings instead of talking myself out of the split-second judgments which pop up when my effort and pace contrast (especially with this weather).

  • I often end up surprising myself when I finish a run with my fast teammates and hear our pace and distance. It’s refreshing because each run feels more like a celebration and less like a silent competition against a faster/fitter version of myself.

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The toughest sell for going watchless was the logical side of my brain--I have spent the past 8 years learning physiology and poring through research, so I’m naturally drawn to performance data. But watching my fitness trend slowly decline for 8 weeks regardless of how much I cross trained didn’t help me heal physically or mentally. And while I’d like to believe I understand a lot about the measures and variables we focus on as runners, in reality they don’t mean much.

As I finish writing my master’s paper and start my last year of clinical rotations, I’m excited to channel my energy into analyzing data that will benefit other people. And I’m hoping to surprise myself with a sub-2:45 when I cross the finish line in Chicago.