September 30, 2023
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A month in the past, one of many runners I coach contacted me in a panic. We’ll name him “Adam.” He’s coaching for a sub-three-hour marathon and is, consequently, pouring himself into his coaching.

To this point, all the things in his preparation has been going to plan. He’s wholesome. His exercise instances are stable. He’s hitting total mileage ranges which can be difficult however manageable. Adam has additionally been feeling good for many of his coaching, so he’s proper the place I’d like him to be.

However Adam was panicking over his cadence. Final week, he ran two of his straightforward runs with a mean cadence of 169 steps per minute. Often, his cadence lands at round 170 to 171 steps per minute.

Was Adam proper to panic over his cadence slipping ever so barely? Was this an indication of extreme fatigue? Would this pattern preserve progressing over time?

Having this rapid, ongoing entry to so many metrics about your operating is each a blessing and a curse. On this case, Adam had nothing to fret about, however let’s uncover why.

Drawbacks to Information

Now that runners have such unprecedented entry to strong coaching and bodily information, it may be tempting to pore over each element to find out what could be optimized to make sure nice performances, fewer accidents, and longevity within the sport. However therein lies the danger. People usually are not robots, and our information is usually messy, which may trigger us to interpret non permanent adjustments as everlasting.

Adam’s cadence, for instance, may need been affected by his sleep, total fatigue, shoe alternative, the terrain he was operating on, or various different variables. Let’s additionally contemplate that, at such a low variability from his “regular” cadence, there may have additionally merely been a measurement error. GPS cadence accuracy isn’t one hundred pc correct, anyway.

Alas, his cadence improved the next week, and we stopped being attentive to this metric. However that didn’t cease him from anxiously stressing out over it, probably spiking his cortisol ranges unnecessarily and compromising restoration.

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On this case, entry to information led to perfectionism, which has no place in operating. As a result of we’re not robots, our progress isn’t linear. We expertise setbacks, plateaus, and minor blips in our coaching as our capability to get better varies over time and life stressors come and go.

If we tried to extend our mileage with unwavering linearity, run excellent exercise splits, have the right cadence at each second throughout a run, or damaging cut up each future, we might often fail.

Measuring the efficiency of our our bodies serves as a relentless reminder that our organic techniques don’t behave as neatly as we’d like them to.

Information Makes us Carry out (for Others)

The opposite main downside with the information our smartwatches present is that they usually trigger us to coach performatively. As an alternative of coaching appropriately and strategically, many will prepare in a method that can look spectacular on platforms like Strava.

This occurred to me simply yesterday. As an alternative of operating a straightforward 5 miles, I relied extra on tempo in order that I might have a pleasant spherical quantity to indicate off on Strava. Whereas my physique needed to run 5 miles at a straightforward effort, in about 38:45, I sped up over the past two miles in order that the clock was a fair 38:00 once I completed.

Nearly any runner with a smartwatch has dabbled on this information overload, pouring over charts and graphs to seek out the sign within the Eras Tour-level noise. However finally, that result’s meaningless within the grand scheme of issues.

Apart from the bodily drawback of operating straightforward runs too quick, there’s additionally a psychological part to this downside: it makes us really feel like we’re not coaching nicely. Our runs really feel insufficient, particularly once we fall into the comparability lure on social platforms.

Do Smartwatches Impede Lengthy-Time period Improvement?

There’s additionally one other main downside with relying too closely in your smartwatch: it could hamper your long-term improvement of decoding your physique’s communication alerts.

This performs out in two totally different eventualities. The primary and commonest is pacing capability. GPS watches are actually extra correct than ever at displaying your present operating tempo. That helps us fine-tune our effort throughout exercises, races, and lengthy efforts. The issue is that we now should depend on a watch to fine-tune our paces. It’s changing into an increasing number of tough to intuitively perceive how briskly you’re operating and methods to regulate your tempo in real-time.

RELATED: One Runner Adopted His Watch’s AI Coaching Plans for a Month. Right here’s What Occurred. 

Sure GPS watches additionally present runners with health and restoration scores, alongside particular options on what exercises to run and the way a lot restoration to take. This sounds nice in principle, however over time it will probably erode a runner’s subjective judgment on their fatigue degree and damage threat. As an alternative of listening to their physique, they take heed to their watch—knowledgeable by proprietary algorithms—and, subsequently, are much less capable of be taught what their physique is making an attempt to inform them.

This will likely preserve you more healthy within the short-term, however on the expense of higher realizing your physique over the long-term.

Three Good Ideas for Smartwatches

Regardless of this encroaching overreliance on our GPS gadget’s suggestions, smartwatches can, in fact, be unbelievable coaching instruments. We now have the ability to look into the minute particulars of our physiology and efficiency to raised information our coaching. Whereas misinterpreting or overanalyzing metrics is frequent, we are able to use these instruments extra successfully if we higher perceive them and our our bodies.

  1. Focus extra on goal metrics than subjective metrics. The space, tempo, and total time of your run is extra essential than an algorithmic “rating” that tells you what number of hours are wanted till you’re prepared in your subsequent coaching session. It’s way more tough to get these goal metrics fallacious (and watch know-how means these values are extra correct than ever).
  2. Deal with traits over time slightly than particular moments in time. Coaching isn’t linear, so don’t be upset in case your cadence decreases briefly, your coronary heart fee variability is low someday, or your tempo isn’t “regular” on a random Tuesday. Like Adam’s cadence mentioned earlier, some “issues” usually are not really issues in any respect; they’re merely reflections of the actual fact that you’re a organic system, and variability is all the time going to exist.
  3. Keep in mind that subjective markers are estimates. Issues like restoration scores, coaching readiness, or estimated end instances are merely guides and greatest guesses, slightly than agency realities. Your watch doesn’t know you higher than you know you.

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