I was preparing for my usual morning run when I felt something was missing. I glanced at the broken watch on my bathroom counter before perusing the lily white stripe on my otherwise tanned left wrist, and I wondered whether or not to run without a watch or any gadget device. The watch was as much a part of my gear as shoes, shorts, and cap, especially now in this techno-driven world in which we reside. Without a watch or a Fitbit tracking device to keep tabs of my time seemed so untrendy.
I was so programmed to run with a watch or GPS that the notion of running watch-less had never occurred to me. How would I know how well (or how poorly) I was running? You can’t go from ‘A’ to ‘B’ without knowing how long it took to get there – or can you?
Under a clutter of fridge magnets is where I chart my daily workouts. With the evidence in black and white I noticed my times have improved. Sometimes it would take weeks for my times to improve significantly. Other times I might as well have been stuck in quicksand because the speed wasn’t happening. Always there was my ticking timer to tell the terrific (or terrible) truth.
On this day, however, I realized the sudden demise of my watch could be a positive thing. It just might alleviate a lot of pressure that had been building, allowing me to run more relaxed and in control, subsequently making the entire running experience more enjoyable. This is not to say you should never run without a watch — indeed, I look forward to getting a new one — but I won’t wear it every day.
My planned workout was going to be a fartlek session, which was always done with the aid of a watch. Fartlek is Swedish for ‘speed play.’ For the uninitiated, it means sprinting and jogging for various periods of time with various periods of rest following up. For example, you might sprint almost full out for 60 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of rest before sprinting for 90 seconds followed by 40 seconds of rest. It can be done on road or trail and has been accepted world wide as an important training tool.
I thought to myself, this would be mentally challenging doing a fartlek session watchless. I would run to the next tree or pole and estimate my time of rest between each hard effort. As I got into a rhythm, my running time wasn’t a factor in this workout now. It was just the trail and me running at my best.
After a 10 min warm-up, I worked out for approximately 20 minutes, followed by a 10-minute cool down. My familiarity of the route certainly helped in estimating the sprint and rest times. Without a watch I had to listen more to my body, which meant needing to concentrate on my breathing and overall running effort.
Feeling a sense of exhilaration as the pressures of time disappeared allowed me to relax and just enjoy the moment. Turning the last corner to home I thought of my broken watch and how much I had relied on it to get through my workouts. I didn’t really miss it on that day after all. Now, I have a new training goal —to run without a watch once a week and to rely more on listening to my body instead.
Essentially, what I learned from running watch-less is I can still perform well without knowing exactly how fast or slow I’m running. Next, I might run shoeless, but only on manicured grass and only in good weather conditions. A long sandy beach might be perfect!
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