To Garmin or not to Garmin? It is a subject of great debate for many runners. Unfortunately, the great Garmin debate all too frequently forces a false choice. Instead, we should consider whether our GPS device is serving as a tool or an accessory. Only after realizing that my Garmin had become a high-priced wrist ornament did I finally figure out how it could help add clarity to my training.
Shortly after beginning my running journey in the fall of 2012, I excitedly added a Garmin to my Christmas list. Strapping it on for the first time was a thrill. I felt like a real runner. Admittedly, though, I really had no idea how I was supposed to actually use it to help me become a better, faster athlete. And it showed, quite literally.
In race photo after race photo I was captured looking at my wrist. Why? I have no idea; I was gaining no actionable information in the moment. Checking my watch constantly had seemingly become a nervous tick.
After reviewing the umpteenth photo, my newfound habit had become embarrassingly comical. It reminded me of that infamous Presidential debate moment when then-President George H.W. Bush was caught staring at his wrist. It didn’t work out too well for the soon-to-be former President, and I knew that If I didn’t break this habit it wouldn’t be good for me either.
At my beginning stage in the running life cycle, it was quite evident that the collected data was really only insightful after I crossed the finish line. During an event I needed to push myself; gain an understanding of what it meant to run by effort; focus on my form; and finish knowing that I left everything I had on the course. I shouldn’t be afraid to learn from my mistakes, as they would yield the most important lessons. If I started a race at an unsustainable pace and faltered at the end, that was ok. There would be more races- many more, in fact. If I pushed myself to the maximum and surprised myself at what I could accomplish, well, even better.
I became convinced that at my experience level, the Garmin would provide the most value as a post-race consultant. I could evaluate my splits and ascertain whether my on-course perceptions matched reality. These lessons would help my confidence, and allow me to better overcome those mid-race doubts. Having an electronic record of my performance would also serve as a way to more accurately assess my progress over the long-term.
I’m sure that as I grow as a runner, the manner in which I use my Garmin will evolve. For example, when I tackle my first marathon, I envision the Garmin will prove invaluable as I seek to maintain a controlled pace. For the time being, however, my Garmin’s post-race data is serving as an extremely useful tool. After each outing I’m learning more and more about my performance, as well as my growth trajectory.
Of course, this understanding has also brought about an improved photogenic presence, as I no longer resemble a bored president in my race photos!