We press toward the mark. We push our speed. We check off our training miles and delve into miles-per-week, minutes-per-mile and steps-per-minute. We compare previous times and train for another PR.
But sometimes it’s nice to let all of that go. I’ve been running watchless lately. To some runners this is the equivalent of running naked. However, we often preach that running is the “simple sport” to many non-runners. But how much gear do we end up with? From headbands to hats to arm sleeves to compression socks to anti-chafing cream to nutrition belts to fancy shoes — there is a whole collection of accessories to keep up with.
I had been busy with our new office and was falling off track with my training schedule. I forgot to charge my watch one day and realized during the run I was not worrying about pace. I had just enjoyed the run. I tried it again. I found that I was more in tune with my body. I could feel how the lungs are compressing and expanding, how smooth the gait was, and could find that sweet spot where it feels free and effortless without a focus on a certain pace.
Sometimes, we become obsessed with the numbers, the stats, are we improving or not, how we compare to others and our goals that we forget to just enjoy the moment – to enjoy the experience.
I had looked for a race that fell on my birthday this year. Disney happened to be the one, so I signed up. It turned out to be perfect for a non-PR, enjoyable experience, and just a “have-a-good-time” run. I chose the Goofy Challenge which is a half marathon on Saturday followed by a full marathon on Sunday.
There are still pacers and timing tags, but it is a unique experience and made to be fun. There are numerous places to stop and take pictures with characters, music throughout the event and even a place to sneak off and ride a roller coaster if you time it right.
Running at various paces interspersed with intermittent walking reminded me of fartlek training. The name always makes me laugh, but it means “speed play” in Swedish. It blends continuous training with interval training. The idea was developed by Gösta Holmér in 1937 to help his cross country team learn to change pace and improve recovery. As many of you might have done, you can throw several into your training program.
Another more structured way to run with a varied pace is a run-walk method. The idea is you have a planned distance or time for running and one for walking. This is most commonly done with a watch or timer. I often recommend this to patients who are partially injured but still able to be active. I have even known people who have set a PR with a run-walk versus just a run. Jeff Galloway is probably the biggest name with this type of run-walk plan. He was the recommended running coach for Disney, so a quite a few runner-walkers were using his method. You could hear the beepers going off throughout the run cuing runner to switch from running to walking then back again.
In the end, I just played it by feel. Running as it felt good, walking when I wanted and stopping to take pictures. I was even able to stop and ride Expedition Everest. When else can you ride a roller coaster in the middle of a run?
Sometimes it’s just nice to run for fun, and not have to worry about time or pace. You might use a run-walk or fartlek for recovery or training runs or if you are undertrained or injured. You might even use a run-walk as a primary marathon strategy.
Well, it’s getting back into race season so time to don the watch again. But how many of you run watchless?
To being active,
Michael Van Antwerp, DC, CCSP, CSCS, CPed
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