Technology Overload in Running? by Mike Wortman

Back in December I remember reading a list of “Popular Trends in Exercise and Fitness for 2016,” and at the #1 spot was “Wearable Technology.” At first I was kind of excited because I’m a bit of a numbers junkie; my thesis was a meta-analysis (I got to run statistics on other peoples statistics!!). But then I started to think about it more and more. As much as some of this data, if used correctly, can be helpful to improve: training, running technique, shoe design, etc. I realized it can also have a negative effect on individuals as well.

We’re getting to a point where technology is getting so advanced and so cheap that there is some pretty advanced stuff getting out to the general population. As I talk to more people I’m realizing that many of them are in a bit of a state of data overload. Some of the crazy products out there include things like: wearable lactate analyzers, foot strike analyzers built into the sole of shoes, or running shirts that analyze your gait. Someone will tell me their watch told them their vertical oscillation is 4 inches. Then you ask them if that was good, and you get the response “I don’t know.” Then the next question is what are you going to do with that data/what are you going to do to improve that number, and you again get the response “I don’t know.” It’s really cool to have some of those numbers and look at them, but if you don’t know what those numbers are or what to do with them, then why waste your time? True some numbers are pretty easy to wrap your head around and utilize, but now some of these numbers are getting more abstract. I think part of the problem is that in the era we’re in now people just want the newest best thing out there regardless of what it is.

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I want everyone to realize that I’m not saying technology is bad in running, but we may be a little overwhelmed with it from time to time. Running is such a simple sport, sometimes we just need to embrace that a little more. With the increase in GPS watches and everyone knowing exactly what pace they’re running every step of the run, we start to lose touch with the internal pacing mechanisms runners had to hone into even a decade ago. The issue with relying on GPS is it tends to hinder your ability to race. When all you’re focused on is time and pace you tend to forget to just race and try and beat people. That’s one of the reasons I like to include workouts that work on making moves and covering moves like you do in a race; as well as workouts where I don’t give a pace to run, I just give an effort (i.e. 5k race effort) so that they can still stay in tune with those internal pacing mechanisms.

I want you all to know that this is coming from someone who runs with a GPS watch, has a Strava account, and enjoys indulging in some training numbers. But it’s nice to go “naked” and run without a watch from time to time. The idea of this blog it to realize that sometimes we just need to take a step back and enjoy running for the sake of running.

Like always leave comments or questions in the comments below, and let me know what you think and if you have any topics you want me to talk about in future posts.

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