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Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

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Running Naked: The Effects of Watchless Running

A fellow runner posted this question to me:

Hi, P. Mark!!

What has been your experience with watchless running and racing? I race without a watch but I want to start training without a watch, just enjoying runs and doing true fartlek runs, don’t care wearing a watch during intervals, I have been obsesses with splits for so long that I want to try something different, I have tried fartlek runs without a watch in the past and I raced decent and I loved the freedom of it!! Do you think that the training and racing suffers training watchless always ( even for hard workouts)?


Most runners feel naked without a timing device.  That is why I refer to an untimed run as a Naked Run.

It is not the watch or GPS device that we miss.  What we are missing is data, the opportunity to analyze our running and make informed decisions about our progress and the effectiveness of our workouts.

Well, Cesar, I know exactly what you mean.  We get so caught up in the numbers sometimes that is easy to forget some important things.

  • First, in the attempt to focus on our pace and or form, we sometimes forget the simple joy of getting lost in a run. The act of lacing up your shoes and enjoying the freedom that running brings.  There is joy in movement.  There is joy in enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells on the run.
  • Second, we forget to give ourselves a little latitude.  On hot and humid days, we sometimes forget to adjust our goal times and end up frustrated throughout the run.  Cold and rain can throw us off pace as well.  Too  much focus on a regimented training with exact paces can drive you crazy.

Does a GPS device or a watch do this to us?  No, we do it to ourselves.  The watch is just a tool.  It is not the Garmin’s fault.  The Garmin is innocent.

Say it with me: 

“The loss of the simple joy of running and the negative feelings created by a “bad workout” are the fault of no one or no thing except myself.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let us move on to the other extreme.  What would happen if we all started running naked?

The Effects of Naked Running

The truth is that there is not one answer that fits all.  What is true for all runners is that pace is important.

  • Running too fast can lead to injury; a watch can tell you when to slow down.
  • Running too slow can lead to frustration because you are not making progress as fast as you could.

If you have been watching your pace like a hawk for years, you can probably “run by feel.”  Running by feel simply means that you can tell when you are running at or near the most important benchmarks.  If you are that runner, you do not need a watch to know when you are pressing against the limit of your lactate threshold.  You know when your body has switched from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.  For these experienced runners, the danger of never wearing a timing device is gradually losing your sense of pace.  Without timing periodically, you could venture to far away from your goal paces.

For those runners who are less aware of how these things feel, we need to go by pace and/or heart rate.  For our key workouts of the week, we have to wear our watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS devices.  This includes slow runs!

Striking a Balance

I do not believe that any runner should do all of their runs with a watch or GPS device.  I believe that one or two runs a week should be simple, relaxed runs where you can let go of the pressures of the world AND the pressures of training.  Just go out for a run.

I also believe that the experienced runners still needs to wear the devices at least once or twice a week.  It will allow you to document your runs and show your progress.  You will want this data months or years from now.  Wearing the device periodically can also tell you if your “sense of pace” is a little off.  If you are surprised by how fast or slow you are going, it is time to wear the watch more often for a while.

If you find yourself over-focused on pace and unable to enjoy the run, add some Naked Runs to your week.

Here are some related posts about the importance of pace:

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

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Putting the Stopwatch Away: Running Bliss

I’m putting my stopwatch away.  Not forever, mind you.  I will get it out for track workouts a couple of times each month.  Other than that, I don’t want to know.  I run for fun.  I run because I enjoy running.  Paying attention to the stopwatch is sometimes fun, but more often than not it has been the source of stress and disappointment.  This was not the case a few months ago.  I have trained for two marathon in the last two years and my times at all distances are gradually improving.  All of that was done ignoring the stopwatch and enjoying the run.

stopwatchSo how did I get into this negative cycle of setting my sights too high and having them torn apart by the reality of the stopwatch?  Success.  I have not won anything recently (not in the last 25 years), but my times have steadily gone down.  In large races, I am now “in the hunt” for age-group glory.  I may be 46, but I am kind of fast for a 46 year old.  I have gotten close a few times and started craving more success.  Worse than that, I started craving it faster.  I want it now!  This is NOT a healthy mindset.  It is not the kind of thinking that allows for enjoying a good long run.

I am going back to:  “Enjoy the run and the results will come.”  This is what brought the meager success that I have had recently.  I will still wear my stopwatch at the track and try to get faster, but not on the long runs.  Not on the pace runs and tempo runs.  Not on the hill training.  No.  I will listen to my body.  I will enjoy the freedom that running offers.  I will bask in runner’s high.  I will run with friends and family without pushing too hard.

I still expect to get faster, albeit very gradually.  If the results don’t get drastically better over time, then so be it.  At least I will have enjoyed the ride.

Happy Running!


Enjoying Running: Run the Mile You Are In

garmin 2005I have heard it said from many sources for the last 3 years, “Run the mile you are in.”  When I first started hearing that, it did not mean anything to me.  My first thought was, “I have no choice!  I can’t run a mile that I am not in!”

I first began to understand this mantra better when I my Garmin 205 GPS watch broke.  When I started back into running in 2009, I was wearing a simple $15 stopwatch.  As I got more serious about competing, however, I wanted to watch my pace more carefully.  At that point, I bumped up to a Nike Plus wristband with a footpod sensor.  This was not as accurate as I need, so I bought the Garmin 205.  It could display 3 screens which could display 4 pieces of information each.  The numbers that I would watch closely during training and/or a race included current pace, pace of the current mile, and the average pace for the run.  Data is good, but I gradually became more and more obsessive about maintaining exact paces.  Perhaps this might be okay on a perfectly flat course, with a perfectly consistent life, and perfectly consistent nutrition.  My life, however, is not that perfect.  I live in East Tennessee (ridges!), eat imperfectly, and have a normal imperfect and unpredictable life.  Hence, exact, precise, predictable paces are a not going to happen.

Worse yet is the worry about the past and future miles.  In mile 20 of a marathon, I would be calculating what my average pace would have to be to reach certain goals.  This is not relaxing!  More stress and less focus add up to a slower pace.  Another scenario is the long run.  If you are struggling with a long run, thinking about the miles ahead is not going to help you relax and enjoy the run.

Thankfully, my Garmin 205 suffered a horrible accident and shattered.  I replaced it with a Garmin 110.  The Garmin 110 is just as accurate, but it does not display the current pace and overall pace.  I can only see the total distance run, the time elapsed for the whole run so far, and the pace of the current mile.  My stress level during runs has reduced significantly.  I am much better at enjoying the run when my only info and focus is on the current mile.  I am not trying to be exact, but I am aiming for a pace zone based on my goal for the day and the lay of the land I am running.  If I am in a hilly mile, I will give myself extra time for that mile.  If it is mostly downhill, I will speed it up.

Beyond the pace, I have also learned that this focus on the mile you are in does wonders for my mindset on a long run.  I do not waste time figuring out how much I have left.  That is a drag.  I do not worry about how tired I am and how far there is to go, I only worry about the mile that I am currently running.  This short-term outlook allows me to relax and to not focus on the pain of the coming miles.  I simply finish the mile I am in and then start a new one.

This has helped my overall mindset and does especially well for me in the marathon.  In the final miles, I try not to set goals based on my expectations for the day.  I have learned instead to set my goals on the run.  As I finish mile 21, I am setting my goal for my 22 based on how I feel.  I ask myself, “What is the best mile that I can run without cramping and getting injured?”  I can then check my Garmin periodically to see how I am doing versus how I am feeling.  This is so much more relaxing than the constant ongoing multiple forms of analysis that I used to go through.

Remember this!

Relaxing and enjoying the run leads to better performance.
Focus on running the mile you are in.
Not the miles before. Not the miles after.

Train hard, eat well, & enjoy the run!


The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book.

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99


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