Running without looking at your sports watch could be beneficial

(CNN) — The running shoes, the keys, the watch … I always used to carry the essentials before going out for a run.

When I started running in high school, on the track team, it made sense to carefully time each kilometer and push myself to exceed my personal records. But when I went from running for sport to running for pleasure, I found that tracking my workouts was more harmful than helpful.

Occasional races turned into competition with myself, which often ended in frustration if I couldn’t keep up with my watch.

Some research suggests that ditching your running watch, especially a smartwatch or sports tracker, could improve your training or, at the very least, your stress levels and enjoyment of activity.

It wasn’t until the battery in my watch ran out several years ago that I first experienced the sense of calm that comes from running for sheer pleasure. I never changed the battery in the watch, and experts say that’s not bad for my training goals.

Exercise without data

The idea of ​​running without being connected to an app is gaining traction in the fitness community, as recent studies show that running obsessive tracking of our fitness metrics can lead to a mindset and negative outcomes.

“There is certainly evidence that people are becoming obsessed with it – people who were previously interested in and enjoyed their sport, but are now trading it for data,” says Eoin Whelan, Senior Lecturer in Business Information Systems at the National University of Ireland. Your investigation explores the psychology behind engaging in social media and physical activity monitoring apps.

“People enjoy more collecting data, analyzing it and sharing it with other people,” Whelan explains to CNN, adding that there is a great element of social comparison for those who use physical activity monitoring applications. “People compare themselves to others who are better than them, who run faster or longer. And ultimately we know that it makes them feel bad.”

Whelan also noted that people who rely heavily on smartwatches, training monitors, or fitness apps are more likely to skip their training if their device’s batteries die.

“It’s like we can’t interpret our own body signals. We’re becoming very dependent on technology to do it for us,” says Whelan. “To some of the athletes I coach, you can ask a simple question like ‘how did you sleep last night?’ and they can’t respond if they don’t look at the data. “

But not everything is negative. Whelan’s research also shows that the use of fitness monitors has many benefits. In fact, some runners motivate themselves by comparing themselves to others, or create online communities that help them achieve their goals. So neglecting the data may not be the best thing for everyone.

“We know from other studies that when people use these technologies, they are more motivated to exercise, and they tend to exercise for longer and more intensely, which is good for their physical well-being,” says Whelan, adding that the worrying thing is when the use of physical activity tracking goes from being motivating to obsessive. “We also know that not everyone gets those benefits.”

An extension of screen time

In general, research shows that excess screen time, which could include looking at the smartwatch or fitness apps, has negative impacts on mental health. Excessive smartphone use is also linked to worse Headaches, disturbed sleep patterns and a greater impulsiveness.

According to psychologist Larry Rosen, emeritus professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, information gleaned from smart watches and fitness tracking apps can contribute to “information overload.” Your investigation shows that having a constant flow of information due to technology can cause “stress, anxiety, loss of sleep, depression and more. “

“When we have screens on hand (or on our arms) they are often just extensions of the connected applications that we use on our phones,” Rosen said by email. “The more we allow notifications and alerts to grab our attention, the more stress and anxiety chemicals are released, pushing us on edge and flooding our mental and emotional systems with a message that says, ‘check me out now. ‘”.

Rosen advocates creating screen-free zones, as well as taking “technology breaks”, in which a 15- or 30-hour deadline is set for not checking the phone. The time limit tells your brain that you can check the phone early and reduces “the anxiety of feeling like you have to check it all the time.” Running without a watch can also serve as a short technological break.

“[Estar] No screen doesn’t have to be a long time, “Rosen said.” Short periods are probably better for you. “

The pros ignore the beat

Running without a watch is beneficial for more than just the occasional runner or weekend warrior. Some professionals have also had success leaving their watches at home.

Welsh runner Steve Jones set a world record in the 1984 Chicago Marathon without wearing a watch. Later told reporters He didn’t even know he was at world record pace until he crossed the finish line.

Most recently, Olympic marathoner Trevor Hofbauer made headlines for winning the 2019 Canadian Marathon Championships without a watch. He told CNN that he stopped keeping up with him years ago and only trains based on his effort and his total running time.

“I used to be obsessed with it,” he said. Ditching pace tracking on her watch, as well as turning off other technologies while running, has helped her become more “in tune” with her body, she added.

“I stopped music and really enjoyed listening to nature and being quiet and lonely and waving to other people along the way, “Hofbauer said.

Hofbauer said he may be monitoring his pace again at some point in the future, but for now, running with a free wrist also means having a clear mind.

“If you get too much information in real time, it can get into your head,” Hofbauer said. “For me, the simpler it is, the better.”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.