4 Miles in I:D(on't)K(now)

>> Sunday, March 11, 2012

As evidenced on the blog, I go through lots of phases. There are times when I put canned pumpkin in almost all my recipes. Others where I am a devoted yogi and practice several times a week. And I always seem to cycle back to being obsessed with a $50 a week grocery bill goal (OK. Out of necessity, this one HAS to stick now).

Another one of my biggest fitness-related phases? Wearing a watch (or not) while running.

On my 4 mile jog today -- sans watch -- I thought about how, when I wear one, I know my pace (duh!) and -- depending on which one I'm wearing -- distance. So, it's definitely a helpful tool. I can use this information to improve race times and fine-tune my training. And with my Garmin, I can automatically log each workout. Stephen's allows him to run wherever he wants without having to guess how far he's gone.

On the other hand, I often find myself glued to the timer, fretting if I'm not hitting my mark or deliriously happy if I'm exceeding my own expectations. All these numbers tend to take away the magic of running. I end up terribly performance-centric and can't let my mind wander and release stress with each mile.

These days, more than ever, the mental benefits are most important.

I could go on with pros and cons, but where I'm going is: I've been in my current phase for two years now. Long enough that I think it's not a phase at all. With the exception of when I'm running on our treadmill with its own built-in timer, I wear a watch maybe once a week for a key workout (like that super long run, above). That run changes from week to week . . . otherwise, I glance at our oven clock before leaving the house. Then I scope it out when I return home. That's about as technical as I get. There are some days when I don't even do that.

What I'm saying is: I spend the majority of my training focused on perceived exertion. And it's a great way to be if you get stressed by numbers as much as I do. If I run 4 days a week, one of those days is a long run at a slow pace (where I can easily chat), two of those runs are at an "easy" pace (comfortable, but steady), and the other type is harder (out of breath, but strong). It took me a while to learn my own gears.

What's cool is that running without a watch means I get to take in my surroundings.

Like how blue the sky was this afternoon.

How the grass is getting greener as we approach spring.

I am able to better check in with my body and feel tinges and aches before they turn into full-blown injuries.

If you're in a bit of a battle or just getting overly obsessed with what your watch is telling you, consider slipping it off for a few days, weeks, or months. I'm happy I did -- and my race times haven't faltered as a result. (And that's another thing -- I never, ever wear my watch during races anymore. It stressed me out WAY too much. I just listen to times at mile-marks and hope to see a good number on the clock at the end.)

If anything, I'm continuing a steady return to running and nearly hitting my pre-pregnancy race times.

For example, this weekend I ran a 4 mile race at 7:43 pace (30:48 -- actually I ended up running 6 miles total at around 7:45). I haven't been training specifically for a shorter race, but I've been keeping us with some speedwork, mostly by -- you guessed it -- perceived exertion. Last year I ran this same race in 29:15. Definitely faster, but not by terribly much.

The system works, at least in my experience. I feel confident that I'll be back at my old times using this method.

So, today I ran 4 miles in I:D(on't)K(now). My general time-taking technique tells me it was in around 31 minutes. But it doesn't matter. I got outside. Sweated. Stretched. Felt great.

What's your take? Are you attached at the wrist . . . or do you run naked?

And if you're curious about how we created our no-sew nursery curtains, don't miss the tutorial on Writing Chapter Three -- along with a ditty about how Ada is going through an attachment phase. It's lots of fun

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