In high school I was a mediocre cross country and track and field runner. I was not elite by any means but I would usually finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. I had no idea what my times were for various distances, but I practiced and was involved in other sports as well. This post is not written as a guide for any kind of serious or elite athlete, but rather as an exploration on my relationship with fitness and technology.
In my early twenties my cardio fitness usually consisted of playing ice hockey in adult rec leagues and pick up skates. I would occasionally go for runs, but I would not really time myself or consider the distance I was going. I didn’t really listen to music or anything. I would just throw on some shorts and go. My thinking now is that these runs were pretty short as I didn’t really have a way to track myself. Eventually I stopped when I was chased by dogs that got our of someone’s back yard when the gate was not closed properly. I still went to the gym and played hockey, but I never really gave any thought to going out for a run for awhile.
At some point I began running again. This was about the time that I had an iPod that could hold several albums that I could listen to. I would time myself based on the time I left my house and the time I returned. I would also estimate my distance by driving my running route in my car afterwards.
When I purchased my first smartphone, I started exploring some of the running and fitness apps like Runkeeper. This made a significant difference as I was able get real time updates on my distances and such. I realized that most of my runs were about 5 kilometers and would last close to thirty minutes. With this data, I was able to start training to try to tackle some race distances that I was not comfortable with before moving up to 10 kilometers and eventually a half marathon.
The latest piece of technology that I have found useful is a wrist based fitness tracker and heart rate monitor. As I run, being able to check in on my heart rate has been invaluable. It gives me a picture of my performance and how taxing the run is on my body, which in turn has helped me identify when to push the pace and when to take it easy.
This all being said, there are some drawbacks to the apps and devices I have mentioned. Sometimes heart rate monitors and fitness trackers give you too much information which can become overwhelming and cause you to obsess over minuscule details. With fitness and running apps, you get nice statistics on your runs and workouts, but it can be easy to beat yourself up if you find you are not meeting your typical pace. At the end of the day, these are valuable, but it is also important to take a break from them from time to time.