Slave to the Machine

It’s amazing how quickly something can go from being a useful tool to a taskmaster.  Email, smartphones, training watches…

I’ve been using the Garmin for almost two months now, and it is a wonderful piece of equipment.  You can get the greatest utility out of it by programming certain functions or aspects of your workout in advance.  In the beginning, though, some of the programming can be a little trial and error as you figure out what things work well for you and what just doesn’t fit with how you train.  This week’s training had two good examples.

First let me announce that this was a really good, solid training week.  I did need to shift a couple of workouts around, but there were no unannounced day trips across the country to throw the body clock off for two or three days.  I got in all of my planned workouts, and all of them went according to plan.

Two of those workouts were runs that included intervals.  My long run on Sunday started with an easy mile, then incorporated a 1/4 mile acceleration every mile, followed by a 3/4 mile recovery, then repeat 10 times.  The run finished off with a one mile cool down.  This is the kind of workout where the Garmin is a tremendous help.  I programmed the intervals ahead of time, including the heart rate zone I wanted target for each interval.  My little buddy chirped happily at me each time I was supposed to start an interval, and again to start the recovery lap.  It even chirps and buzzes to tell me if I’m running too fast (not very likely) or too slowly (much more likely).  My plan is to start increasing the lengths of these intervals on the long run each week until I’m doing one mile fast, one mile slow.  Supposed to teach the muscles to clear lactic acid, or some such thing.  All I’m sure about is I get to use more buttons on my watch.

The other interval workout was shorter… 5 miles on Wednesday with a one mile warm up, six repeats of 1/4 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow, then a 1 mile cool down.  Again, the Garmin works great for these workouts… as long as you remember what you’ve programmed.  I felt like I still had a bit left after last week’s short intervals, so I modified the workout on the computer to increase the planned pace during the intervals.  Unfortunately, I forgot to upload the new format to the watch, so my little training buddy kept telling me to slow down.

Here’s where the slave to the machine part comes in.  My first thought was, “now I have to run my intervals slower than I could.”  Really?  I have to run more slowly than I can because I forgot to program my watch correctly?  At that point it struck me how easily I can allow myself to be controlled by outside influences, especially if I respect them or assume their superiority.  How often do we let someone tell us that something is beyond our abilities for whatever reason (age, societal propriety, etc)?  The point of my run was to train, not to slavishly obey the watch.  So, I used the insistent little “slow down” beep as an encouragement… I’m going faster than I did last week.  Fast is a relative term, for me, but I was faster than the week before.

A similar thing happened today on the bike.  I had a forty mile ride planned, and I’d just installed an inexpensive aerobar mount for the Garmin so I could see it without twisting my wrist in an awkward direction while tucked down on the bars.  Works like a champ.  Just a few miles into the ride, I remembered what I discovered last week… the display configuration I’d chosen had lots of similar or repeating data that got confusing as the ride progressed and I got more tired.  For example, is that speed my current speed, or the average speed, or the lap speed?  And do I really need to know my current speed and my lap speed?  Not really.  The Garmin’s got an almost unlimited amount of information it can display… the trick is finding out what’s useful to you while you run (or bike, or swim), and how much you need to see all at once.

So, I decided to use the 40 miles to experiment with the watch and figure out exactly what I wanted to see.  I stopped five or six times to change display configurations, look for other display options, etc.  By the end of the ride, I had a setup that shows me exactly what I like to see, on screens that are easy to read, and grouped so it makes sense.  Plus, I got in forty miles of nice riding; a little windy, but still a nice ride.

Overall a good training week.  My half marathon training plan is coming together as I experiment with which workouts fit best onto which days of the week, based on competing work and class/study schedules.  Swimming is taking on a lesser role in my training for the winter, as all of the pools here are outdoors.  Even though they are heated, it’s still 55 degrees in the morning and it cools off in the evenings pretty quickly.  I did a full ladder workout last night, and the dash from the outdoor pool to the locker room after I was done could have counted as another interval run.  It’s a shame I can’t sustain that kind of speed for any measurable distance…

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5 Responses to Slave to the Machine

  1. bgddyjim says:

    Great point – the allow a person to train in ways that were just to intricate several years ago – but they do have that slavish quality…

  2. IowaTriBob says:

    Very well said. When I started I got a Garmin Forerunner 310XT and had a very similar experience. There is so much great data that you can program workouts with so much detail it actually detracts from the purpose of the workout itself. Since then I’ve cleaned up the displays significantly, stopped trying to perform every workout using my watch, and even decided to leave it a home at least once a week to just ensure I can enjoy the actual workout itself.

    • Chasing Fifty says:

      I previously used a Nike sport band… it’s a little like going from a tricycle to a Harley. I like having the data during and after the run, but you’re exactly right… gotta keep it all in perspective and enjoy the workout. Otherwise it’s just work.

  3. elisariva says:

    I can’t believe I don’t use all of those functions! I have to give the interval set up a try soon. Thank you for sharing – good to know I am not the only detail junkie!

    • Chasing Fifty says:

      There is so much detail possible that it’s mind boggling. It is amazing to me that I have more power in my training watch than I had in my first two computers… combined! Tech addictions aside, it’s a great tool, and I really like using it.

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