If you have ever seen a picture of the starting line of a running race and wondered why every single runner had one arm positioned to see his or her watch and the other hand poised for action, wonder no more. They were all waiting to turn on their sports watches as they crossed the starting line.
I was first introduced to the wonderful world of GPS-enabled sports watches in the spring of 2009. My husband read about them and was of the view that his new running program would be greatly enhanced by a useful piece of technology called a Garmin. Knowing nothing about it at all, I decided to get him one for Father’s Day that year. After all, he is a great father and a great husband, and I was glad he was taking this running program seriously. When I got to the running store and asked for one with a heart monitor, I was definitely not prepared for the price! But I took a deep breath and went for it. As I said, he deserved a nice Father’s Day present.
Being a numbers guy, this piece of equipment became his best friend (this was pre-iPad days). I hadn’t started my training yet, and wasn’t paying too much attention, but there was plenty of experimentation with the heart monitor and various options, and much tapping of bezels and things about which I knew nothing. He’d return home from a run and his watch would start beeping at his computer, automatically uploading the new data to his computer through a wireless key. Suddenly loads of data and maps would be available for him to play with on his computer. Cool!
That was May. I started my training program in July and after several weeks was pretty demoralized about how I couldn’t keep going past 3-4 miles. It wasn’t until we were in Ottawa visiting family in October and we went for a run together that I had a big breakthrough, and it was all thanks to the Garmin. It provided a moment of clarity.
My husband kept telling me that I was going too fast too soon. Fast is a relative term; he meant fast relative to what speed either of us could sustain over a long period of time, which I realized. But accepting helpful advice from my husband – or other men – has never been my strong suit. Just hearing him say that would make me want to show him he was wrong. BUT, when he could say, “according to my Garmin we’re going (pretend) 6.0 mph,” I understood what that meant in comparison to the treadmill and knew darn well that I couldn’t keep going that fast for any length of time. In other words, by having an objective (non-human) device give me useful and value-neutral information, I could accept, learn and respond. From then on, when I ran I borrowed my husband’s Garmin. It helped me learn how to pace myself. It helped me learn more about my body and what it could and could not do.
At the Fitness Expo the day before our first half marathon at Disney World (see previous post “It was brutal, we want more”), Garmin was smart enough to have a booth and my husband was kind enough to buy me my own watch. He suggested that we shouldn’t have watches the same colour or we’d never know whose was whose. Smart man. Our two watches spend a lot of time together, waiting in the living room to be taken for a run or recharged. Easy differentiation is important!
When I first got my own Garmin I was intimidated by all the options: the backwards and forwards stroking of the bezel, which button to press when, how to program it. My husband did it all so fast I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. But gradually I realized that I wanted to do some things differently than he did, and that surely I was smart enough to figure this out. Now my watch does exactly what I want it to do, beeping at me at the intervals I want, telling me what pace I’m going at all times, and how many miles (or kms) I have traveled. For those of you who don’t have one of these awesome devices, it can also tell you how many calories you’ve burned, what elevations you’ve climbed and descended, your pace at all times (and heart rate if you’ve got a heart monitor) and pretty well anything else you can imagine. And as a bonus it shows you a map of where’ve you’ve just been.
Not only can you use this excellent device for running and cycling, but it is also fun to take on trips. I took it on a cruise last year so I could use it while running around the promenade deck. But it was fun to wear it on shore excursions, so that when we got home we had exact maps of where we had gone on those excursions. I wore it while we crossed the equator, which looked like this:
I happen to have a Garmin but there are other vendors, such as Nike and Timex. Is there anyone out there with a sports watch who is not happy with their choice? Is anyone pining for additional features? Do you have a favourite feature? It’s hard to imagine life without a GPS-enabled watch!