Technology-free running: Lab report

A little over a week ago I decided to take up the challenge posed by an article in the May 2012 Runner’s World entitled “Tech Time-Out”.  The idea is to “leave behind your gadgets and gain a new respect for your efforts.”  As I mentioned in my previous post on this subject (Technology-free running: is that even possible?), I wasn’t convinced.  And I wasn’t convinced that this was necessarily aimed at an older, very recreational runner.  Certainly not the part about how somehow breaking free of the tyranny of technology would help me find my true –faster – pace.

But, who knows, maybe the author knew something I didn’t.  So this past week I have done three runs without music or Garmin.  Granted, I knew the distances of my routes like the back of my hand (which usually has the Garmin on it!).  And I did have my normal watch available, so I knew what time I started and stopped.  However, according to the article, by removing the constraints of the technology I could concentrate on my breathing and my foot strikes.  That was supposed to be a good thing.

What follows constitutes my lab report for this series of experiments in technology-free running.

Hypothesis:

Technology-free running will:

  1. allow you to be more aware of your body’s cues
  2. provide increased mental peace
  3. free you from preconceived notions of how far and fast you can run.

Experimental method:

Carried out 3 runs with no technology; recorded start time and finish time.

Run 1:  3 deg C and misting, 6.5 miles

Run 2:  17 deg C and sunny, 6 miles

Run 3:  8 deg C, sunny, very windy, 12 miles

On each run, the experimenter paid close attention to her breathing and foot strikes.  She looked for mental peace.  She did not try to emulate her usual run/walk pattern, but walked briefly when she needed to blow her nose and have a drink of water.

Results:

  1. Awareness of body cues: Since I do a lot of body sensing à la Chi Running anyway, I didn’t notice much difference.  Tuning in to your body is a big part of Chi Running.
  2. Mental state: I am willing to consider that by not having my music my mind didn’t drift as much.  While that may or may not be a good thing, I missed the joy that comes when a familiar old song bursts forth from my earbuds, bringing a smile and a happy memory to mind.
  3. Speed: My speed was similar to my usual runs for the two 6 mile runs.  My long run was disappointingly slower, by 15-20 seconds per mile.

Conclusion:

Running without a Garmin and music is possible.  You can complete your run and feel good.  It is possibly the case that you can practice clearing your mind better as you run, which may bring increased focus.  That may be useful for young, talented, athletic people who have untapped potential and haven’t tried focusing on mindful running.  However, for an older, non-talented person whose potential has been fully tapped, it is not clear how this improves your running or the experience.

Bottom Line:

I’m going back to my music and my Garmin.  For long runs I really love the music; it truly adds to the experience.  I will try to ensure that I am charge of my Garmin rather than it being in charge of me.  I will work at trying to focus my mind more, having it wander less often.  I’m not entirely sure that this matters for my running, but mindfulness seems to be promoted in every domain these days, so I’m going to give that some effort.  I’ll keep you posted.

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