As runners, our sport is very, very low tech, all you really need is shorts, shirt, shoes, maybe socks. Those are good too. And we’re ready to go. We don’t need a whole lot, right? But there’s this idea that all of this tech can help us, especially watches. So, I’m Jesse Funk and on today’s episode of Runner’s High, I want to talk to you about GPS watches. Should you buy one should you not buy one, and where’s the best place to get one?
First, let’s get this out of the way, if you haven’t been with me on the channel, you may not know this, and hit that subscribe button to stick around with me. But I am biased against watches. Now, I have a watch, obviously, I’m wearing on my wrist. I do use it. But I am biased against watches. Because I’m a big fan of RPE or rate of perceived exertion. I don’t think that any gadget can replace your ability to say how you feel today.
There are so many gadgets, so many apps, so many people working on solving this problem. So, we have actual metrics to say, I’m this fatigue, I’m this, you know, feeling this good, I need this much sleep, my heart rate is telling me this, all of these things. And that is a noble endeavor.
But, when I talk to these people, when I talk to people in this field on my other show, the Smart Athlete Podcast, you can also find it on this channel. Often we come back to when you look at RPE or rate of perceived exertion, it often matches up so well to any data they can gather.
So, get my bias out of the way first, I have to say, regardless of whether you get a watch or not focus on building your RPE. Being internally motivated, being internally patient, and noticing all the things that you feel, that’s going to be your best guide. We don’t yet have a device to get past that.
So, now that I’ve got my bias out of the way, the question is, should you buy a watch, GPS watch any of that kind of thing for your running? The answer really depends on you. Right? It depends on you, your budget, your goals, all those kind of things. But, in general, I’m going to say, if you don’t like to run pre-run routes, pre-design routes, all those kind of things where you pick out this is exactly how I’m going to run, then definitely a GPS watch is going to be for you.
Because then you can keep track of your mileage. You know exactly, “Hey, this is how far I went.” And that’s one indicator of fatigue load. It is not the perfect indicator, as I’ve talked about with guests on the Smart Athlete Podcast to bring it back up. But it is going to help you figure out, hey, this is how far I’ve gone, this is the pace that I’m running, and try to keep you in the zone as you learn about that rate of perceived exertion that I mentioned.
Now, a GPS watch also can come into play if you are -- you have a route, but you’re not sure about those zones yet. Again, coming back to RPE because it’s so important. If you know, your coach says, “Hey, I want you to run seven minute miles just for a couple of miles in the middle of your long run.” And you don’t yet quite know what that feels like you don’t know what that effort is. And you’re using that coach's guidance, a GPS watch is very, very helpful. Because it’ll tell you, “Hey, here you are.
This is the pace you got to stick on. And you can use it as a check and say, “Hey, this, I’m here.” This is the pace and then stay on that. So, it is a good way to verify the rate of perceived exertion that you’re already using, already trying to pay attention to before you get out of line, go too fast, go too slow, and don’t hit the marks that that coach or training plan that you have is telling you to hit.
Now, if you’re a peerist like me and you’re just feeling a lot of peer pressure to get a GPS watch to try to keep up with the Joneses, don’t worry about it. The nice thing about running is it is an individual sport. It can be a team sport when we talk about cross country, we talk about school things, we talking about clubs, all that kind of stuff. But ultimately, you have to figure out what works for you.
And if you don’t want to have a watch, you don’t want this thing on your wrist, you don’t want a bulky piece of equipment hanging out with you then don’t worry about it. You know, it’s not that big a deal. You don’t have to have it.
I’m of the persuasion that I don’t like to even race with them because I’m so focused on RPE because it helps me figure out where I am in fatigue that day, whether I’m feeling really good, when to push, when to hold back, all those kind of things. And a watch simply can’t tell me those things. It actually is distracting some days.
And this is the downside to GPS watches is that, say you’re overly tired, and you go out for your long run, and you probably should go a bit slower than usual. You shouldn’t run as fast as usual, because you have that fatigue load and you need to recover. Remember, one of the things we use long runs for is recovery, aerobic development and recovery.
But if you’re focused on that pace, and you say, “Gosh, I have to run 8 minute miles, I have to run 9 minute miles. That’s what I always run for my long runs.” Then you’ll be focused on that GPS watch and not focused on, “Hey, I don’t feel like it today.” And allowing your body to say let’s go a little slower, and then recover and feel better for another day. So, it can be a distraction, which is why again, I try to harp on RPE so much. I don’t know how many times you’ve heard it in this video, we’re probably at five or six times at least. But that’s why it’s so important.
Now, as far as buying a GPS watch, where should you get one? Well, I mean, the easy answer is wherever it’s the cheapest, I guess. But if possible and you want to get one of the new models, try to support your local running store. The thing with that is that retail is a very, very difficult game. And running stores provide a service to us in the form of having people that know about the shoes that we need.
When all the shoe manufacturers are changing everywhere, they provide a very great service to us. So, even though this running watch is not necessarily going to be something that they fit you with like they would a shoe, they may be able to give you advice and say, “Hey, you know, this model versus that model,” they probably know those things, as well as just being able to support that store in your community.
Running stores are also often a source of community for runners. They do runs during the week, those kinds of things. It is an invaluable asset to the running community. So, I always try to encourage you, if possible, get something from a local running store. Now, that being said, I know I buy things online too, especially right now, during the Coronavirus, where you may not want to go out or may not be safe to go out.
I’m not going to tell you to go out if you’re not comfortable going out or you’re in a time where it is simply not feasible to do. So. If we’re past that, then you can ignore this or use this as a time capsule. But know that if you can support your local running store, it’s a benefit to them. It’s a benefit to you, it’s a benefit to your running community.
But I also understand and I do the same thing. If you can find something that’s a much better deal online, then often you end up going that way because we only have so many dollars to go around. So, should you buy a GPS watch? Again, that’s going to be up to you.
But if you’re new to learning RPE and you want some kind of feedback where you don’t have a coach, or you’re trying to verify what your coach has said for you, then a GPS watch can be invaluable to your experience in focusing and learning that RPE so that you no longer have to have that watch. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.