Why You Should Occasionally Run Naked (not literally!)


 The Benefits Of Running Without Technology

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my Garmin. I love having it calculate my distance and pace, and for giving me Frank (my virtual training partner, who I occasionally manipulate when I need to boost my ego).

I wouldn’t give up my Garmin for anything. In fact, I often act as a race pacer where I spend the entire race with my eyes glued to my Garmin and my splits, constantly obsessing over a specific pace.

That said, runners shouldn’t always be so reliant on tech.

Why Runners Shouldn’t (Always) Obsess Over Tech

Not everything can be measured and summarized in a data field.

What your body is telling you is just as important a data point as what your watch is telling you.

When you focus too much on your watch (and what can easily be measured), it can be all too easy to lose touch with what is important, but isn’t as easily measured.

You Disconnect From Your Body

If you are blindly following a pace dictated by your watch, you disconnect from how running feels.

What does your body tell you when you are pushing too hard?

What does your body tell you when you aren’t pushing yourself at all?

Are you on the verge of injury?

If you are mindlessly obeying your watch, chances are you may never know.

The Illusion of Knowledge

Data can give you the illusion that you know more than you do.

My Garmin has dozens of data fields. If I’m honest, I don’t understand most of them, or at least I don’t know how to best utilize them to improve my running.

But if I look at my watch and see my vertical oscillation or my lap cadence is in the green, I’ll likely feel like I’m doing something right, when in fact… well… I don’t really know what a vertical oscillation reading in the green means for me as a runner.

There Is A Natural Variety

What is ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ for you as a runner can vary each day based on a dozen different factors that have nothing to do with running.

Didn’t sleep well or eat well? Distracted by a big work project or stresses at home? These external factors may all impact your running.

Being a slave to a pace that was determined to be your ‘tempo pace’ by you, your Garmin, your coach, or by some table on the internet, while ignoring all those other factors, will be to your detriment in the long run.

And not meeting the pace you think you ‘should do’ can also create a lot of anxiety, when in fact your pace is just fluctuating as a natural part of your life and your training.

It Uses Its Own Energy

Obsessing over your pace (or any other data field), determining if you are or are not meeting your goals, and trying to implement the changes necessary to bring that data field in line with what you think it ‘should be’ requires a fair amount of physical, mental, and psychic energy.

Energy that could be better spent on your running.

It Can Be Limiting

I recently ran the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run. This was the first time I ever ran with personal pacers. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I didn’t give them a particular pace to run. I basically gave them the instructions: run ahead of me and I’ll follow you.

Based on my previous ultras, I expected a pace around 13-minute miles.

During the race, I ran with my pacers and stayed just behind them, trusting them and totally ignoring my own watch. I had no idea what pace we were running, I was just following my rabbits.

In the end, I finished with an average pace under 12-minute miles.

I never would have attempted that pace on my own for a 50 mile run. It was way out of the realm of what I would have ever imagined I could do.

If I’d paced myself, I would have held myself back.

The Solution

I’m not a Luddite saying you should never run with tech or that you should only ever run if you are at one with the universe (although if that’s your thing, more power to you).

But every so often, run naked – run without a watch or other tech.

Run only based on feel.

Listen to your body and pay attention to what you feel on the run.

You can still do different types of workouts when running without a watch, it just requires different kinds of measurements, like the talk test or the walk test:

  • Easy run: You are able to carry on a conversation (or you can easily keep walking to cool down after you finish your run)
  • Medium run: You can get a sentence out at a time (or you appreciate that you can stop at the end of a run, but you aren’t so tired you collapse)
  • Hard runs/track work: you can only give 1-word answers (or you are so tired you want to collapse)

Another alternative (if you can’t go cold turkey) is to use data in different ways during the same run. For example, pay attention to your pace in the first 10k of a marathon to keep your pace in check (so you don’t go out too fast), but then run by feel the rest of the time.

I often schedule ‘naked runs’ for my coaching clients who are prone to injury due to pushing themselves too hard.

In many cases, this ‘pushing themselves too hard’ can be directly tied to trying to run a predetermined pace. When they don’t have a watch telling them what they ‘should be’ doing, they can listen to their bodies and respond accordingly. Sometimes that means running slower, sometimes that means running faster.

Tech is great, but don’t be a slave to it or let it (alone) dictate your performance.


What about you? Have you ever run without technology?




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *