Is Simple The New Secret To Success? Learn How To Run Free

Updated: Jul 31

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself as a runner is to run free. Run without a watch, without a radio; run without a specific time or mileage goal in mind, just run.

Has the age of technology eroded the simplicities and joy of running? GPS and pace trackers, recovery apps, and digital gait analysis have made running more complex than ever. Yes, there is a time and place for technology assist, but at what cost, and what might we be losing by sinking deeper into the digital age. Companies like Whoop and Gatorade have made it easy to tune in to recovery and nutritional necessities. In the long run, will this benefit us and increase awareness of our bodily needs? Or will we become reliant on these technologies in the future?

Most active people are aware that 7-8 hours is the recommended sleep minimum. Likewise, most runners know that easy mileage should be completed at a conversational pace. Although nutrition and diet are more complex by nature, simpler approaches often prevail when making lifestyle changes. So what benefit and what harm may come by layering on technology to boost performance and find joy in running?

Ditch The Watch And Run By Perceived Effort

This is an area in which a GPS watch can be wildly beneficial or detrimental to progress. When running by pace alone, environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and terrain aren't likely taken into account. Likewise, a runner may fail at an attempt to maintain a specific pace when going uphill or down. During the summer months, when heat can significantly affect performance, it's suggested to adjust the pace by up to 1:30sec to accommodate; however, if a runner is focused on pace alone, they may find it challenging to maintain throughout a training session. So let’s ditch the watch for a week and reconnect with our roots by running by perceived effort, aka run by feel.

Perceived effort is a concept used in endurance sports as well as the medical field. A person's perceived effort rating is entirely subjective, which is why it’s often a better guide to follow in training than sticking to the time on the watch. The scale ranges from 1 (very light) to 10 (maximum intensity).

With approximately 80% of weekly mileage completed at a conversational/ easy pace, the estimated perceived effort should be no greater than 4/10. This will ensure zone 2/ zone 3 training, which is optimal for building a strong base.

When training at this effort, it becomes more manageable to take in your surroundings, chat with running buddies, or catch a glimpse of wildlife passing by. Running can be fun and rewarding. You may find that it becomes more enjoyable, which means you can run longer and build on a solid fitness base.

Leave The Headphones At Home

Music, podcasts, and audiobooks. The secret of getting through long training sessions or a risky external influence?

Runners that constantly rely on auditory accessories during training sessions run the risk of losing touch with their natural rhythm. Not that runners should ditch the headphones altogether, but attempting a couple of runs a week without headphones can be wildly beneficial for overall performance and mental fortitude.

*Most often, music is banned at the elite level because of the competitive advantage it can create.

Think back to that fight song the band used to play before games. It would create feelings of excitement and perhaps a sense of invincibility. Now imagine that same band playing George Michaels “Careless Whisper,” although a great song, it would be hard to imagine coming down the home stretch of a race with the same energy.

Emphasis Sleep And Adequate Hydration For Recovery

In an ideal world, we’d advise a full pre-rehabilitation routine and minimum diet and fueling strategies to support training. However, as amateur runners, we have the luxury of balancing training with our daily, hectic lives. Instead of checking all the boxes at once, let us focus on a simple two: sleep and hydration.

Prioritize sleep by coming up with a basic routine to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleep is when the body is able to recover from training. Adequate sleep will also allow us to more efficiently manage daily tasks creating less stress.

Drink plenty of water. It's easier said than done, but water is essential for all bodily functions. Carry a bottle of water that can be easily refilled throughout the day. For endurance athletes, water should always be a priority. Once an athlete gets the necessary amount, additives to support training can be considered, but the basics must be achieved before we layer on additions.

It's a simple recipe that can yield significant results:

  1. Run be perceived effort

  2. Complete a few training runs a week without headphones

  3. Prioritize sleep

  4. Drink plenty of water