How connected do we need to be?

The running world was abuzz this week with the news that Garmin is releasing new GPS watches in March, with a couple of models intended for all-day wear. With enhanced features for tracking pace, distance, and heart rate, as well as navigation features and the ability to receive messages, these latest Garmins basically do everything but run for you. Believe me, I’ve fully embraced the technologies available to us as athletes–I use my Garmin frequently, but I wonder where advantage ends and disadvantage begins. How connected and geared-up do we really need to be?

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I worry that some folks out there rely too much on technology to improve fitness, and not enough on their own bodies.  I know people who are at a loss if their battery dies or they forget their watch for a workout. And let’s not even mention the possibility of running without music! Let me ask all of the runners out there: if you wanted to run at 80% of your maximum heart rate, would you know how that feels, or do you need a heart rate monitor to tell you? What if your watch battery dies in your race? Would you be able to maintain your pace without it? How long has it been since you’ve left your phone, iPod, and watch at home and just run for the joy of it?

I’m also a bit concerned about the ability to receive messages and email on your watch. Right now Samsung has a couple of products that track your workouts and allow you to pair your phone–you can text right from your wrist! Apple’s iWatch is just around the corner as well. This is certainly very cool and James Bond-esque, but do these devices take us away from one of the main benefits of exercise: a time just for us? Can’t I just unplug for an hour to run? I used to run with music and I don’t anymore, as I’ve found that I’m more in tune with my surroundings.

If you are addicted to your gear and gadgets, I’d like to encourage you to leave them at home for a change and just run.

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