Running column: Technology bringing end to minimalist running | VailDaily.com

Running column: Technology bringing end to minimalist running

Greg Decent
Daily correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

Technology has improved the rate and delivery of communication and has made the daily activities of life more convenient, but have these luxuries come at the cost of simplicity?

Running is one of the purest and fundamentalist sports in the world. The ability to propel your body forward only requires the proper footwear and appropriate attire. If you choose to wear an old T-shirt, running skirt or tanktop, then you are equipped to run as long as you’re suitably dressed. Gone are the days when I would leave my house solely equipped with a quarter, in case I wandered to far from home and needed to call someone to come pick me up.

Much like the rapidly vanishing pay phone, the notion of minimalist running is also teetering on the edge of extinction.

Technology has allowed runners to train smarter, but have these new gadgets also discouraged the same runners who they were intended to inspire? Besides my shoes, I own a watch with a heart-rate monitor and built-in GPS, a laptop and a cell phone. My running watch sometimes feels like a small computer – it displays how far I run, what pace I am running and my heart rate.

All of this information is extremely vital to my training, and I am able to train smarter because of what my watch is displaying. After I have finished my workout and arrive home, I can download the information from my watch to my laptop and have a graph display the peaks and valleys in my fluctuating heart-rate and speed. I can also show people what route I just ran.

Lastly, I am able to run with my cell phone. Even though I am against running with a cell phone because I feel that you cannot properly focus on your workout when you are expecting a phone call, I still have the ability to stay connected when an important call is imminent. I guess you could say that I’m wired to the 21st century much like the rest of America.

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What has happened to the days of minimalist running? As I look around at the starting line of a race, I notice a lot of watches like mine, and as the gun goes off, I witness these same people pressing the start button on their watches. As the race proceeds and runners approach the first mile marker, I hear many “beep” sounds as these watches can be set to “beep” at mile splits and display your time for that mile.

While this feature is important for someone trying to run a specific pace for a race or training route, it can also discourage runners if they are unable to hold the pace. I have experienced triumph when I run as I had planned and failure when I do not meet my goals. Instead of enjoying the experience, I have been infected with the technology bug. I am constantly looking down at my watch and obsessing over the displays on the screen. Whatever happened to running early in the morning, listening to the birds and hearing the dogs being let out of their houses?

For all of my faithful readers, let’s make a small step backwards in technology. Once a week, we leave our running watches and cell phones at home and just run. Run for the enjoyment of exercise and leave all your expectations and worries at your door step. Do not stress over your time or a phone call, simply run. You will feel that your body has a natural rhythm, that you connect with the world and that listening to your own breathing is the only technology that matters.

Greg Decent writes a weekly running column in the Vail Daily.