Awhile back a friend asked me how I came to love running. I really did not have a straightforward answer because my love for running has slowing evolved. It was not instantaneous, certain, or something that had always been there. Having been very overweight my entire life I really dreaded any running I had to do in PE class or for track (in my case field) or basketball practice. Running was hard, it hurt my body and lungs and I hated being last. I was the kid who faked being sick to avoid running in PE but in high school I was the overweight teammate who tried with all her might to simply not be last during suicides. However, I realized early in my fitness journey that goal setting was a great way to get me motivated when it came to anything really.
I remember once telling the personal trainer I had hired that one of my goals was, and I quote, “To learn to love running.” He chucked a bit, and not because I was 250 pounds at the time but because he said it just was not something people learned to love. He was wrong… or was he? When I was asked this question by a friend, she asked for the short and condensed version, but my relationship with running is much too complicated to answer in a short and condensed way. As I answered her, I realized that I could not decide whether I love running or instead I just love challenging myself.
Some of the phrases I included in my response to the question, “How did you come to love running?” were:
- “I like the competitiveness I feel when running with others.”
- “I like running as it pertains to obstacle racing because the obstacles allowed me to take breaks from the running.”
- “I like setting goals and seeing how much faster and farther I can go over time.”
Let’s focus on that last explanation, specifically the part where I said I liked setting goals. I went on to tell her that I like to see the improvement I make overtime and that have not really been able to figure out if it is the actual running, I like or the sense of accomplishment that I gain from reaching my running related goals. There were many other reasons I mentioned regarding how I came to love running and honestly my reasons have changed and continue to change and even more honestly, I don’t always love it.
I am sure that many people wonder how they can come to love running or maybe change their relationship/behavior related to running. One thing that can help with changing behavior and emotions related to running is goal setting (and in the process you will surely see performance related changes as well).
Most of us use some type of wearable sports tracker and these are great when it comes to setting and tracking goal progress. I know this is not new information for most people. Science shows that using a device can do a lot more for people than they typically recognize.
Why is a wearable sports tracker useful when it comes to achieving goals?
Using a wearable sports tracking device to help monitor and track your running behavior is something most people do but many don’t recognize many of the potential benefits. In fact, getting a new fitness tracker is arguably one of the best parts about becoming a runner. It allows you to gather information about your running behavior. One great thing about having data is that it is measurable, and it helps us to be able to see real-time results about changes that are or are not occurring.
Research shows that wearable sports trackers are proven to improve performance & physical condition as well as enhance an individual’s level of motivation and prevent injuries. Even if you are a new runner and you do not have a coach, a wearable sports tracker can provide insight about the way your body is moving, your energy expenditure, and your physical state (such as heart rate, sleep, and menstrual cycle). The apps that typically pair with these devices often have automated feedback that can be provided based on your individual performance and provide a way to track your mileage and assist you in goal setting moving forward. You are also typically able to provide post run feedback to yourself so that you can keep in check with your body and see your progress over time.
The data gathered by your watch is personal and it is something you won’t be able to google, although it can be overwhelming at first because there are a lot of metrics that a new runner might not understand without the guidance of some type of professional, there are many uses for the data. This personalized data can help you to set relevant and achievable performance and health goals.
For recreational runners, setting personal goals that you are doing only for yourself and not because anyone has told you to, positively impacts your level of motivation. Why you ask? Because the meaning that you attach to the goals that you set for yourself (often referred to as your “why”) plays an important role when it comes to the amount of time, effort, and personal resources that you are willing to invest towards achieving our goals.
When you set a weekly distance goal and then receive performance related feedback (via your wearable device) research shows that you are likely to see an increase in the overall distance you run each week. Goals setting, such as running a 5k in a certain amount of time is common (runners seem to love numbers) but not necessary for improvement, especially early in your running journey. As a new runner, or someone who has been stagnated in their running journey, I suggest setting more self-driven and personal goals where you are competing with yourself and achieving/improving your stats weekly.
When goal setting, the goals DO NOT have to be anything related to paces. It could simply be number of miles, time on feet, or decreasing your stopping time during your 1–10-mile run. Setting goals that help you to enjoy running are important, and it is likely that if you are newer to running or currently a slower runner, setting a pace-based goal could do quite the opposite. So yes, your Garmin/FitBit/Apple watch might be well known as a device for tracking pace or miles, but it can do much more than that for you so don’t fixate on paces.
My relationship with a wearable sports tracker has truly evolved over time. I started wearing one to track calories in and out as I began my fitness journey to lose weight. As my fitness goals changed, the way I used my watch changed as well. I have been using a Garmin Fenix for several years now, currently I use the Garmin fenix 6S Sapphire watch and truly enjoy all the functions and data of the device.