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How I’m utilizing health tech to coach for my marathon

Will operating apps and health gear assist or distract from my coaching?

Running is in my household’s blood. My dad accomplished two 100-milers, a number of 50-milers, and 51 marathons, together with two Boston Marathons. My uncle Tim continues to knock out ultramarathons, and he is nicely into his 70s. My cousin Colton kicked ass as a sprinter, and my sister nonetheless casually runs 10Ks when she’s not lawyering.

I by no means fought my future to be a runner. Along with 4 years of cross-country, I ran the 800 and 1600 meters in monitor all through highschool, ultimately breaking the 5-minute mile mark. Since then, I joined some native operating golf equipment and ran as many races as I may afford to maintain my edge, although I’m nowhere near highschool kind today.

Staying in operating form is hard with demanding work, COVID-19, and the lure of video video games to carry you again.

The final 18 months have been powerful for my bodily (and psychological) health. Running whereas masked, and not using a fellow group of runners to maintain me motivated, was terrible. I by no means wished to be the jerk panting throughout different pedestrians, and the CDC guidelines on outdoor activities stating it was protected to train unmasked open air took over a 12 months to reach and assuage my paranoia. My mileage, tempo, and spirits have been all at all-time lows.

Now, I’ve determined to bounce again. I’ve signed up for the California International Marathon in December, and I’m stepping up my mileage to get again into correct form. And as a result of my job is all about telephones and health tech, I’m utilizing my marathon coaching to find out exactly how useful the very best operating apps and health trackers are with regards to enhancing your endurance and velocity.

In my (dad’s) day, they did not have Fitbits!

Michael Hicks’ dad, No. 3813, ending the 1979 Boston Marathon.

If you have a look at marathon coaching guides, all the things is about mileage and tempo. Of course, you may throw in some cross-training or power coaching for higher general health, and faster-paced runs like intervals or tempo runs will put together you for race day. But on the entire, coaching for a marathon is about numbers. For that, you may depend on an old school GPS watch or no tech in any respect when you’re devoted.

In his prime, my dad ran 16 miles a day, give or take, with no tech aside from a Walkman CD participant he’d carry with him on restoration days to loosen up. I simply launched my dad to his first smartphone at 79, which he was keen to strive, however he is by no means proven as a lot curiosity in operating tech.

Some runners ignore tech and simply push themselves with no distractions. Others depend on apps and devices to inform them how they did. Is one technique higher than the opposite?

In my case, I’ve used health apps like Strava and Runtastic to trace my progress through the years. And very lately, I’ve begun to put on health trackers to get a greater view of how my physique is dealing with exercises.

But does realizing your present mileage or tempo actually assist to drive you on throughout a run? I do know some runners who put on health watches however tape over the display so the info does not distract them throughout a run. In my case, GPS knowledge typically spurs me on to run simply another mile after I’m able to cease … or makes me run more durable than I ought to to hit the suitable tempo, tiring me prematurely and limiting my distance.

For the subsequent eight weeks of marathon-prep cramming, my aim can be to resolve whether or not going all-out with health tech proves extra of a assist or a hindrance.

Stride like an Olympian

Roberto Mandje, director of Runner Training and Education for the New York Road Runners and a former Olympian, mentioned he does not all the time depend on tech for coaching, racing, or post-run evaluation.

Roberto Mandje, director of Runner Training and Education for the New York Road Runners and a former Olympic long-distance runner.

“For most of the year, I don’t use any tech outside of my GPS watch to make sure I cover the distance I intend to cover,” Mandje mentioned. “As long as I get out a few times per week to run, then I know I’ll keep a baseline fitness.”

Mandje went on so as to add that it is solely when he begins his marathon prep that he begins to pay nearer consideration to particular well being and operating metrics.

In specific, he pays very shut consideration to his coronary heart charge. To correctly construct up your mileage and endurance, he believes runners want to trace resting coronary heart charge, max coronary heart charge, and averages at completely different ranges of depth. When planning out a simple or threshold run, “familiarizing yourself with your heart rate monitor and ranges will help keep you from going too hard on days when you should be running slower to recover, even if you feel good.”

But what different metrics ought to a would-be marathoner care about? You get fundamental stats like tempo and splits from a operating app, however a number of the best-running watches may give you data in your floor contact time, stride size, cadence, and different operating kind stats. How priceless will these be to a operating layperson?

“I think there’s a time and place for those sort of metrics, but for most runners, newer or not, it would be best to visit a sports or running lab to have their gait, stride, cadence, and overall biomechanics properly [measured].”

— Roberto Mandje, director of Runner Training and Education for the New York Road Runners and former Olympian

Mandje mentioned he focuses on miles, tempo, and elevation acquire from his health tech to maintain coaching easy. He additionally chooses to run effectively and “within himself” to maintain his physique underneath management. He manages his strides, so he is cautious to not overexert himself an excessive amount of by worrying about particulars like exact cadence or stride size.

“I think there’s a time and place for those sort of metrics, but for most runners, newer or not, it would be best to visit a sports or running lab to have their gait, stride, cadence, and overall biomechanics properly [measured],” he mentioned. “Otherwise, primarily for newer runners, you’ll find yourself reading numbers off your app and comparing them with generic numbers from the internet and then start chasing those numbers without knowing if you really should and exactly what your optimal cadence and stride length should be.”

Similarly, Mandje warned towards overzealous calorie counting. Many well being and health apps encourage you to log meals and monitor caloric consumption, however Mandje mentioned that “not all calories are created equal, especially when training for a marathon as a 2,000/day diet will be different for someone who is primarily sedentary vs. someone who is in the midst of marathon training.”

Instead, Mandje mentioned runners ought to search recommendation from a licensed dietitian or nutritionist to ascertain wholesome objectives, relatively than taking a DIY method and probably inflicting your self hurt.

But when it comes to normal run monitoring, Mandje is all for counting on apps. For instance, he used to maintain a coaching log with pen and paper, noting his efficiency and emotions throughout the run and what time of day he began. Now, he makes use of Strava, which robotically information most of this convenient knowledge. He additionally recommends reviewing previous runs to search for traits, comparable to whether or not you run higher within the morning or afternoon.

Many runners have a tendency to stay up their noses at those that depend on music streaming providers throughout runs, contemplating earbuds to be a crutch or harmful distraction. So I used to be joyful to listen to Mandje did not look down on music-loving runners (like me).

“A playlist of inspirational and motivational songs will give [runners] that extra boost to push through a tough workout or day,” he mentioned.

He did amend that it ought to be “a combination of personal preference and balance,” which I took to imply that runners might not wish to depend on high-BPM soundtracks to push by means of each run.

My operating/tech experiment

Overall, “balance” felt just like the core message behind Mandje’s recommendation. Track your operating knowledge, however do not use it as an alternative to skilled steering. Use operating metrics to make sure you’re operating laborious on some days, however not too laborious on others. And do not spend too lengthy overanalyzing your knowledge: more often than not, a future will accomplish your health objectives whether or not you monitor it or not.

In the previous, I ready for lengthy races by merely upping my mileage and doing my finest to remain devoted to my aim. But this time, I plan to make use of tech to carry myself accountable. I’ll use health app notifications to disgrace myself into getting my day by day exercises in, monitor my coronary heart charge to forestall burnout, and take a look at completely different operating gear to see which, if any, assist me greater than others.

Over the subsequent two months, I’ll be periodically checking in with my findings. I’ve hoarded health bands from Fitbit, Garmin, Amazfit, and others to match how nicely they monitor my knowledge and encourage my runs. I’ll analyze my health knowledge from the very best operating apps to manufacturer-specific apps like Fitbit and Garmin. I’ll additionally experiment with extra common apps comparable to Strava and Google Fit to see how they evaluate. Do tech and operating health actually go hand-in-hand? It’s time to seek out out.

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