When you forget your watch

When you forget your watch

How to do even the most complex workouts by feel.

Some of my days are a bit hectic as I’m sure yours are too.  You’ve got too many things to remember and maybe you aren’t getting enough sleep.  I forget stuff.

This is one of the excuses people use to fail at training.  Forgetting stuff.  What do you really need to execute a workout?  Some items are totally spurious.  You don’t need your music device and headphones.  Maybe you like that, but you don’t need it.

What about shoes?  Yes, you need shoes, unless you’re a barefoot runner, but you don’t need specific shoes.  You can execute a workout or even a race in an old pair of shoes.  It’s not going to kill you.

What about clothes?  Depending on where you are you are going to need some clothes, but there too it doesn’t have to be perfect. I have substituted regular tee shirts for tech tees or dress socks for tech socks when I forget to pack something, you may look goofy and it’s not optimal, but you can still get your workout done.

What about your watch?  What about that ubiquitous Garmin or other device that we have all been wearing since the turn of the century?  I’m here to tell you that you can still do your workout without a watch.  Furthermore, you can do that workout without any watch at all.

Here’s the scenario: You head out for that workout.  You get 20 minutes in and your watch dies because you forgot to charge it or it didn’t seat in the charging cradle just right.  You’re mid workout.  What do you do?  You are adrift in the sea of running without a rudder.

What do you do?

  1. Redundant systems. Of course, if you can plan ahead at all you can have redundant systems.  I own a cheap Timex Ironman watch that serves as a backup for my Garmin. If I forget my Garmin or it is dead I can just use the Ironman to gauge my workout.  It doesn’t’ give me distance or heart rate but it gives me time and I can fake the rest.

The other redundant timing device is your phone.  I’m sure many of you use one of the popular running apps on your phone.  You can use that as a back up if your Watch dies.

Finally, if you r are in a race you can ask the people around you for pace and time information.  You could do this on a training run too. If you know approximately when you started the workout you can get a reading and estimate time and distance.

  1. Know your distances. If you have an event like I had and you are in total running watch blackout it helps to know where you are.  If you run the same routes all the time you can make a point to remember the way points.  When your device chimes at the mile marks make a note of a physical milestone that is close so you can remember it.  The statue is about 2 miles.  That bridge is about 40 minutes out.   This way when you are lost you can ballpark the distances and times and still get your workout in.
  2. Know your effort levels. At the same time that you are observing the distance and time benchmarks in your training also observe your effort levels.  When you are doing that workout that calls for zone 2 effort, what does it feel like?  When you kick it up into zone 3 effort what does that feel like?  Make a mental note so that you can approximate those effort levels when you don’t have the watch.  This is known as ‘perceived effort’.

But what about specific workouts?  What about intervals?  How do you estimate how long or how far an interval is?  As it turns out, you can do this without a watch as well.  If it’s a regular route you run, there might be spots where you remember the interval distances.  For example, you start at this tree and go to the end of the straight path and that’s about 3 minutes.

Even if you don’t you can still figure out times.  The way you do this is by counting foot falls.  When my watch died I was doing a surge run.  This means I pick up my effort into zone 3 for 3 minutes every 20 minutes.  I remembered approximately where the 20 minute marks in the route were but how would I know what a 3 minute interval was?

Turns out this is simple math.  If you are a good runner with decent form and mechanics you are going to run at a cadence of somewhere around 80 foot strikes a minute.  Or if you need more granularity that’s 20 foot falls per 15 seconds.  If I need 3 minutes that’s 80 times 3 or 240 foot falls.

Therefor these 3 minute pickups are simply raising my perceived effort to zone 3 and counting my left (or right) foot hitting the ground 240 times.  Try it.  It’s surprisingly accurate.  The math is easy.  The methodology is simple and it scales to any workout.  If you don’t think you can count that high just count to 100 and restart at zero for as many as you need.

Close enough is close enough.

I know many of you are super wrapped up in the data of your runs.  I run with these guys who can’t not round up to the nearest mile at the end of a run.  It’s in their compulsive heads.  All this approximation gives them the willeys.

Get over it.

When you’re stranded in the wilderness of a run without your watch you really have no choice.  If you make a point of observing your paces, your distances, your times and your effort levels, you will find that you start to internalize them.

You may be off by a couple kilometers or a couple seconds but it will be close.  You will get the workout done and get the benefit of the workout.  That’s a good set of tools to have in your bag.

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