The hype train keeps rolling on activity trackers – it’s officially a billion dollar business – and after reading Chad’s post about his sleep app experience a few weeks ago, I started thinking critically about what all of this technology is leading us towards.
It’s a slippery slope, the second you start trying to quantify your sleep, or other activities, with a device that isn’t entirely accurate – you are asking for trouble.
Then I came across this Runner’s World post taking the current state of technology past activity trackers as we know them and into the realm of life and environment quantifiers. They then detail semi-elite Marathoner Michael Wardian and his quest for information:
For serious runners, the search for current technology tools is, at present, a game of mix and match. Michael Wardian, 41, for instance, can often be seen racing with watches on each arm. “Yes, I look like a dork,” says the 2:17 marathoner and multitime 50k national champion. “I need the Suunto for the altimeter, barometer, and GPS. And I wear the Mio for heart rate.” (Both Suunto and Mio sponsor Wardian with free products.)
Is this all necessary?
What exactly does knowing the air pressure around you do for you in the heat of a race?
Unfortunately, I have been of this mindset before in my life – early in my college career you would be hard pressed finding me on a run without my gps watch and a heart rate monitor strapped across my chest. I thought being able to track my pace against my heart rate and weekly mileage would tell me something about my training that I wouldn’t be able to infer without it. Uploading my route’s altitude change and my morning resting heart rate religiously, it quickly came to the point where I was relying on the numbers to tell me how I was feeling instead of… well feeling it.
To make matters worse, I had hit a plateau in my training and most of it can be tracked to the numbers. Instead of helping me they were hindering me – to the point where I was struggling to hit my paces everyday but wouldn’t take “slacking off” for an answer.
Can you guess what happens next?
Burnout… of the “I never want to run another step in my life” persuasion.
Burnout takes a while to combat: first your runs suffer because you feel like death, then you can’t sleep because your body is restless, then you are stressed out and become anxious because you aren’t sleeping and how else are you going to recover if you can’t sleep. Life becomes a viscous cycle and down the road excessive burnout – like I have experienced – leads to injury and ultimately depression. At some point you have to be able to realize when you are falling down the rabbit hole and the only way to feel better is to take a break – from running and trying to measure your life.
It’s scary that I had let the quantification of my training get to the point where it was affecting my life outside of the sport – burnout isn’t fun and honestly I’m not sure if I’ve ever fully recovered.
I’m a walking cautionary tale but that’s what makes coaching fun for me, I find good vibes in every runner (or active person) I can help learn from my mistakes.
You can read about some workouts that helped me recover from this mishap, but it’s much easier to avoid burnout in the first place.
This means being:
- Careful and skeptical with every new training method or device.
- Open with your coach when you aren’t feeling well.
- Willing to ask for help when you feel anxious and depressed.
Just remember – not everything can be quantified.