Wearable technology

One of the things I love about running is the simplicity of it – all you need is a pair of trainers, a t-shirt, some shorts and you are off. It really is the leveller of all sports, available to everyone without all of the expensive kit of many other activities. However, it seems to me that the no fuss, simple nature of putting one foot in front of the other is gradually being eroded as technology enters into the running world.

Some of the advances in running equipment are definitely advantageous – I make near daily use of technical t-shirts and other items of specialised clothing and virtually never run without my padded running socks. I don’t know how much difference all of this makes but there certainly is something to be said for wearing clothing designed to aid circulation and aeration when running. I also have no problem with most of the advances in footwear, although I am yet to properly buy into the idea of barefoot running. Running can certainly be done without several different pairs of shoes and, until a couple of months ago; I did all of my training in trainers. However, once your enthusiasm for running goes beyond a certain level, investing in lighter weight flats can help when doing interval sessions and spikes or trail shoes are essential if you plan on racing cross country. Equally, all the different equipment designed to aid recovery and injury prevention is useful no matter how much running you are doing. Specially designed items such as foam rollers are very useful but it doesn’t even need to be that complicated – a tennis ball, a golf ball or simple stretches can be equally as effective.

The area of technological advance within running that I have a problem with is the exponential growth in the use of wearable technology. I don’t have a problem with this technology per-se; it is more the use to which people put these items. I do own a Garmin running watch and, at times, I find it useful. I will wear it when racing a 10k or a half marathon to help me with my pacing but that is about the only time I will ever measure my paRunning watchce. I also use the watch when I set out to run a certain distance or if I need to measure out the length of an interval in training. However, I never wear a watch when running a cross country race and don’t measure my pace when doing intervals. I run as fast as I can and I don’t need a watch to tell me that! I feel no need to constantly measure my pace, track everything I do or log everything onto the running website Strava (in actual fact I don’t even have a Strava account and am not tempted to start one). I also don’t own a heart rate monitor and have no intention of getting one.

To many of you this will sound like a form of heresy – I have heard several friends say, albeit jokingly, that if a run is not logged on Strava then it didn’t happen and doesn’t count. I certainly know people who say they feel ‘naked’ if they head out for a run without their watch on. They extol the virtues of running watches and heart rate monitors and I
can see that they do have their uses with watches allowing you to regularly monitor your performance and a heart rate monitor can help to identify illness early. However, while this can be beneficial, to my mind this desire to log and track everything has gone too far and is harming the ability to enjoy the basic act of running.

If you are constantly monitoring yourself, checking your performance compared to yesterday or last week, the pure and simple joy of running for its own sake is gone. My favourite runs of the week are when I head out for six or seven miles of steady running (with no watch). I just run how I feel and enjoy what I am doing.

Wearable technology can be useful and has a role in training but, in my opinion, the obsession with logging absolutely everything has gone too far. Running is one of the simplest and purest things you can do but this is being diluted behind the computer screens filled with stats and data.

See you soon!


The Work-Life Balance

The work-life balance is important at all stages of life – everyone needs to work hard but you also need time to relax and do what you enjoy otherwise exhaustion and stress will set in. I feel that this balance is especially important when you are at university, especially one such as Cambridge where there is a tendency to subsume everything to the demands of work. You will work harder than you have ever worked before through the course of your time at Cambridge but work is not all there is. Time to unwind is essential to your well being and to your academic success.

What you do to relax can vary from acting to music or even just watching some TV but for me it has always been sport. Throughout my time at school and university I have always been sporty. People often ask me how I find the time to run alongside my degree but my response to that is that without my running I wouldn’t be able to do my degree. However fascinating your work or degree, you cannot do it 24/7 without burning up. I am convinced that if I did not take the time out of work to run my results would be significantly worse. One person I know was forced to take a break from sport due to injury and the grades they achieved dropped at the same time.

For me, the main benefit of running, and something that makes it a better way to relax than activities such as music or drama, is that the fresh air really helps to clear my head. Also, once you are running nothing matters besides you and keeping on putting one foot in front of the other. While mental toughness certainly matters and races and hard training sessions can leave you mentally tired, it is also possible to go for a steady run and just switch off. If I head out for a run stressed, by the end the process of running will almost certainly have cleared my head and made me feel RAF match 1significantly better. Several times I have come back from a run, sat back down to work, and found that I have somehow solved the problem I was struggling over without even thinking about it. Furthermore, through extra-curricular activities you will form really close friendships, a benefit that cannot be praised highly enough!

Finding the ideal work-life balance is far from easy and it will not always happen. I have found that the main danger is doing too much of the ‘life’ part and not leaving enough time for my work. When it comes down to it we are at university to complete a degree but universities such as Cambridge offer so much else as well and taking advantage of this can be hugely beneficial. At the start of this term I somehow decided that, given I was a ‘sensible’ third year, I could balance my degree with my running as well as taking up numerous other responsibilities at the same time. As you can guess, this did not go well but I feel it is better to try and do too many extra-curricular activities than not to do any.

I believe that it is possible to keep up a couple of activities besides your degree and still feel like you are doing them properly. For me these activities are church and running and being involved in these have made my university experience so much better. Clearly different activities require different levels of commitment but throughout my undergrad I have taken a couple of hours off in the middle of every afternoon for running, or if it is a rest day then simply for a walk, and I feel that this has been essential to my time here. I would estimate that I usually work 7 or 8 hours in a day. Sometimes I work more, sometimes less but, I have never done an all-nighter and I don’t feel I have experience the essay crises other people appear to have.

With good time management it is possible to have a life as well as complete your degree to the best of your ability. In fact, I believe I could not have one without the other. I honestly believe that without finding time to do those things I enjoy, without finding time to run and attend church, my academic results would be significantly worse.

Hope you have enjoyed this blog! See you next time!

Liz 🙂