When Garmins Turn into Gremlins and a Month of Fartleking Workouts to Refresh You Mentally

Happy Saturfarts to you all!! If anyone has raced, I expect some bragging on your fine selves below pahleeez! 🙂

My workout was…surprise…9.5 miles on the treadmill to the distraction of Freaks and Geeks on the tube, followed by core and abs today. I know, I really am such a crazy person living on the edge and you never know what my workouts will be. 😉 Again, do as I say, not as I do, I know I should mix it up more.

So today I think I want to address a comment that was left HERE by the very fine Vanessa at The Gourmet Runner. It started when I read on her blog about a tempo run she had done. Basically she was saying how she was frustrated about not hitting the exact splits and that during her run she was constantly obsessing about what her pace might be, checking the Garmin, and that it was stressing her out.


Not a Gremlin but I wouldn't want to piss this guy off...

You can read my little comment I left her HERE if you like but I’ll sum it up, and I actually touched on this exact same thing in my own post HERE about things that could derail your race plan. Basically it’s this, in today’s age sometimes runners get sucked into information overload; I’ve seen people out there running at it looks like they’re hooked up to some kind of life support system between the iPods, watches, GPS trackers, Garmins, cell phones…etc. (Don’t get me started on the people fully decked out with fuel belts and three water bottles for a four miler…lol.)

Ummm, am I still the only person who (when I do run outside and am not being a weenie on the treadmill….haha) only wears a straight up watch? I don’t even own a Garmin or anything like that. Now, I’m just as obsessive about times and exact miles, trust me you can ask anyone who’s run with me, so I’m not saying I’m perfect about it and part of the reason I do like the treadmill is because I guess it has all of that info built in.

But, I digress, the point is that Vanessa’s workout was a 4 mile tempo at 9 min pace. She actually finished up the workout underpace but was frustrated because it was not ‘exactly’ what it should be and during the whole thing she was speeding up/slowing down depending on what the GARMIN was telling her. So here is a workout where she should leave feeling happy she’s actually fitter than she thought but she’s unhappy and the whole workout wasn’t even enjoyable because of the Garmin induced stresslevel. Can I call it a Gremlin at this point?

Workouts aren’t exactly supposed to be enjoyable, but the lactic acid will take care of that for you, so there is no need to make it harder on yourself. A coach once told their athlete (actually the athlete was my mom…lol.), “Don’t think. That’s my job, I’ll do it for you.” When you’re running, shut the brain off as best you can, zone out, and work on running hard.

Sure, we want to hit splits and times, we don’t want to loaf and we do need to check-in with the clock every now and again so we don’t let the lactic acid beast swallow us and if we are slowing down we need to know and try to pick up the pace. BUT you need to tread a fine line between being aware of the clock and not letting it stress you out to the point where it’s working against you. Running is so mental that if you’re obsessed too much you’ll be the one doing your undoing. (Reread that sentence, I’m convincing myself it does in fact make sense. 🙂  )

Think about running for FEEL too, you want to get to the point where you know what certain paces feel like. As you’re going along you want to stay relaxed, focus on keeping proper form, expending as little unnecessary energy as possible (don’t clench your fists or jaw, make sure your shoulders aren’t up to your chin), looking ahead, your breathing…and talking yourself through to the end.

Screw the Garmin, Vanessa, and run hard. Run for feel, and I’m pretty sure you’ll wind up running faster AND you’ll feel much better doing it.

In fact, if you want to read my little reply comment to her you can, and I told her that maybe doing some workouts that aren’t so ‘rigid’ for a period will give her mind a break too. Fartleks are perfect for this, you don’t know the exact distance, you don’t know the exact pace, you just run HARD for the sake of running hard and you’ll get in a great workout.

Try this: for the first week do a fartlek workout with sets of 1 minute hard and 1 minute easy. In Vanessa’s case I’d suggest that since her tempo run was about 36 minutes, she should aim for 18 repeats, so that would be 18 minutes of hard running. Later in the week she should run an un-Garmin tempo run for 36 minutes; take only the watch, run hard, she might come in running a little more than 4 miles, maybe a little less…who knows…live on the edge. (PS-it kinda goes without saying, but make sure and do a warm-up and cool-down with each hard workout…haha!)

The following week, for the fartleks do sets of 2 minutes hard and 2 minutes easy. This time that would be 9 sets total for Vanessa. Later in the week try the un-Garmin tempo but make it a little longer and go for 45 minutes. (Anyone can do this, to adjust it for your own pace pick a time that would be about 5 miles for yourself.)

Third week she should do 6 sets of 3 minutes hard and 3 minutes easy. Instead of the tempo for her second workout late in the week she should do this: 2 x 16 minutes hard (she’ll be going faster so this should be around 2 miles) with 3 minute recovery jog between each, then finish with 4 x 1 minute hard/easy. The goal is to finish with something faster to get those legs mooooving.

Finally, the last week will be a pyramid style farlek:

1 min hard/easy

2 min hard/easy

3 min hard/easy

Repeat 2 more times.

Later in the week she’ll come back with a tempo run and we’ll let her use the Garmin but ONLY to see what her splits end up being. The rules are these: she can only look at the Garmin at the END of each mile to see the split and not between. She can’t think about it during the tempo run and try to run like it isn’t even there…just run hard. Run the freaking tempo. When she’s done, look over those splits and I’m pretty sure she’ll have run faster, but regardless, be happy with a solid, hard effort. 🙂

chained animals

Don't let the Garmin turn into your ball and chain; use it as a training tool alone.

Wow, this turned out to be an EPIC post, so I hope there might still be a few weary eyes reading this. Sometimes taking a mental break from really regimented workouts is necessary and that’s why no one does straight up track workouts all year round, it’s just too easy to make it too stressful. So, perhaps a few others might do well to ditch their Garmins and have a little farleking fun. 😉

1) What do you run with? A watch, a Garmin, iPod, or any other techie thing?

2) What’s your favorite type of workout?I know I’ve asked this before, sorry, but my answer is still going to be a tempo run! 🙂

3) What are your fun weekend plans?

4) Not really a question, but sorry Vanessa for the way overload of unsolicited advice and don’t feel any pressure to actually do any of it…haha! But, if you happen to, do feel free to let me know how it goes. 🙂
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16 thoughts on “When Garmins Turn into Gremlins and a Month of Fartleking Workouts to Refresh You Mentally

    • blast that school, going and getting in the way of the things that are really important in life. 😉 jk. aww, i hope school is going well tho and u’re having fun!! thanks for the compliments, u are much too kind. 🙂

  1. I used to run with my Garmy ALL THE TIME but now for my easy runs I go without now cos I just get too competitive and obsessed about pace! Weirdly enough I’m not so bad on hard runs! I LOVE it though:)

    TEMPO RUNS ARE MY FAVE TOO!!!! Nothing beats a good hard Kenyan Tempo!! 😀

  2. So, since this is a totally personalized post I get to leave the world’s longest comment, right? Thanks!
    I definitely have Garmin OCD when I run, and not just on tempo runs. Since I started training for my marathon, this is the only time I’ve ever had a “running plan” with specific mileage and times I need to hit.
    As for the tempo runs-um, yeah, I should definitely not be stressing about exact times too much. PLUS I’, running on uneven terrain with hills and grass and gravel, so some parts are just harder than others, and my Garmin splits don’t reflect that. I think on next week’s tempo run I’ll ditch the Garmin and then bring it back a week later. Hubs spent too much money on it to give it up ENTIRELY!
    And favorite type of run? Obviously not tempos….long runs. I like to just go and go and go and mentally not have to be thinking about much.

    • okay, so i’m hoping that i didn’t just annoy the heck out of u, and i do know where u’re coming from completely because like i said i’m OCD too, i just know that sometimes it can get in our own way. it’s good though in other instances is that we are the type of people who usually won’t skip a workout unless we HAVE too…haha. and no need to get rid of the Garmin at all cuz i kno they are expensive and heck, they are an excellent training tool!! just ‘use with caution.’ hehe 🙂

  3. This is a great post!!!!! Really sums up well that we shouldn’t be totally obsessed with numbers. I really like the idea of just going hard/easy- especially for my upcoming XC season with my kids! Later on we can add in times to make sure they’re pushing themselves but this is much less pressure-filled. Yahoo!!

    p.s. I am not getting your updates in my GFC. I tried adding you manually but said your website had an error!!! WTF??? I need my Cait time!

    • thanks katy!! ya, xc is actually a perfect time to do fartleks on trails and tackling those hills! 😉 and u’re team is already blessed with one kick butt coach…i’m jealous! 😉

      okay, as for this GFC thing, wtf is going on?!?! i’m totally techie lame and don’t know wat to do about this, have u ever had this problem with anyone else’s blog?? any advice would be much appreciated!

  4. LOVE this post! I agree! One of my favorite workouts is Fast Eddies..

    10 min warm-up
    then 6 sets of:
    15 sec hard 60 ez 30sec hard 90 ez
    It’s fun, you push it and it makes the time go by super fast
    Then cool down!

    * When I run with a friend one person does the timing and one person counts the 6 sets as it gets crazy LOL

  5. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

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