I was feeling good at the end of a recent run when I stopped to check the running app on my iPhone.
I was gobsmacked — this wasn’t just good, it was great. The app said I had just run my fastest four miles ever.
I punched up my Facebook feed and typed out a post mentioning the new personal record, and detailing my pre-run prep: “I had half a large pizza for dinner last night, oatmeal with banana and blueberries for breakfast, and a Honey’s doughnut for lunch about an hour before the run. So I’ll be sticking to that diet for the foreseeable future.”
Alas, I had spoken too soon. When I had a chance to catch my breath, I took another look at those numbers and realized I couldn’t have gone as fast as the app suggested.
The app’s map of my route showed me zigzagging across the landscape, far beyond the distance I actually ran. I eventually figured out that a low battery had made my phone’s GPS go wonky. The pizza-and-doughnut diet hadn’t turned me into Usain Bolt after all.
Then I was back on Facebook, tapping out an apology to my friends.
You can see where I went wrong. I was too caught up in app-ing when I should have just been running.
The smartphone revolution has us in its digital grip, no matter what we’re doing. Not an original observation, I know, just a reminder. The app’s glitch on this run was my wake-up call.
It’s so easy to get sucked in. My language app goads me every morning to spend five minutes polishing my Spanish, after which Facebook gives me the illusion of contact with friends near and far. Then I burn half an hour getting angry at random strangers on Twitter.
There’s an app for everything. Even on the ski hill, signs on the chairlift encourage us to download an app that tracks how far we’ve skied. So far I’ve resisted the idea that the mountain vistas and the black-diamond adrenalin rush would be better with a digital record.
I’m still using the running app since that glitchy episode a month ago, but I’m managing my habit. It’s handy to glance at the app’s stopwatch readout so I can track the various running intervals specified in the Sun Run InTraining schedule. Ten-minute easy run, 20-minute brisk run, that sort of thing.
Beyond that, I try to pull my gaze away from the screen and just feel how fast I’m running, rather than relying on the app to tell me. I experiment with a longer stride, I try pushing harder on hills and relaxing my pace as a break from the sprints.
I have a five-kilometre route figured out, and I compare my times over that distance to track my progress. On my weekly runs with my Sun Run clinic group, it’s easy to tell whether I’m improving. Am I in the middle of the pack, or lagging behind?
The clinic, incidentally, also makes for a genuinely social experience; one you can’t get through a screen.
I’m still wondering about that pizza-and-doughnut diet, though. Should I download a nutrition app?
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