WHAT ARE SOME OF THESE GADGETS? For multi-sporters, there are quite a few. There is GPS technology that tells us our mileage, pace, and average pace. This can be helpful if you really want and need to know your mileage. There are heart rate monitors, and these may go back the farthest as far as market longevity. These are valuable tools for those who need assistance in proper pacing or intensity, and giving them feedback on the body’s response to exercise. There are WATT meters for bikes. This gives us an absolute measurement of total work being done, so this can have value. There are, of course, tons of different devices to listen to music with, and now some that even go in the pool! This one probably doesn’t really count as an official training gadget considering it really isn’t designed to improve performance, yet maybe it does!
There are other gadgets I’m sure. The above, in my expert opinion, have some value. I think they can have some training benefit. All of them can help. The HRM can help an athlete learn to listen to the body better. The GPS and WATT meters can give an athlete direct feedback on performance. And the GPS of course can track the miles for those that count the miles.
So it’s all good, right? Gadgets are the way to go? In my expert opinion, for the most part, NO! We have to see if people are getting more fit. By 2020 Americans will be 70% obese or overweight. So it doesn’t appear that technology is helping too much. What about athletes, are they getting better? I guess if we look at times we’d say sort of. But if we look at other times, we’d say no. So at the very least, maybe they are a non-factor? Maybe, but I’ll make the case that they’re actually a detriment to performance. I come from a body building background. The best thing about this is the fact I learned to listen to my body when I trained. I don’t care what kind of workout it was, if I didn’t feel the muscle I was training then I’d switch it until I did! I learned to listen to my body.
When coaching today, I notice many people don’t listen to their bodies. Many GPS driven folks listen to the pace that their ego or their coach told them to hit, even if they didn’t feel like they should. Easy runs are supposed to be EASY, but how many times have I seen an athlete go by pace instead? “Gee, I really should be faster than at least 9’s on my easy day”. They let the pace train them, or as I’ve said to clients for years, don’t let the tail wag the dog. Go easy and see where the pace lands you, if your ego allows. Or don’t wear a GPS! I’ve seen somewhat of the same mistake with heart rate monitors. I’ve seen athletes bound and determined to reach 95 % of their heart rate because the plan said to, but they are really struggling too much to get HR up due to being tired. Heart rate monitors are best used for feedback. So ultimately, I’d rather use these tools to teach an athlete how to listen to the body. I do think a HRM is a good tool for that, but it has to be used as feedback, NOT a coach. Run easy and see where the HR lands. Run easy again the next day and see the same thing. This will tell you how your body is recovering. This is good use of a gadget. Using it to train you is allowing the tail to wag to the dog… Backwards!
I believe there isn’t a gadget in the world that can make us fit. I look back just 20 years ago, even 50, and I’d say there were plenty of great athletes out there, I’d argue better than today’s athletes. Personally, and this just is my opinion, I’d still put Mark Allen and Dave Scott against any triathlete today. Can you imagine going as fast as they did on the tools they had? It’s funny watching the bikes they had. Yet they’d still crush 90% of the population today if they were on beach cruisers! Today, you’ll see an average age grouper on a $5,000 bike. To each his own, but maybe we’ve missed the point. What I try to do as a coach and trainer is teach a client how to listen to the body. What do they feel? Let’s work on better mechanics. Let’s learn what RPE is (rate of perceived exertion). Your body won’t let you down. It will tell you. Sometimes, the more we load it up with outside stimulus, the more we’re actually blocked from listening to it.
By all means, use them if they’re fun. I have them, almost all of them. But I really don’t value them much as a training tool (except for HRM, again as teaching tool). I believe in good ol’ sweat power. Do the work and the results will come. Listen to the body and you won’t get hurt. As far as the others, I could take them or leave them.
Stay well! Rob