Why I’ve Been Ditching My GPS

To be honest, I still use my GPS, but far less than I used to.  At first, I did it because I really don’t like my new GPS.  Back in October, my beloved simple Forerunner 10 died……the day before the Chicago Marathon!  I ran (literally) to Fleet Feet to get another one and the only thing they had that didn’t cost a small fortune was the Forerunner 25.  I immediately didn’t love it because I preferred the simplicity of the 10.  All I need is to know how far and how fast I’m going and how long it takes me to get the job done.

I think the GPS is a great tool that all runners should invest in at some point.  As I was telling a few new runners earlier this week, the GPS takes a lot of the mystery out of running.  Once you know just how far you have gone and how long it takes you, the pressure is off and you can stop wondering what they heck you are doing.  And once you know how far a mile is over and over again, they start to feel easier and smaller.


Oh how I miss this friend!

My dislike for the Forerunner 25 continued at the Turkey Trot when my watch did’t connect while I waited in the corral and continued to refuse to connect for two miles.  I was livid.  And this pricey tool continues to take 5-10 minutes to connect today.  Winter in Chicago is too cold to be standing around waiting outside for your watch to connect (even during this mild winter!).  The thought of standing outside waiting in frustration finally got the better of me and I said to heck with it and left it at home and went running sans technology (well I still had my music with me….let’s not get too crazy here!).

Most of my weekly training runs consist of 7-10 miles and I know routes around me that cover those exact numbers.  So I set out for a few runs without the GPS and some wonderful things happened:

I stopped constantly worrying about how far, how fast, and how long I had been running.  I just worried about getting to my turn around and enjoying my run.  That’s right; when you stop constantly worrying about the numbers you can enjoy running.  It’s kind of like why you started running in the first place.  Strike that.  It is exactly like how I started running.

I wasn’t just doing fast runs.  There is value in slow runs and if you look at a well laid out training plan, there will be several easy runs throughout your week.  Your body needs these both to recover and continue to build.  If you choose to ignore them you won’t be doing yourself a favor and it can lead to injury.

I’m competitive by nature and it is hard for me sometimes to see those paces click at the end of each mile and not want to beat the next or stay on a pace that I am aiming for on race day.  So it is helpful for me to just plain not have those numbers there in the first place.


I got faster!  That’s right.  By running without constantly looking at my watch and my pace, I allowed myself to build as a runner.  Now my average pace is faster than it was a few weeks ago and I didn’t even notice it because I was just running by feel.

The moral of the lesson:  I still wear my watch for many runs and I always wear it for long training runs and speed work.  But sometimes we need to strip it all down and just enjoy a run for the sake of running.  Even when training, not every one has to be a “training” run.  There is value in keeping it simple!

Do you wear a GPS?  Do you always wear it?


22 thoughts on “Why I’ve Been Ditching My GPS

  1. I use my Pebble connected to my phone and iSmoothRun. I’ve a GPS watch but got so aggravated, like you, waiting for it to connect or not connect that I just leave it in the drawer now. I use it on most runs because I don’t really run the same route so I need to know my distance. When I don’t have it the only thing that bothers me is how far I’ve run and if its far enough LOL – I mean I have my standards, right… OCD…

  2. I love my Forerunner 10 and I hope it never dies. I pretty much wear it all the time because I love seeing the map of the route I ran. I’m pretty good about running by feel so I’m not wholly dependent on Garmin. Also if I really need to not pay attention to the pace that the GPS says, then I hide it under my sleeve in winter or shove it in a pocket in summer. Once it’s connected, the watch is pretty good about maintaining connection throughout the run even though it’s covered.

  3. It took me a long time to get my first GPS watch. I’d been running for eight year already before I got my TomTom Runner, and by then I’d gotten tired of always haveing to map my run before knowing how much or how fast I had run, and I could never do interval work out on the road. The first time I wore my GPS, it was liberating to run a totally new, and different route and know when it was time to turn around to get home in time.
    After a few months, however, I noticed I never let myself slow down while running. I was always aware of my pace and whether it was “too slow” to be a fast runner. So I left it at home once in a while.
    That all went well, but I still found myself relying on it too much. Then it died, and before I could replace it, I was able to return to “naked” running, and found my training much more enjoyable.
    I got a new watch in time for marathon training, but I plan to let the battery die and stay dead for at least a month after the race. It is a love-hate relationship… a very useful tool, but I need to learn to use it to my advantage, not let it run me.

  4. Sorry to hear about your FR25 … are you sure it isn’t defective? I looked on the Garmin forums (yeah, nerd here) and didn’t see any major complaints – and people will complain about everything there! 🙂

    I had the FR10 (gave to my brother whose old 305 died) and still have the FR15 (same thing but with activity tracker) and both were excellent, quick to connect, great battery, etc. I am using the FR225 which has the GPS, fitness/sleep tracker and wrist-based Heart-Rate. I like it pretty well (each new firmware update is an adventure 🙂 ) and find it is reliable overall.

    But I also will often go ‘tech free’ (and since I don’t use music outside it really IS tech free). At this point I wear the watch all the time, but will sometimes – especially in winter – not use the GPS. All of the things you say are true … and honestly, when it is sub-zero wind chill out or colder, who really CARES about pace, etc?!? I will sometimes start the GPS indoors and if it doesn’t lock before I am putting on my gloves, oh well. 🙂

    • I love that you looked it up. I’ve been wondering if that was re case with it being defective. Perhaps I will contact Garmin. I like the idea of trying to connect and if it doesn’t, just screw it 🙂

      • Well, to be fair I was a runner for more than 23 years before first using GPS … so it isn’t something I see as a fundamental necessity 🙂

  5. I do always use GPS but that is because I use Runkeeper on my phone. I do not however always check the distance, pace and mileage until after I am done my run. Sometimes I just want to go run and not worry about that stuff so I simply do not look at it.

  6. I’ve been wearing a Garmin for about 5 years now. About 2 years ago I switched to the 610 and Garmin gave me $50 for the 410 as a trade in!
    I’m pretty bad about writing down my run details, so having the Garmin keep track of my runs for me is great.
    Recently I’ve been looking at my overall average pace on runs. When I plan a race I know what my average time needs to be to hit my goal, so now I train that way.

  7. You know that I’m right with you here! Moving to Chicago was great for me with regards to turning off the Garmin–waiting for signal takes forever. I also don’t really care about splits and such, for my own person use. I like it as a training tool, but if I’m not training, it likely isn’t going with me.

  8. I usually stick to my Garmin but I agree that it makes sense to ditch the watch some times! Thanks for this post! I’d get very nervous running sans watch for a race but might try it sometime– need to break out of that routine!

    • I only raced sans watch once and that was a Hot Chocolate race. I told my husband you could tell I wasn’t into the race at all considering I totally forgot it at home. I didn’t actually race but having done almost half of that Turkey Trot without, I think I could run a decent short race without.

  9. I stopped wearing my GPS after having Allie and I enjoy running so much more. I’m going to stay away from it until I start really training again.

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