Potential Pitfalls: Technology and Your Running
There is no doubt about it – Technology has revolutionized our world and our jobs. It has also had a big impact on our running. We can read who won a race moments after the runner actually passed the finish line. We can research races in far off destinations we might not have heard about otherwise. We can find inspiration, inventions, and information on the World Wide Web. We can also find…misinformation, incompetence and ultimately, we can be acting counter-intuitively to some of the very reasons we started running in the first place.
So what are some potential pitfalls that can befall your running from overuse of technology?
(Incorrectly) Researching Ailments
Have you ever checked WebMD and then become convinced you had cancer? Being able to research potential ailments can sometimes help narrow down the issue. However, it can also sometimes create fear and worry where there needn’t be. Or it could lead to purchases of products to heal your so-called problem, when in reality, you may not be treating the correct issue. The Internet is no replacement for a trained medical professional.
Tools like MapMyRun, Strava or Fitbit can allow you to track the fitness of fellow runners and friends. This can serve as a great motivation to “keep up” with your friends’ progress. However, the downside can be that what started as a friendly competition can affect your own happiness with your progression. And sometimes, your numbers may not stack up against others because you are taking a rest day (something your body needs!). This relates very closely to the next item…
It’s great to have motivation from others. And it is great to have a little friendly competition now and again. But if you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others, you are not in a healthy situation. And the reality is that the Internet can be a breeding ground for those negative thoughts. If you’re feeling self-conscious about your body and then see a barrage of perfectly toned pseudo-models on every website you visit, it can be hard not to draw comparisons. The truth is, most people post on social media their accomplishments or feats they’re proud of. And if you’re friends with a lot of other runners and it appears that everyone is getting a PR, had a great training run, is racing in an exotic location, just crushed a super far distance, and so on, this can lead you to question your own efforts.
Isolation and Social Media
It can be very motivational to follow your favorite runners or athletes on social media. However, a recent student compiled by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that high levels of social media use, particularly among young people, led to increased levels of perceived social isolation. These results would seem counter-intuitive to the purpose of social media: to connect others in a social network. But all good things should be done in moderation. If you are spending so much time online that you are neglecting your in-person relationships that can be an issue.
Getting Training Plans from Google
Training plans are not “one size fits all”. The Internet does not know your back story. It doesn’t know if you’ve been a runner for years and have steadily been building a solid base or if you are a newbie who decided to run a marathon this year. In sum, the Internet is not a reliable coach. It does not allow for “life” to happen and for your to make adjustments to your training. By just grabbing a training plan off the Internet and running with it, you could also be potentially setting yourself up for injury or disappointment.
Imagine this: your iPod dies mid-run. With it, do your spirits die as well? Another scenario: have you ever heard someone say, “Oh! I forgot to put my Fitbit back on before I went on my walk. Those steps don’t count now!” Technology is great and can be a great tool. But not to the point that you are so dependent on it that you can’t walk or run without it.
Think back: Why did you start running in the first place? Was it to make social connections? Was it because it made you feel free and de-stressed? Was it to “get away from it all”?
Technology can absolutely be a great help when it is used in moderation. But it is important for us as runners to remember to unplug sometimes. Because how can you run and “get away from it all” if “it all” is constantly attached to your hip?
Running as a sport can be a great outlet for building social connections and for keeping you grounded. This can be done by training with a partner, participating in social running clubs, participating in group efforts via charity runs, and so on. If you find that you are training less and less with real people or are caught up in a comparison game, it may be time to take a technology break. Technology should not be robbing you of your joy! And if you just really, really love the Internet and can’t cut down on your use (or if you find yourself starting to feel lonely), it may be a good idea to seek out virtual running buddies. And to remind yourself of why you fell in love with the sport in the first place.