Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Road Less Travelled - Do I NEED a heart monitor?

I have never listened to what people told me I couldn't do. No, that's inaccurate. I have never BELIEVED what people told me I couldn't do, in fact that fuelled my drive even more.

When I trained for the 40k bike portion of a triathlon, long ago albeit, the motivation came from an ex who thought I couldn't bike, or at least thought that I wasn't very strong at it. A twist of fate, unbeknownst to me until the day of, placed him at the race I did, in the van that followed the cyclists, ready to repair a flat tube, or anything really. It was with immense satisfaction that I finished.

I didn't buy a special bike, it was actually the mountain bike I still have today! I rode it through rain and wind in TEARS, crying and talking to myself at ungodly hours.

I didn't follow ANY training regimen, I never even looked at a book, and Lord knows there was no www.youtube.com then! I trusted my body and pushed. That was it.

That same summer, the guy that did the swim portion of the triathlon asked me to do a "try-a-tri" and on a whim, I agreed. I had NEVER run, only on a treadmill and I took swimming classes as a kid but did front crawl without putting my face in the water. My main motivation was to not finish last. I didn't.

I recently took up running again. Why I quit is for another post, I finally figured it out over the holidays.

The last time I finished a real race was in 2004. I trained for a half marathon and finished it. I never followed a training regime, I just ran the same distance everyday, with some hills, and tried to get faster. And I did one long run a week, including a trial of the whole distance, about a week before the event. I would never break any Ethiopian records but I didn't do badly for a first time.

By no means am I criticizing those that utilize gadgets to improve their training, finish, final time, whatever their motivation. I want to make that abundantly clear!

I just wonder, is it necessary?

I'm not a competitive athlete so most would say "no".

Frankly, I don't believe anyone needs anything else for running except a good fitting pair of shoes so your toenails don't fall off! Sometimes they do anyway.

I read a friend's blog, which is fantastic by the way, you can find it here. She discussed getting a new heart rate monitor this week.

Maybe it's because I can't afford one right now. Maybe it's because I have never felt that I had to have a "competitive edge". Maybe it's because I am Scottish and cheap.

Who am I to say that inspirations in the sporting world don't benefit from the state-of-the-art equipment, companies are falling all over each other to get them to use/endorse?

For me the answer came today on a fluke.

I was searching for inspirational videos on www.youtube.com and came across a Nike ad. This was it.

There is a very small appearance by someone named Steve Prefontaine. You may have heard of him. I watched the movie years ago called "Prefontaine" starring Jared Leto but recognized Pre in the ad.

I remembered his inspiration. So today, before going to the gym, I watched half of another biopic about him called Without Limits. I watched the other half when I came home.

He didn't have a heart monitor, nor a Garmin, nor fancy running garb.

He loved to run.

His philosophy was, why hang back in a race when you can give it all you've got for the gamut.

He called it "chickenshit" to do it any other way.

He was different. Danced to a different drummer. Wasn't "like everyone else". He had no doubt in his mind that he could do it. And before his tragic and early death, he was among the faster people alive.

His short life was indeed an inspiration.

While I am not in the market to break running records, I believe I can do anything I set my mind to.

And it's because of Pre's story, and many many other famous and ordinary people that have come into my life.

The thing that propels you is not the equipment, but what's in your heart.

And in your head. Sometimes your head gets the best of you. I know mine has too many times to count.

So as tempting as it may be for me to put myself in the poor house and purchase gadgets I think I need, I'll take a pass this time.

But because I am obviously NOT a front runner, at least now, I'll leave it up for discussion.


  1. For me as I continue to train for races and events I do try and push myself further and at this time the Gadgets help....I find it hard to stay motivated to run...it is a struggle...signing up for races and pushing myself is how I stay mentally and physically "fit"....for me they work...I have also had the same Garmin since 2006...do not plan on replacing it anytime soon....The heart rate monitor is new and I am enjoying pushing myself or knowing when I am in a certain "zone". My GPS and Polar watch give me numbers to strive for...

    Great post!!!

  2. Thanks Lish! Funny, I signed up and paid for a two hour endurance cycling class and the instructor sent out a note today. Included in it was reference to "target heart rate" so obviously many people do the same as yourself in lots of disciplines! Love your blog, keep up the great work!