Take It From Me—The Best Way to Improve Your Running Is to Stop Caring About Your Times So Much

Obsessing over my watch data caused me to go too far, too fast. Here’s what I learned when I paid no mind to my results.

9/20/2021 10:28:00 PM

Obsessing over my watch data caused me to go too far, too fast. Here’s what I learned when I paid no mind to my results.

In the last two years, obsessing over the stream of data from my GPS watch had caused me to go too far, too fast. Here’s what I learned when I stopped caring.

If your breath is ragged and you’re unable to speak during a training run, that means you are going too fast. Remember how I couldn’t breathe on that day when my ego told me to go faster? I was spitting and coughing—a sure sign I was running beyond my fitness level. The beauty of controlling your breath is that it allows you to get the most out of your run. You build your aerobic capacity by training properly instead of merely wearing yourself down.

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So instead of caring about your speed, focus on how and when you are breathing. In his bookRunning on Air, famed running coach Budd Coates explains breath patterns. If you inhale for three steps (in/right footstep; in/left footstep; in/right footstep), then exhale for two (out/left; out/right), you should be able to sustain an even training pace, prevent overstriding, and feel great.

Breath work also lets your mind relax. Your ego self is given a distraction. That over-analyzing pain in the you-know-what must count, step, and breathe. Meanwhile, the runner you’re meant to be takes over. It’s like a movingmeditationthat keeps you very tuned in and focused and could launch you into flow.

This content is imported from {embed-name}. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.So, is this all for the flow?Eventually I yelled “who cares?!” at myself enough times that I felt comfortable leaving my watch at home. As I built mileage up, I would tell my body at the beginning of each run what the plan was. I’d say something like, “Okay, today we are going to run for 25 minutes, very easy.”

When I made the decision to stop caring about my pace, and instructed my mind to trust my body, and attempted to be present in my breath, something awesome happened. One beautiful afternoon, I experienced one of those magical flow runs. You’ve probably heard of this concept of flow, or the zone, or whatever buzzword you want to throw out there to describe that state of ecstasy when you are so fully present doing something that the rest of the world melts away.

I consulted sports psychologist and runner, to ask if my “I don’t give a crap” attitude could have helped facilitate the flow run. She said it probably came down to newfound focus.Related StoriesHow Therapy Made My Running Better“The more mindful you are, the more likely you are to achieve flow in practice or competition,” she said.

I wasn’t interrupting myself by checking my splits or how far I had to go. Perhaps more importantly, I wasn’t judging myself. I was just running.Israelsen told me that with a lot of mindfulness practice, runners can experience that brilliant state more often. But of course, if you care too much about reaching flow state, you are not going to reach flow state.

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“You can’t force flow,” she said. “But you can practice quieting your thoughts.”Here’s the bottom line:You know how to run. When you are out on the road or trail, grinding away, you should not have to care about how fast, slow, or far you must go every single session. Don’t analyze your running while you are running—that is the “critical” self trying to interfere and all that thinking can slow you down. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is running free. So take off your watch, shake away your thoughts, and go out, feel your breath, and get grounded in the run.

Freelance WriterAli Nolan is the former features editor for Runner's World and the author of Master the Marathon.This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at

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'The bottom line' is that everyone is different. I for one love me some data both during and after a run. looking at the wrong data. Your speed really doesn’t matter unless you’re an actual competitor. The only data you should pay attention to targeted heart rate zones. Most often, low effort runs. Under 80% max heart rate are desired. Hard to go slow, checking heart rate helps

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