What I learned from leaving my watch behind

It was 60 degrees at 6:30 this morning. This is not typical for Buffalo in December and while I could go on my personal rant about how I would like winter to actually be winter with snow and such, I will save my weather rant for another day. Because part of me did think how nice it was to just put on some capri running pants and a short-sleeved t-shirt and head my front door for a solid five-mile run.

But there was one thing which I purposely left behind — my watch.

I’ve been running without a watch for about a month now. Maybe longer. No Garmin to check my pace and be as precise as possible with my distance. No sport-motif Timex Ironman wristwatch to gauge my time. I even make it a point to NOT look at a clock before I start my run. And when I return, I do my dynamic stretching outside, just in case I want to try and peak at a clock and guess-timate my pace.

Later this month I’ll begin my training program for a half marathon in April. Plenty of time to put the watch back on. But let me say this: Running without a watch has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of training. Ever. It has perhaps been the most valuable tool in my exercise tool kit.

You see, running without a watch, without regard to time and pace, have forced me to examine my addiction to judgement. Put a Garmin on me and even if I’m told to run an easy pace with no regard to time, I’ll still be checking it out. “Oh, it’s just to see how I’m doing,” I’ll say. “Just to give me an idea that I’m working hard enough.” And this month, I finally called bullshit on myself.

Because all I was doing was judging myself.

Do I really not know the difference between what it feels like to run hard versus run easy? Do I really not know how to toss in intervals or pick up the pace or let my body ease through a recovery zone? The watch had been co-opted by one of my Gremlins who loves to judge me. Those times when I wonder what other people will think of my time in a race? I’m not really worried about their judgement of me. “They” are merely reflecting the judgement I have on myself. I am not just my own worst critic. I am often judge, jury and executioner. I am the one who stops myself. I am the one thinks I am not enough.

Guess what there Mr. Gremlin? If I don’t wear a watch, you can’t judge me. Without having the watch to give me constante feedback, I can feel the run. I begin to listen to my body which wants to move and run and jump and bike and swim and hike and stretch. My body doesn’t care about performance. That’s all an invention of my mind. And the crazy thing about it is when my mind lets go of caring about performance, my body turns around and performs better. Because running without a watch doesn’t mean I don’t push myself or challenge myself. It means I have let go of judging what that means or narrowly defining what that looks like. There are no bad days. There are only good days and better days.

Now go forth. And play.

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