Using Your Watch to Run Better, Walk Better, Feel Better

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Mon Jun 9th, 2008, No comments (be the first!)

Besides the metronome, which is a key tool in Chi Running and Chi Walking, the next most important accessory is a good watch. We recommend a digital watch with a chronometer, a single and double countdown timer and 30-50 lap memory. As you get to know what your watch can do you’ll find that you’ll be able to create workouts that are fun and interesting to do.

We have one that we sell on the site that is the best watch we’ve found for our purposes. It’s the Timex Ironman. Danny and I have both used this watch, in its various iterations, for many years.

Here’s a list of the things we use the watch for while walking, running and during the day, and then specific directions are below:

• 50-lap memory to note the duration and date of up to 50 runs or up to 50 splits
• countdown timer for form or speed intervals
• On-the-hour beeper for a reminder to body sense or check in with posture
• Measuring heart rate

50-Lap Memory

If you keep a running or walking journal, the 50-lap memory can keep the duration and date of up to 50 individual workouts. That can come in very handy if you want to keep track of how often and for how long you are running. If you remember to use it each time you run, you don’t have to go to your journal right away. You can transfer the information off your watch into your daily running or walking log when you have the time.

It is very important to know this information for any program upgrades and to make sure you are not over-training. We highly recommend keeping track of the duration and frequency of your runs. Over time it will help you keep consistent and see where there are issues in your training program.

The 50 lap memory can also track splits within one run or one race (or 10 splits in 5 workouts). If you’re doing a track workout, you can start a new split at regular intervals (every mile, every ¼ mile, whatever you want to track) and see if you are actually going faster or slowing down as you do more splits. In ChiRunning we recommend that you start slowly and increase your speed as your body warms up and you begin to relax more. The lap memory is a great way to see if you are going a bit faster as you relax.

While running a race, such as a marathon, it is great to keep track of your mile splits. In ChiRunning we often get great feedback that the runner was able to run the second half of the race faster than the first half, which is a good sign that they are not going out to fast, that they’re getting into a good rhythm and are relaxed and comfortable in the second half of the marathon. Keeping track of your splits will tell you a lot about a race or workout.

Single countdown timer

The single countdown timer is a great tool for simple intervals. You can set the beeper to go off every two minutes as a reminder to check in with a form focus your are practicing. As we all know it is easy for us to get off focus and let our mind wander. The countdown timer is a gentler reminder to focus on your body and on whatever form focus you want to work on. I’ll work on one form focus such as leveling my pelvis, then when the timer goes off I’ll either do that one again, or move on to relaxing my shoulders or picking up my feet rather than pushing off. If you don’t practice your form focuses your body can easily revert to old ways of running. The countdown time is a great wake up!

Danny uses the singles countdown timer in every race to drink every 10 minutes. When it goes off, he faithfully takes a drink to ward off dehydration. He’s practiced this so much he knows exactly how much to drink to keep hydrated without having to stop and pee too often.

The crucial part is keeping hydrated.

Dual countdown timers – Intervals

The dual countdown timer lets you get more sophisticated with your form focus practices and is an essential tool for intervals.

There several kinds of intervals. Mostly people think of intervals to develop cardiovascular strength or to develop speed. We also think intervals are a great way to work on your walking or running form. You can set the first timer for 2-3 minutes and the second one for 1 minute. Then you work on your form focus for 2-3 minutes and then take one minute off to just relax.

This also works for building cardiovascular strength. You go a little bit faster for 2-3 minutes, getting your heart rate up, then take 1 minute at a recovery pace to let your heart rate slow down. Then increase again for 2-3 minutes and so on. This builds cardiovascular strength.

It’s always important to remember you also want to build aerobic capacity as well and that is done with a long, slow distance workout. But intervals are a great way to build cardiovascular strength.

Speed intervals are the same thing, but the focus is specifically to build your speed. As we say over and over, with Chi Running we feel you should only focus on speed once you can keep the Chi Running form over a good distance. Speed comes from working on form and learning to relax even more.

However lots of runners are very interested in speed and Chi Running is a great way to get faster. Your watch will really help.

The Chi Running recipe is to build your speed while doing the interval and while doing the overall workout. The goal is to have your last interval your fastest interval. In many training programs they have you go all out in the first interval and you’ll notice that each interval then gets slower. We have found that if you practice good form, and get more and more relaxed as you run, the relaxation is what will give you the speed.

With your dual countdown timer you can set your first timer for 2-3 minutes or whatever interval you choose, and set the second one for 1 minute for recovery. Another goal is to reduce your effort while you run faster.

If you do intervals on the track you can use your 50-lap memory to run intervals by number of times around the track, and time yourself to see if you are going faster or slower per interval.

Remember, Gradual Progress: Start out slowly and build speed with good form and deep relaxation.

Check your Heart Rate

The basic chronometer and two fingers is a low tech way to check your heart rate. First of all, as a baseline reference point, it is important to know your resting heart rate (RHR). As your level of conditioning improves, you will notice a drop in this number, so it's good to look at occasionally so that you can chart your progress towards better health.

Here's how to find your resting heart rate. Before you go to bed, lay your watch next to you within easy reach from where you're sleeping. When you wake up in the morning, before you do anything else, reach for your watch and take your pulse by holding your pointer and middle fingers on your neck, just next to your throat while holding your watch in the other hand, so that you can read it. Count the number of heart beats that happen in 15 seconds and then multiply that number by four to get beats per minute. Jot it down in your running or walking log. Those of you who are starting off in the lower end of the fitness spectrum will get to enjoy the largest drop in this number as you workout more frequently … so you have a lot to look forward to.

Once you know your resting heart rate it is good to take your heart rate during your workouts. At various times, stop and do the same thing as above, count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by 4. For anyone with heart issues it is good to know your goals for the percentage of your maximum heart rate during work outs.

On the Hour Beeper

Danny and I always have our on-the-hour-beeper on. It is a reminder throughout the day to stop and check in, with posture, with Body Sensing, with ourselves. If you know you slouch at the desk, it can be reminder to sit up. Use it to drink water, take a 2 minute computer break, whatever is going to help you most.

Of course our watch does the basics too, tells you the time and date, lights up in the dark, has 3 alarms to wake you up in the morning or as a reminder for an appointment, has two time zones to set the clock to if you’re traveling, and even more.

Our watches have become an essential part of how we improve our running, our walking and our day-to-day life.

Get the Timex Ironman Watch Here.



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ChiRunning began to enrich my life on July 3, 2010 when I read the first 100 pages of the book and went for a run, and just focusing on ankle lift made a difference! My running life continues to transform and create joy! I smile when I run and love every minute. I am thrilled and grateful to be part of this ChiRunning community. Thank you for the opportunity to pursue becoming an Instructor.

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