Confessions of a Gear Geek
A tree falls in the woods. No one is around. Did it make a sound?
Who knows. But here is another way to think about the question.
You do a workout. You don’t have your activity-monitoring technology on you. Your cell. Your GPS watch. Your apps. You don’t have any of them. Did the workout happen?
I bring this up because I remember a time when a workout didn’t feel like it occured if I didn’t have it recorded and analyzed as steps and heart rates.
The sensation was nothing particularly metaphysical, just emotional. Calories and time felt as if they were thrown into the void of unquantified nothingness. Valuable energy was lost, never to be seen by another, nor myself. Wasted.
This feeling would make me lose enthusiasm at times. I’d even skip workouts if I didn’t have my tech handy.
Have you ever felt this? That there is no point in walking if your Fitbit isn’t on you?
This is the worst case scenario when using activity-monitoring technology. It’s a common mistake.
It’s a dependency. One a Spartan should avoid.
I’m a recovering gear geek. Maybe you are, too.
The good old days of fitness tech were the 2000s.
It was a runner thing. A cyclist thing. A triathlete thing.
Triathlon was the granddaddy to a generation of gear geeks.
And man were we geeky. Think a pocket protector is bad?
Back then you had to carry a brick-sized GPS along with you or strap it to your shoulder (because you are carrying a brick-sized iPod in your hand). Eventually they made the rigs unified and the size of a watch. A embarrassingly huge watch strapped to your wrist.
But you’d still always have to spend five minutes bouncing up and down in front of your house praying the GPS would connect to a satellite before you could start moving, fearing precious steps would be lost.
Batteries always died. The GPS signal always dropped.
You’d be putting in the best run of your life and suddenly you’d be off the grid, your data gone.
Also, invariably you would be in a situation where you were doing your workout and you wouldn’t have your gear with you. It’d be in your other bag.
It caused anxiety.
And what if the data was lost? Was there an automatic upload after the workouts back then? Real-time syncing with “The Cloud” and all your social media friends?
I have a notebook in my attic with every mile I ran and biked in 2006, handwritten, along with my average heart rate for each mile. I had to manually pull this from my watch. I remember trying to integrate the data with the watts I recorded on my power-meter. The power-meter had its own software interface. I had all sorts of custom-built spreadsheets
The whole thing took a lot of time and energy. Time and energy that would have been better spent logging unrecorded miles.
But I was geeking out.
I was dependent on my technology to make my workouts happen.
I would also spend hours and hours of what could have been training time talking with other gear geeks in online forums. I could see there was a culture of people who liked talking about working out and the accessories of working out more than they like working out.
Eventually, I realized we all might have had a bit of a problem.
For me, part of the Spartan revolution was a response to this problem.
Spartan was born out of triathlon like grunge was born out of hair metal. It was a minimalist response to a hyper-technical indulgence. Spartan was to Ironman as Nirvana was to Poison.
The Spartan attitude is in stark contrast to the gear-dependent triathlete perspective. To a Spartan, tech gear is a luxury, a tool. But not a necessity.
No matter what anyone tries to sell you.
So much was being lost in the confusion born of managing too much in our heads while we were trying to work on our bodies.
I personally needed to find a way to train and be happy with the prospect of working out unwired.
This took years of therapy for me. When I got to Vermont in 2011 I found that there were no GPS signals. When running in the woods the skies would not be recording me anymore.
I was on my own.
And it was liberating.
Even if you have the newest and fanciest 24/7 wearable activity monitors with automatic data dumps into beautiful apps, you’ll eventually end up faced with it being unavailable in some way when you suddenly find yourself ready to roll into some training.
And, you’ll run your Fitbit through the laundry.
You’ll drop your phone in a toilet.
Also, activity monitoring with a cell phone or GPS device is a skill set of its own. You won’t master it overnight. Don’t expect yourself to. Your battery will die. You hit the wrong buttons mid-workout.
If you demand of yourself that you always have it on and ready, you are gonna stress yourself out and sabotage plenty of good opportunities to train without it.
You will break down mentally, too. You just might find yourself overwhelmed with data. Afterall, we often are so concerned and focused on getting data, we don’t always have time to interpret it. We hoard data we never look at.
Here’s a telling confession: I never actually read my attic full of data until I started this article.
Keep perspective before getting overwhelmed with technology and data. You need to Spartan up and realize that you have all the tools that you need already.
You need to remember to embrace wearable technology without it being a straight jacket that confines you.
And remember, the absolute worst technology on the market today is far better than what we had in the 2000s.
Don’t have any cool tech? Don’t stress. You can still start training today without it.
Don’t lose sight of this fact: The flesh and blood you will always be will be there on race day. Not your training log. Not your Facebook posts.
Your body recorded all those numbers. Your body recorded the workouts when no one is watching.
Every unrecorded step counted and was programmed into your flesh even if it wasn’t going into your watch. Even if it was never blasted on social media.
The tree makes a sound. Your workout happened.
Now shut up and get to work.
Getting ready to tackle a Spartan race? Download The Spartan 2018 Training Plan as your blueprint. #noexcuses