Maybe you’re a #Running4Real Superstar on Facebook and see people talking about #NoWatchMe in the community (if you aren’t a member yet, why not?! Come join it!) and you’re completely confused.

You may be thinking:

I could NOT run without my watch! Not a chance!! Why would I do that when I have my lovely GPS watch to keep track?

My Garmin helps me to stay motivated, see my journey, show me that it’s all worthwhile, and so much more. Why would I ever remove that?

First off, #NoWatchMe doesn’t mean you that have to take off your watch. It means not WATCHING it, having no clue of your pace while you’re running.

And you can tweak it to say “now watch me” because you’ll surprise yourself by just how much better and faster you run when you don’t have your head down all the time, looking at it.

What does that mean?

Not looking at it when you have run a mile/kilometer, not looking at the average pace in any way, and not having any idea of the speed you’re going…until after.

This can (and should) be applied to workouts, races, AND easy runs, everything.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t check your watch to make sure that you run 7.00 miles rather than 6.99; you can look at it for that reason; you just can’t check your pace.

For races, for workouts, for easy runs, all of them, you just don’t need to know.

All you need to do is change the settings on your GPS watch to the following:

  • Only distance and time are displayed on the watch
  • It does NOT beep or vibrate at mile (or km) marks
  • You CANNOT see your average pace anywhere

And that’s it.

Need more convincing?

Well, you can either watch this video, or read ahead.

Here’s one scenario:

You’re in a race, look down at your GPS watch, and see that you’re running slower than your goal pace (or than you thought you were), and thought, “Oh my god, I’m running so slow, what the heck is wrong with me?”  Not only do you speed up, but now you’re panicking that you’re well behind “pace” and you have to make it up.

Maybe your body was just taking a little longer to warm up that day, maybe something wasn’t quite right, but had you listened and trusted it by going at the speed it felt was right for that moment, it would have worked out the issue, and allowed you to not only pick up the pace gradually, but get into a rhythm that felt good.  From there, your confidence would have grown and you would have gotten faster and faster, far exceeding the version of you that was forced into a pace when it wasn’t ready.

Now let’s look at the other side:

You’re in a race, look down at your GPS watch and see that you’re running MUCH faster than you are “supposed to;” you are running much faster than your “goal pace.”  Immediately your heart sinks, and you begin to panic…“It’s only a matter of time before that catches me up, oh my god, I’m going to blow up.”  Then you spend the next part of the race just waiting for that fast start to come back and get you. As soon as you go through a rough patch, you admit defeat, and let yourself spiral mentally out of control.  You slow down and spend the rest of the race feeling completely defeated, until you cross the line, devastated. Whereas really, this was just one of those bad patches of a few minutes, and you would have come out the other side, feeling strong again, and rolling those final few miles down.

What if that was one of those rare, dream race days when you could have run better than you ever imagined?  One of those days that you see others post about, when you exceed all your expectations, cry happy tears at the finish, and reap the rewards of all your hard work?

But instead, you let your GPS tell you were going too fast, and it messed with your mind.

Your body KNOWS what to do.

But if you feel like you could use a little help trusting in your body instead of your watch, here’s an effort-based cheat sheet that will help you a lot.

How to Use the Effort Scale Cheatsheet

Get your printout to refer to as you begin effort based training

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Hard training using #nowatchme

During a hard training session is the absolute best time to learn what racing pace feels like.

When you’ve been given a pace to run for your workouts, instead of looking all the time (which you can’t do anyway, because you’ve changed the settings on your watch so pace is not displayed!!), ask yourself, “Does this feel like X PACE?”.

Run your workouts at what feels like X pace, rather than trying to hit an exact split.

Each repeat/tempo/workout, ask yourself if it feels like the right pace.  Think about the way you FEEL, how fast you are moving across the ground, what your breathing is like (is it too hard for this point in the workout?), how often your feet hit the ground. Pay attention to those factors.

After the repeat/tempo/workout, look at your pace, and if you were WAY off, think back on those things you noted and about how to adjust them during the next workout.

This will take practice, not so much physically, but it may be a little while before your mind allows you to accept that this is the best way to run.

Think about the elites for a moment; think about the legends of the past.  Most elites do NOT let a watch rule their workouts or races. Sure, they’re running for a time, but they’re also aware that their body knows best, just as yours does. Think about the runners of the past who led the way for us today; they didn’t have GPS watches telling them what to do; they just learned over time what a certain effort felt like and how to ration their energy correctly throughout the distance they had to cover.

If that helps you, thinking of rationing your energy, that’s another way to practice. If you have 5 x 1 mile repeats, in your second one, ask yourself, “Am I about 2/5 of the way through my energy stores?”  If the answer is, “No, I’m probably over halfway through my energy,” slow down a little. If you’re thinking, “Actually, I feel like I should be a little more tired by now,” you can speed up just a little.

Start by checking your pace after each repeat, thinking about it, and making the necessary changes as you learn what your body feels like at a certain speed. Over time, you should be able to transition to where you can look at the workout as a whole, and only look at your paces afterwards.

Now, when it comes to training this way, you’ll find yourself tempted to check a lot at first.  That’s okay, but the more you practice, the less tempted you’ll be because you’re enjoying your running SO MUCH MORE without the pressure to hit a pace. It’s incredibly freeing and empowering, and once you switch to this method, you’ll probably never go back.

Racing using #NoWatchMe

Ideally you won’t feel the need to check your watch at all, BUT if you are extremely nervous about not going out too fast, you CAN check it a few times early in the race and preferably at mostly random distances (as opposed to say a 5k or 10k split, numbers you may know well).

Here are some examples:

800m of a 5k

1 mile, 4 mile of a half marathon (2k, 7k)

1 mile, 4 mile, 7 mile of a marathon (2k, 6k, 11k)

The first check-in is the one to keep you under control if you’re someone who does get sucked out by the adrenaline. That marker will be where you haven’t really done too much damage (as long as you’re not stupid about it) and you can fix it if you are off.

Don’t just have one exact pace in mind, as that is FAR too much pressure, and will leave you feeling negative if you’re even slightly off.  Give yourself a range, have about 10 seconds either side of a mile that is okay (5 seconds of an 800m), and if you’re within it, continue right as you are.

Now, the temptation if you’re more than 10 seconds off is to want to check again, to make sure you’ve slowed down/speeded up enough, but DO NOT. Resist that urge. Instead, ask yourself, “Does this feel like a pace I can maintain for x miles (however many you have left); does this pace feel like what INSERT GOAL FINISH PACE feels like?” If the answer to both is yes (be honest with yourself), just keep going; you’re doing the right thing. If the answer is no, slow down a little more. Even if that means that you slow down too much, you’ll give your body a chance to recover and be able to naturally pick the pace back up.

Somewhere within each mile for the rest of the time until the next marker, ask yourself, “Does this feel like a pace I can maintain for another INSERT REMAINING MILES LEFT? Does this feel like a mile INSERT MILE NUMBER pace?”  The key word here being FEEL.

If the answer is yes, keep going. You’ll find that your body naturally falls into a rhythm, and if you truly trust this, and do it right, you will be AMAZED at how consistent those paces end up being when you look at them later that day.

For the next markers (4 mile for half and full, 7 for a full), have a range of about 45-75 seconds either side of the time your fitness indicated you’re ready for (half marathoners and sub 3:30 marathons should probably do 45 seconds, over 3:15 marathoners between 50-75 seconds).

BUT keep your course in mind. If you’re on a downhill course for the first part of the race, you may be a little faster. There are many factors that can put you a little slower than expected, like uphill courses, weather conditions, or a crowded start. If this the case, give yourself a little more buffer either way.

It’s important to note:

this means the amount of time you have been racing, the OVERALL time, again, pace does NOT come into this.

For example, if you were running a marathon and your training indicated that your A goal was a 3:15 marathon, which equates to just under 7:30 a mile, rather than obsess about the one extra second, round it up to 7:30 pace, and assume that if you’re trusting your body, you’ll make those extra few seconds up in the final miles.

Therefore, at the 1 mile mark, you can check your watch (displaying ONLY time and distance), and it says you ran a 7:14 mile (16 seconds too fast).

“Okay, a little quick, back down just a little, INSERT YOUR NAME HERE. Relaxxxxxxxx.”

Then you reach the 4 mile mark, it says 30:56.  With a buffer, your range should have been 29:15-30:45.

“Okay, a little slow this time.  No need to panic, there was a little uphill in there (or whatever else you can reassure yourself with); I’m going to pick it up just the tiniest bit.”

By the 7 mile marker, your range should be 51:45-53:15, and you’ve run 52:07.

“Perfect. Right in the middle. Time to trust my body and run this race the best I can.”

If you’re still a little off at that marker, remind yourself that trying to run a particular pace is obviously not helping you today.  It’s time to let your body take over, and see what it’s ready for.

At that moment, promise yourself that you won’t check your watch again for the rest of the race.

Once again, at that moment, in either scenario, start asking yourself once a mile, “Is this the best I can do for mile INSERT MILE? Does this feel right? Does this feel like a speed I can hold for another INSERT REMAINING MILES?”

It may be stressful at first, as the temptation to check will be strong, BUT you will soon notice it is incredibly liberating that you are no longer freaking out about running a pace, and instead focusing on doing the best YOU can do. You’ll be able to look around you, take things in more, and appreciate the fact that you’re out there doing this, right now.

You’re doing the best you can, and you know that all you need to do is make sure that you cross the finish line knowing you gave your absolute best.  That’s all you can control; the result will take care of itself.

#NoWatchMe for Easy Runs

This one is possibly the most crucial.

If you use #nowatchme for only one thing, PLEASE let it be your easy runs.

These are the ones that can make all the difference, really.

Once again, change the settings, remove the beeps (or have enough restraint not to look), and change the display screen to ONLY show distance and time.

You should run every single run that is NOT a workout or a race using #nowatchme. Your easy runs show absolutely NOTHING about your fitness.  In fact, if you’re checking your pace, it’s probably pushing you deeper into a hole, meaning that you will NEVER run as fast as you could, because you’re letting your ego tell you that you’re too slow.

Saying that you can now run faster on your easy days than you could last year doesn’t show ANYTHING. In fact, most experienced runners will laugh at statements like that because they know that runners who say that just don’t get it, don’t understand how much better they could be by not running a pace for a recovery day, but instead running a speed that actually allowed their body to recover.

Take your ego out of the equation, let the workouts and races show your fitness, and remove ANY pace restrictions you set on yourself for easy days. Yes, you may end up running one minute slower than usual, but if you run at what feels like an easy pace, where you can breathe through your nose the ENTIRE TIME (yes, even uphill), then you are doing what your body needs to recover, and so it will.

The biggest mistake most runners make is to end up in a grey zone, where they are running slightly slower and slightly faster on easy and hard days. Instead, you want MORE variation. The slower you run on easy days, the faster you’ll run when it matters.

You’ll also find that you enjoy the runs so much more, because you can appreciate being out there; your mind can get a rest as it isn’t trying to push all the time to stay at the pace you deem acceptable.

The best part about this is, it doesn’t matter what terrain you run on, what the weather is like, what the footing is like. You can just go out there and run. It removes so much of the stress and confusion about running.

If you want the structure of a training plan but not the pressure to hit certain paces, these are entirely by effort and explain exactly how to train this way.  An advantage to training by effort is that you can use the same plan for the rest of your life and for every race you ever do, if you choose.

It works, and you’ll find more joy in your running than you have since you first started and got that runner’s high for the first time.

So give it a try, in whatever capacity you can. If you have to start with just easy runs, do that, and then maybe try a few workouts. You’ll be amazed by the results and it really will change your running life forever.

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