by Sergio Borges

Limiters to Performance 

Heart Rate monitors, powermeters, GPS: are these expensive gadgets really helping or just limiting us?

garmin_vector_power_system1Gadgets can be a great tool to help with your training and racing, but they can also hinder you from reaching your full potential. After all, these tools let “numbers” dictate how your body is feeling. This can have a powerful influence on your mind which may limit your performance.
I have seen athletes that are so dependent on their gadgets that if they forget to bring their heart rate monitors or GPS to the local group run, or they forget to charge their powermeters before the ride, they turn around and go home! Is it impossible to train without these tools? Of course not! They may actually be better off without them.
HRM If you look at your heart rate monitor or GPS at least once every minute when you are out on a run, then you’re missing the chance to learn how your body is reacting to the training. Your obsession with your HR causes you to lose focus on your form (stride rate and length, arm position, etc.) and you don’t notice the signs of your body (breathing, fatigue, efficiency, etc). If you can’t read your body’s reaction to the training, you’ll let the “numbers” dictate how your body is feeling. For example, your body may feel great on a run so you pick up the speed a little. Then you look at your HR monitor and notice that your HR is way above your training zone so you slow it down. Your body was telling you that you are adapting to the training well and you are getting stronger, but because your HR was too high, you wasted what could have been a really good training session. This is how “numbers” just get in the way.
pace clockCycling and running should mimic swimming, which is still a relatively gadget-free sport. Most people are unable to glance at the pace clock while swimming so they only find out how fast they are swimming when the interval is over. Therefore, athletes have developed a good sense of pacing and effort in the pool in which they know what Easy, Moderate or Hard is without having to look at any numbers.

For example, let’s say one day you’re feeling tired and have to do a recovery swim set of 10 x 100yds with 15 secs rest. The pace you’re swimming could easily be 10 seconds slower than your previous workout, so pace (“numbers”) here is not dictating your training! Your performance is based only on how your body feels. The same thing applies to a race specific set of 15 x 100yds (I’m using 100’s again to facilitate the example) at your best average with 10 seconds rest. One day your best average could be 1:15’s, but 1:20’s on a different day while the effort is still the same: Race effort!
When I was training using all these gadgets, I realized that I was actually training my body to ignore what I was feeling, both physically and emotionally. I was simply being guided by “numbers” that were powerful enough to control my mind and body. Despite the claims of most training plans, zone training tells most people to train in a very generic way without regard to changing environmental factors and regardless of what their body might be telling them, potentially causing the athlete to under- or over-train.
In addition, the data from these tools has become a new time consuming factor added to our already busy lives. The extra 40 minutes (at least) per week spent in front of the computer downloading and studying all the data from these gadgets could instead be used for stretching, taking a nap,or even getting one more workout in!
Just listen to your body! Have a great 2015 season!