So a while ago I wrote about how running clothing can add a bit of high-vis motivation if you need some encouragement to lace up, but I also acknowledged that a snazzy top or pair of shorts may not be the sugar-free icing on every runner’s wholegrain cake. A couple of friends – yes, male runners – have asked me to write about some of the techier accoutrements in a running wardrobe.*
The bottom line is you actually need very little to run: essentially just a decent pair of shoes. Way before I kitted myself out with fancy gear, I downloaded RunKeeper on my phone. The ability to track my distance and pace were absolutely crucial for me – I needed to chart my progress, see myself sustain a new habit, and gradually improve.
Most of us probably have some kind of phone or iPod running app: MapMyRun, Nike+, Strava… and many of them link to nutrition apps as well, so you can keep an eye on how you’re fueling (especially helpful if running is part of a weight-loss plan for you). But when my brother very generously gave me a Pebble Steel watch, RunKeeper became even more usable.
I just don’t get on with armbands for my phone – I tried a few and they always seem to slip and cause a rash where they rub against my side, as my arm swings back and forth. So the best thing for me about the Pebble is that I can pause Runkeeper if I need to, without scrabbling around through various layers (in this weather, anyway) to get to the zipped back pocket of my running tights to find my phone, and then risk flailing unathletically to the floor as I attempt to get it to the right screen, press the right buttons, often in running gloves that are supposed to have touch screen friendly pads but never seem to work… you get the picture.
With the Pebble I can immediately stop the workout when I’m done, or pause it to tie my shoe. It’s also great because – whilst I like to be totally unplugged and free during a run – if my mum rang me, or the kids’ school, I’d obviously want to take that. Calls come up on my Pebble so I can see who it is without any of the aforementioned scrabbling hassle, and I can accept or decline them by just pressing a button on the side of the watch. Likewise, texts and email come through so you know if something important’s going on – or you can press a button and schedule some ‘quiet time’, so none of the usual notifications from your smart phone get through to your watch, and you really are running free.
The same features that work so niftily on a run are also useful in regular life, and if you spend a lot of time outside and often miss calls because you just don’t hear the phone, you’ll appreciate the vibrating feature on your wrist.
If I sound like Pebble’s employee of the month, it’s really because I do just love this watch. They do cuter ones now, with paper white screen and whatnot, and I’m sure they’re all the better for it – but this is exactly what I want out of some smart technology. (Also – their customer service is also outstanding. There was a hardware glitch on an early model of this watch, and the company replaced it immediately, without quibble, including overseas shipping.)
There are literally hundreds of smart watches on the market now, big name brands which look the business, and cheaper ones which may not quite do what you need. I’ve used this bad boy for a year and a half – it doesn’t exactly set off a cocktail dress, but I can’t imagine going back to a regular wristwatch. If you’re in the market for some running wearable tech, definitely look for watches which sync with your running app, and shop around. The Pebble Steel retails at £120 and although it’s clearly a masculine design (it did come to me second-wrist, after all), it does the job, and I wouldn’t run without it.
*So, yep – this is just about one smartwatch. I don’t use much techy stuff – but if you’d like a review of bluetooth earbuds, I could be persuaded…