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“Serious” Running and My Heart Rate Monitor

Some amused thoughts on the effects of habit.

February 24, 2019Filed under Blog#fitness#habit#running#thinkingMarkdown source

Assumed Audience: People interested in habits, fitness, or emotions, or especially how they intersect

Today I took the second “long” run of my training season for the first of two half marathons I’m running this year (in May; the other is in September). As I was showering afterward, I kept feeling that something was right in my world again—that I was actually seriously training for a half marathon again.

Two things about that thought caught my attention.1 The first: it is telling of how deeply a part of my life running in general and half marathons in particular have become over the last 8 years. I could say much more about that, and perhaps I will in some future post. For this post, though, I want to focus on the second: why it felt right to me. After all: this is not the first time I’ve been training seriously for a half marathon in a few years. The last time I successfully completed a half marathon was 2015, but I have trained for one every year since then—failing to run them only because of a mix of sickness (in 2016 and 2018) and moving across the country instead (in 2017).

Why, then, did I feel today like I was seriously training for the first time in years? I laughed out loud when I realized: this was the first time I put on my chest strap heart rate monitor since mid-2017. I picked up an Apple Watch Series 2 that April, and decided its wrist-based heart-rate monitoring was good enough for my purposes and stuck with it for the last couple years.

I really like the Apple Watch in a lot ways. I’ve increasingly been frustrated by its limitations, though—from the lack of reliable feedback on heart rate zones; to the annoying little wrist flick I have to do to see my current stats, since the screen is not constantly on; to the fact that it has to be attached directly to my wrist, no matter how cold it is and therefore how inconvenient that is; to the ways it just loses my heart-rate signal at times, especially when cycling. So, today, I strapped back on my my Garmin with its ANT+ chest strap-style heart-rate monitor and took a run with it.

That was the difference: putting on a chest strap and a GPS watch. Now, that probably seems weird to you. It seems a little weird to me! What I realized, though, is that I had been wearing a chest strap heart rate monitor since I started training for my first half marathon, all the way back in January 2011. The particular strap and the particular associated watch have varied over the years, but all the time until mid-2017, there was a watch on my wrist and a strap around my chest. Somewhere along the way I (wholly subconsciously!) learned to associated those physical cues with training seriously. So when I put a chest strap heart rate monitor again today, it flipped that switch in my brain, and things felt right again.

Sometimes it is easy for us to forget just how thoroughly our physicality matters. The deep reality is that we are embodied minds—the two undivorceable.2 Things like chest straps end up mattering to us. It seems strange that such a little thing would affect me so much, but affect me deeply it does. All the little ways I have trained my body matter. Though I could train it differently… I probably won’t, in this case. More on that, and on Apple Watch, sometime in the future.

  1. Yes, I was thinking about what I was thinking. This is normal for me.

  2. Yes, modulo qualifications about divine activity in the time between our death and our resurrection. There are many mysteries about that state; I will be content with “mystery” as the description for it. The point in any case is that we are destined for resurrection (one way or another): body and mind united again forever (to joy or to damnation).