Does Technology Help Or Hinder Running?

Q: Does technology such as GPS make runners better or worse? – Shaun S.

Timex-Global-Trainer-GPSDr. Ross Tucker answers:

As was the case 20 years ago when heart-rate monitors hit the market, our desire to use technology to improve training means there’s always a new object of affection. But this is never a bad thing, and all runners would benefit by tracking their training to improve in the long term.

However, we’re extremists, and we make the error of becoming over-reliant on technology. The same can happen with GPS. At best, GPS units provide information, and no more. They don’t make decisions; nor do they ensure that the right decision is made – that’s up to the user.

In fact, if anything, they overwhelm and paralyse us with too much information; which, if not understood well, can be misleading. Of course, this comparison fails on many levels – but I’m always reminded that the greatest runners in the world, those from Kenya and Ethiopia, don’t rely on technology to tell them to speed up or slow down. Instead, they have learned ‘body awareness’, and this is something we can all borrow from.

That said, if used wisely, data from a GPS offers great value. Perhaps its best application is to prevent overtraining – but use the stats to force you into slowing down, not speeding up. GPS can easily become a short-cut to over-training, but if you purposefully set out to achieve the opposite, you’ll be doing well. It can also help you to log training, and learn in retrospect. A logbook allows you to learn over time, and is a great training guide. But it’s not a coach.

Dr Ross Tucker has a BSc (Med) (Hons) Exercise Science Degree and PhD from the Sports Science Institute. Visit him at

Learn to listen to your body: take a time-out from running technology with these tips.

2 Responses to Does Technology Help Or Hinder Running?

  1. charlwin 24 October 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Cost of the watch.

  2. Luis Oliveira 28 October 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    The benefits of having an automated log process are, IMHO, so overwhelmingly positive that you can almost discount every other negative aspect from the bad use of the technology. Now I can focus my logging on what is really important, like “who did I feel during the run” and not on the technical minutiae (how long, how many bpm, etc.)

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