To Time or Not To Time?

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That is the question.


I used to time all my runs using the very nifty Garmin 305 – it’s basically a GPS device that tells you how far you’ve gone and how fast.  When I got pregnant, I stopped using the Garmin because I didn’t want to know my mile splits, and then when I began to run again after delivery, I didn’t strap it on for the very same reason.  Before my tri last weekend, I pulled it out of the drawer, charged it for the first time in a year or so, and set it to multi-sport mode so I could know my speeds on the bike and run.  My intention was to use the Garmin to pace myself intelligently and not burn out (it worked).


Since then, I’ve been wearing the old 305 on runs, and I have mixed feelings about it.  A year ago, my pace rarely wavered from one run to the next, but now, it’s so highly influenced by things like sleep deprivation (Henry woke up three times in seven hours last night – ugh!), dehydration (from breastfeeding – no matter what I do, I can’t get ahead with hydration), and just general mood (sleep deprivation + dehydration = crabby ass Caitlin).  My effort output is usually the same, but my pace – man, it’s all over the place.  And a wavering pace can be a strange mind game, indeed.  Don’t you hate it when you feel like you’re exerting maximum effort but your pace barely qualifies as jogging?!  


One thing I do LOVE about the Garmin – knowing my distance!  It’s fun to watch my distances get longer and longer (every single step counts!).  I try to focus on that number instead.  Maybe I should tape over the corner that reveals pace?!  Hmmm.  That’s actually quite a good idea…   


What about you?  Do you use a watch for runs and pay attention to pace or go by feel?  I’d love to hear some feedback on going by feel instead of time.  Quite honestly, it’s not something that I’m very used to (I really was a slave to the Garmin before pregnancy) but think it would be good for me to focus on feel over pace.


Anyway – today I did sweaty, sweaty 5K in about 35 minutes.  Pace – decent.  Feel – pretty good. Smile 


Post-run lunch:





Asparagus and onions

A bucket of BBQ sauce


Yo – the couch is calling my name!



  • Hillary September 2, 2012, 4:43 pm

    I go back and forth with my Garmin, depending on what my goal is. When I’m training for a race, I am an absolute slave to it 99% of the time. When I’m not training, I usually go without it, unless I want to know my distance. It definitely is an awesome tool, but it has a time and a place.

  • Kara September 2, 2012, 4:43 pm

    You do know that you can just change the screen settings for your Garmin and have it only show distance, right? #durrr

    It’s really easy, I’d explain it, but you’re probably better off Googling it and following those instructions. I’m not getting much more sleep than you and it makes coherent thoughts so hard. 🙂

    • Caitlin September 2, 2012, 4:45 pm

      NO! I didn’t know that! I will Google. SWEET.

      • Caitlin September 2, 2012, 4:49 pm
        • Tim September 3, 2012, 9:42 pm

          Yup! That was going to be my suggestion as well…

          I have different “modes” for each of the screens…that is what they display, vs the goal / manta of each run. Everything from over-analytical, performance based to “just show me the distance, please!”

          Have fun messing with it. It’s actually pretty flexible.

    • Alyssa September 2, 2012, 6:07 pm

      I was just about to comment the same thing – it’s like we are one person.

      • Marie-Santé September 2, 2012, 9:50 pm

        I was about to say the same thing 🙂
        When I don’t want to run, it is often related to the fact that I put pressure on my shoulders about pace. Reality is, every run won’t be a PR. It’s OK to be tired and to follow how your body feels. In those time, I switch my Garmin to distance only and enjoy the scenery. Must take control of the technology!
        And like you’ve said before, it’s not like you’ll ever regret a workout anyway, good pace or … scenery pace 😉

  • Lauren September 2, 2012, 4:44 pm

    I often wonder if I should be not timing more because I think it actually improves your runs. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes, it’s good to know your pace, but I actually think I run faster without the weight of my subconscious of the Garmin on my wrist.

    Great job getting back into it girl! I love your mentality as always. 🙂

    • Caitlin September 2, 2012, 4:45 pm

      Hah. I love that – the subconscious weight of the Garmin.

  • Kelly September 2, 2012, 5:03 pm

    If I get too caught up in my pace I get SUPER frustrated with my run. I don’t have a Garmin but I use an iPhone app to trace pace and distance. The thing that has worked for me is to find an app that tracks that stuff, but isn’t super obvious on the screen. I like having the info, but being obsessive about it while running is definitely a problem for me. The app I use right now is WalkTracker. So maybe if you tracked with an app that way you would have the info but it wouldn’t be so accesible during the run?

  • Maureen September 2, 2012, 5:04 pm

    I am a totally slave to my Garmin and find myself checking it numerous times throughout each run. Sometimes I’m able to ignore the numbers I’m seeing, but other times they totally get into my head and I have to fight to stay focused and not let an unexpected pace completely derail my workout.

  • Heather September 2, 2012, 5:08 pm

    I never train with a watch telling me my pace. I think a lot of people, myself included, push themselves to hit a target pace that is either too fast or too slow for the way their body is feeling, and they type of run they’re doing.

    That Garmin comes with a HR monitor right? If you want to make sure you’re training hard enough (or not over training), maintaing an ideal heart rate through out your run will allow you to achieve that. Training properly with a HR monitor does take alot of reserach, patience and humility, but it could be worth looking into.

  • SarahNW September 2, 2012, 5:14 pm

    I usually use my garmin for distance only when I’m doing a long run but I do like it if I’m doing a s&f (short and fast, or sweaty and fun depending on my mood!). I did read an article on using watches and it said that you should only use a watch as a pacer every once in a while, otherwise we tend to neglect our bodies and our natural feelings. The amount of effort you *feel* you put out is truly all that matters because it’s all relative 🙂 P.S. you’re a rockstar.

  • j3nn September 2, 2012, 5:15 pm

    I really like the variety of your lunch plate. So many goodies!

  • Vicki Mc September 2, 2012, 5:41 pm

    I was just coming to suggest what Kara said!

  • J September 2, 2012, 5:44 pm

    Have you tried pacing/timing yourself with music? If you go to you can input your mile pace and it will suggest songs for you. Then when you run you can just go by the music and how your body feels and know you’re probably close to your intended pace.

    • Caitlin September 2, 2012, 7:22 pm

      That is a sweet idea!

  • Amanda @ Veggies n Dogs September 2, 2012, 5:49 pm

    I have never exactly timed a run but I am also not a race person. I tend to enjoy just running and having a general estimate of the length. I feel all the gadgets take away the meaning of running or exercise. Hardcore athletes are not more healthy than people who do moderate exercise so as long as I get my sweat and heart rate on, I’m a happy girl!

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More September 2, 2012, 5:54 pm

    I’ve never been one to use a Garmin but maybe that’s because I don’t have one. 😉 With that, I usually do pay attention to the pace that my Nike+ app is telling me at the mile marker. Sometimes it’s frustrating but since I often run on a treadmill, it’s pretty easy to know my pace and get frustrated that way…lol

  • Jolene (Homespun Heritage) September 2, 2012, 5:57 pm

    Caitlin, I know your not a fan of it (neither am I) but have you tried plain ole Gatorade or some other electrolyte replacer? Seriously, saved me when nursing my little one. I had undersupply and constantly drinking water to no avail and then I tried Gatorade (G2 actually) on the advice of a few hundred breastfeeding mamas on a Yahoo Group I was on and WOW the difference was amazing.

    Might want to consider it…not for supply issues but for the electrolyte factor!

    • Caitlin September 2, 2012, 7:21 pm

      Oooo will try. Hav you tried coconut water?

  • Stacey @Starpulp September 2, 2012, 6:06 pm

    You could try running based on your heart rate? I hear it’s frustrating at first but more beneficial. If your watch lets you, just switch the pace field to show you the heart rate. (you’d need a strap too). Great job getting out there!

  • Lindsay Loves Veggies September 2, 2012, 6:19 pm

    I used to be a Garmin addict! My boyfriend would give me crap about it all the time, because he didn’t understand the desire to monitor by time/distance/pace, because he’s really laid back about working out.

    I’m running less now that I’m not training for anything specific (I ran a half marathon and two 5Ks this summer), and when I do run, I’ve been heading out without the Garmin. I run on the same trail that I was always training on, so I know pretty much exactly where the mile markers are. Without the Garmin I find my runs to be a bit more relaxed and leisurely, instead of competing with myself. I think it helps me to relax my uptight-ness a little bit to go Garmin-free.

  • James September 2, 2012, 6:32 pm

    I used to use a watch for every run. Now I probably time about 30% of my runs, the rest I go without.

  • Stefanie @ Living HI September 2, 2012, 6:42 pm

    I also love seeing my mileage on my garmin, and wear it on 99% of my runs. You can change the options for the viewing screen so that your pace is not shown, just the time and the distance.

  • Erin Margaret @ Bishella September 2, 2012, 6:55 pm

    I think it depends on my mood at the time. If I’m running a lot I like to slave over my numbers. Lately though I’ve been less focused on running, so when I do get out there I like to leave the tracking devices at home and focus on the feeling instead of my score.

    Also, I’ve been leaving the headphones the last couple times too. I always think I NEED my music but the last few times it’s been nice to get out there and just listen to my breathing.

  • Adrienne J September 2, 2012, 7:15 pm

    I mostly just look at the bottom right corner where the mileage is but if I’m curious about my pace or I’m trying to run faster/slower on purpose I’ll make sure I’m at the right speed. I’m surprised I haven’t gotten too addicted to watching the pace, actually!

  • Alina September 2, 2012, 7:38 pm

    Haha, I do the same thing with my towel whenever I need to use a treadmill or an elliptical! Works like a charm not knowing your time but knowing you’re rocking out a great distance!

  • Jameil September 2, 2012, 8:00 pm

    I don’t time for two reasons: when I want an easy run and when I want to push myself. Time distracts me more than anything. For easy runs I need to ignore that talking lady! I love going back and looking at my splits but the more aware I am of my splits during the run, the more I can psych myself out. I ran my fastest average pace for a run of 8+ miles on Saturday (11 miles) because I wanted to push myself & decided to go by feel instead of obsessing over pace. It helped that I was with some much faster people but I kept it comfortably hard and it was a great confidence booster. I now expect to smash my previous goal for my first half marathon!

  • Sonia Themexigarian September 2, 2012, 8:03 pm

    Caitlin, the last couple long runs I have done, I have taped a piece of paper over my time and pace. I only know my miles. It was very frustrating seeing my pace when feeling I should have been going much faster. Since taping it over I feel so much better about my runs because I am focusing on how m body feels and my distance not my time. Training for my first 1/2 marathon on October 7.

  • claire September 2, 2012, 8:14 pm

    Yeah, it’s a tough balance. I do think it’s neat to see your stats after a run, and they can be informative, or help your perform better, but I usually don’t bring my iPhone (I use the runkeeper app) on runs because I don’t want running to turn into yet another thing where I feel pressure to being go faster, longer, doing better. Enough in my life is already like that and I want to keep running as a n enjoyable stress release that makes me feel good, not yet another thing where I have to be doing a better job.

  • brooke @ sweats & sweets September 2, 2012, 8:48 pm

    I generally go by feel. My pace during training is slower, much slower. But when I’m racing I go strictly by pace. I like just running by feel and not worrying about my pace.

  • Presley @ Run Pretty September 2, 2012, 8:55 pm

    Glad to know I’m not the only sleep deprived, dehydrated, crabby ass mama. 🙂

  • Vaala â—ª September 2, 2012, 8:56 pm

    You can change the settings on that garmin to show what ever you’d like it to on the screen. You can just have it show time and distance if you’d like. Or any other combination that you’d like (up to 4 different things).

  • Tess September 2, 2012, 9:24 pm

    I do run with a garmin but I don’t look at it much. I run mostly based on my breathing — my cadence is pretty consistent, so depending on what kind of running I’m doing I know more or less how many steps per breath correlates to a decent effort for me. (e.g. easy or long run pace = 4-5 steps per in or out breath; tempo run = 3; sprints/hard effort = 2). Then the mile splits from my watch just give me some additional nerd-info.

  • Casey September 2, 2012, 11:04 pm

    Alternatively (to the turning off the pace function), if you just want to know your distance and you run on roads, there are many sites for mapping runs that are pretty accurate. I like . You can also check your elevation, which can be fun. Also, don’t forget that once you know your distance and your total time, you can easily calculate your pace after the run. This is sometimes nice because you can go for your run by feel, but still get the feedback of your pace level later.

  • Katie September 2, 2012, 11:11 pm

    I had this same problem on my run today! I wore my Garmin and was constantly checking my pace…..I was barely breaking 11 min/mile and it felt like 9! Roman (now 3.5 months old) DID sleep all the way through the night so I wasn’t super sleep deprived…..but really one night of full sleep doesn’t make a difference. I tried “sprinting” and checked my Garmin – 9 minute mile – I was running 8:30 min/miles the first few months of my pregnancy! So frustrating…..but I keep thinking about the mantra I saw on your blog – “You’re lapping everyone on the couch”. At least we’re out there! 🙂

  • Elizabeth September 2, 2012, 11:18 pm

    My cross country coach in college had us run by time and exertion – not distance. I still run this way – sometimes my medium runs are much faster than other times, but 45 minutes of it feels just as hard every time. It also helped me learn how I should feel at certain times during a race to make sure I wasn’t going to fast or too slow

  • Anna September 3, 2012, 6:47 am

    I don`t own a Garmin yet (it`s on my birthday wishlist) but I am really looking forward to using one. Not necessarily to know my pace all the time but simply because I won`t have to stick to the number of routes that I know the exact distances of. Instead I can run wherever I want and I think that is great!

  • Sara @my less serious life September 3, 2012, 7:40 am

    i’m a huge runner and have NEVER used a device like a garmin to time/pace my runs. don’t get me wrong – i’ve wanted to. my boyfriend even worked at garmin this summer, but refused to get me one. his rationale? i’d become obsessed (my personality) with timing and trying to reach certain goals. and..he’s right.

    i use an old school timex to time and then run based on how i feel. it is liberating.

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin September 3, 2012, 7:47 am

    I sometimes get too focused on my pace too. But I’m actually trying to improve my distance, so pace should be the last thing I’m thinking about! I know we’re supposed to go slower if we want to run farther, but I just hate seeing my pace slip above 10 min/mile so I try to keep it below – but then that makes me burn out faster and I can’t run the distances I’d like. 😛

  • Molly @ RDexposed September 3, 2012, 9:19 am

    I do not pay attention to time when I’m in the process of getting back into the swing of running. I only keep my eyes glued to my pace if I’m doing a particular run that involves a specific goal pace.
    If I were you I’d just do routes where I know the distance and leave the Garmin at home.

  • Kattrina September 3, 2012, 10:21 am

    I never time my runs and always just go with how I feel. I use mapmyrun to get a few routes (usually categorized by distance) and then I run those routes. If I feel like I want to keep going, I just keep running and then plug in the new route when I get home. I found that being a slave to time wasn’t really that helpful to me. I am not the fastest person on the planet (I ran a marathon last year in 4 hours 2 minutes), but I don’t think I’m too slow. I just feel like some days I have good days (lots of sleep, it’s not 90% humidity out, etc.) and some days I have bad days and I should just trust my body to run. While training for my marathon last year I did speed work at the track once a week and timed that, but it was a different environment. I say go Garmin-less for a while and see how you like it. I found it to be quite freeing.

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats September 3, 2012, 11:30 am

    I think timing really depends on your goals, if you just want to get out there and cover the distance, then there’s really no need. But if you want to speed up or hit a certain pace then it’s helpful. You could also attach it to your shoe or somewhere else, that way you know your time and pace at the end, but you aren’t worrying about it while you run!

  • Barbara September 3, 2012, 12:02 pm

    I don’t own a garmin…but I do always time and map my runs. I don’t ever look at my watch while running – I much prefer to run by feel. I simply start it when I leave and stop it when I get home. I also never run with music. I think that helps with listening to how my body is feeling. I’ve thought about getting a Garmin or other GPS watch, but then usually end up deciding the google maps is just as easy to map out mileage 🙂

  • Tricia September 3, 2012, 12:21 pm

    I use the Nike+ app on my phone sometimes, but I’m not a regular runner. I run when I feel like running. Therefore, my pace never really gets better. It varies a lot based on all of the things you already mentioned. For whatever reason, I like the data that the app gives – similar to the Garmin. It’s motivating for me during the run because I feel like it holds me accountable. However, as I previously couldn’t run even a mile (years ago), I am proud of every step I take and realize that I’m not going to be a long distance runner ever. I just try to embrace the effort of putting my shoes on and getting out there.

  • Anneliese September 3, 2012, 12:26 pm

    I always use my polar watch to monitor time and heart rate. I feel like it’s the smartest way to workout. Sometimes I feel like I’m going a good pace, but then I see my heart rate is lower than zone 3 or my AT and I know I need to speed up to get the most benefit out of my workout. Without it I’m not sure if I’m in the right zone even if I feel like I’m exerting enough energy. When I heart rate train I improve so much faster, and am able to tell I’m improving, than when I’m not.

  • Sam @ Better With Sprinkles September 3, 2012, 12:31 pm

    I can definitely get frustrated with my pace sometimes – on a good day I can be flying with minimal effort, and on a bad day watching my pace stay super low while I’m gasping for breath. Super annoying!

  • Alyse September 3, 2012, 3:14 pm

    I like knowing my distance via Garmin. The problem I have with pace is comparing myself to other people. My “fast” 5K is 36 minutes. Which makes me feel like a loser sometimes.

    I’d been interested in being able to focus on my own pace rather than others. For a new runner who is still trying to figure out her ability, it’s kinda rough. :-/

  • Ali @ Around the VeggieTable September 4, 2012, 8:55 am

    I’ve actually been wearing a heart rate monitor during my runs…I can keep an eye on how long I’ve been running, but more importantly I check my heart rate frequently. When I feel tired, I look at my heart rate and if it’s in a normal zone, I tell myself I can keep pushing and that my fatigue is mental. If it’s pretty high, I give myself the green light to slow down or walk for a minute. This system has been working really well for me!

  • Brigid September 4, 2012, 3:46 pm

    I like running by feel. I either run for time or distance (and we’re talking 30 minutes or up to a 5k, not hours or tons of miles), and in both cases, I use an app (Map My Run or now RunKeeper) to keep posted on my time/distance. I always look at my pace at the end, and I do see improvement over time, but focusing on it during a run stresses me out too much, and I actually end up performing worse. In a typical week-day run, when I’m just trying to hit 30 full minutes, I will challenge myself to run for at least three songs straight, and if I’m still feeling good, I’ll do one more at a time. Then I challenge myself to walk for only one, though I’ll keep walking for another one or two if I need to. That’s my version of running by feel. Oh, and my playlist of late has been the Elvis station on Pandora. It keeps me motivated.

  • Lisa September 4, 2012, 4:21 pm

    I like both. My HRM also tells me calorie counts, so I like having that info. But sometimes when I run, I don’t track mileage. For example: on vacation in Hawaii recently I went for a run and my phone died. At first I was like disappointed that I wouldn’t know my mileage, then I realized I didn’t care! It was a great run, too!

  • Erin September 5, 2012, 7:26 pm

    I know- garmins can be mean. 🙂 And I had Ryder two weeks prior to Henry. 🙂

    I would make a game plan of what days each week you are running or what type of runs you want to get in each week. If your running same pace each day it’s not going to make you faster- sure you know this.

    So, I went from 11s with prego running down to 9:50-45 when I started and then down more to around 845s on speed days.

    I just had Tuesdays as speed, W – cross-train or off, Thurs – tempo – warm up at 1 or 2 miles and then tempo 2 with cool down, Fri.-off, Sat. long run and Sunday – No Watch – 3-5 miles shakeout run.

    This helped me get my pace for a 3 mile run from a 9:40 to 8:54 in 6 weeks. Speed and endurance are rough to get back though after baby. Baby has been sick this week and/or growth spurt and I haven’t run at all because I got sick. Good luck!!!

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