STOP Looking at Your GPS Watch to Run Faster (& enjoy it more too!)

I have mentioned many times that this almost comes naturally to me….well, it feels like it does, but realistically, the reason it feels natural is because I have practiced it, and perfected it, and that gives me confidence that you can do this too….if you really want to. That is why I have put together the Mile 20 Mental Training to Win Your Race, it has everything that I have been able to experience and learn from through my racing time. Hopefully after working on this for a while, you will be able to run a workout or a race by feel, and without looking at you watch….at all.

A few times I would be able to get together with some running friends, or new ones even. They asked me about how I paced myself, and I saw shock on their faces when I said I could go a full race without looking at my watch once, or a 9-10 mile tempo all based on feel. Lots you have also asked recently how to pace better, I thought I would give my best advice as to how to do it, and I will share that advice next week.

Many of the wonderful women that I have met over the years have had trouble with this in their racing. I asked them to try hiding their watches, just for one race, just to try it. I know this can be hard to do, and I still struggle with it too, but they agreed to try, and you know what, each of them had a great race, and some of them ran PRs. And every one of them who did, ran a negative split!

I know this can be hard to wrap your mind around, as you need to know where you are at in order to run your best race (what if I go off too fast!?), but what most people do not realize is that your body knows the best pace to run at, it will naturally find it. However, most of us do not give our body the chance to listen to those internal cues.

By hiding their watches, the women had to listen to them, and it paid off….and that was just one day! They can now reinforce that to learn what that felt like.

Honestly, a lot of it is intuitive for me. I have learned to trust my gut instinct, and it is one of my biggest strengths as a runner that I know how to gradually progress down, which is what you want for a negative split in a race.

But that being said, I do believe it is something we can work on, so hopefully some of this will help you, especially if you are someone who tends to go out too hard and blow up.

This is the single biggest factor that is going to help you run conservative in the first half of the race. This is as close to a magic bullet as there could be, but at the same time, it is something that requires work. I am asking you to really work on this one aspect, and if you do, the other tips I will share next week, will truly be able to come to life to help you have the race you need.

Please approach this with an open mind. Just like I spent over a year working on my form from the time I went to UVA speed clinic the first time, to having a great race by winning the Army 10 mile, it took a lot of time and effort. Thankfully this does not require as much time and effort, but it will take focus for a little while, but you will be so much better off for it, and I promise you, you will run better if you really try this.

Elite runner Tina Muir explains one secret that will have you running faster (and feeling better) just by committing to not looking at your GPS watch. It works! Give it a try!

Are you ready? I am guessing you have already noticed the headline below out of the corner of your eye, but here it is anyway 🙂

Give up the Garmin (or other GPS)!


I am not telling you to literally give it up. I am not telling you to stop wearing it. What I am telling you, is to IGNORE IT until after you finish your run.

I know this is a tough to wrap your mind around, and that is why it needs a whole post to itself. This is the one that matters the most. This is the one we all struggle with the most.

Have you ever been in a situation where you were out on a run, you looked down and saw your pace, freaked out as it was WAY slower than you were “supposed to be”, so you pick up the pace, quickly, and then when you see (or hear) the next mile, you are now way too fast. Not only that, but you are now breathing much harder than you should be….so you slow down the pace, spending that entire mile wondering if you are going to be where you should be?

Or maybe you take it one step further and keep looking down at the current pace during that mile (which is very inaccurate anyway!!!). You get a little thrill from watching the number go down.


Yep. We have all been there, and that is truly letting your watch dictate your pace. Not only are you not listening to your body, but you are now essentially doing a fartlek; fast, slow, fast, slow.

We all know that fartleks are not fun, and they are not the best way to run your best. Slow and steady wins the race right?

Again, I am not saying do not wear your Garmin/GPS watch. I love mine and rarely go a run without it, but I am asking you to turn off the function where you can see the pace. That way, if you do have the urge to sneak a peak, all you can see is the distance and time….and hopefully do not feel the need to calculate your pace.

All you really need to be able to see is the distance and or the time. If you have a 6 mile easy run scheduled, thats all you need to do right? It doesn’t say (or I hope not!!!) 6 miles at 9:23 pace. If you do have a pace, it is likely a “should not be faster than”, and if that is the case, what I am going to say in the next section will help you with that part. I talked about the importance of easy running and how it will help you run faster, so stop looking at the GPS, and just run what your body is telling you it feels like, especially if you are sore or tired.

Not feeling great, as you can probably tell

I went to see a sports psychologist when I was in college. I was really struggling with putting pressure on myself, “I have to run….”, “I need to do this right”, “I need to hit this pace”. To be honest, it was sucking the fun out of running, and it was giving me anxiety in other areas of my life as I felt so frustrated when I could not race well. The reason I was not racing well was because I was forcing it, which is exactly what we do when we obsess over our GPS watches.

My loved ones told me that I should not expect the sports psychologist to “push a button” and I would suddenly be cured. But actually, he kind of did, and it was something so simple.

He told me to go for a run.

Without a watch, somewhere I did not know, and just to run. For as long or as short as I wanted. At the time I laughed….that is seriously what you expect me to do to help? Thats just a waste of a workout….what if I only do 2 miles? However, I trusted him, and gave it a go.

I don’t remember how long I ran for that day, but I do remember feeling empowered and free. I remember having those thoughts of wondering how fast I was going, but then that being overtaken by the joy of running, for what it really was. I do remember a lot of the little details of that day. I was at an old boyfriends house, and I ran on the dirt roads near his house. There are not many individual runs I remember from college, but this one was clear.

Of course I put my Garmin back on again within a few days, but it helped me to see that the Garmin does not tell me how I feel. I do not run to impress my garmin, or to show others my garmin, I run because I enjoy it and I want to do my best.

Think about it.

When you race, yes, we set goals, and we hope to run particular paces, but realistically, all you really want to do is run the best you can for that day right?

If you set a pace you thought you were capable of, and you were ready for MUCH faster, you would not want to slow down just so you hit that time you had in your head. No, you want to run the best you can.

Your body does not know that number, all your body knows is how to run to the best you physically can, and the best your mind allows. All your mind is focused on is staying positive and trying your best. That really is all we can ask, and you do not need any numbers or times to tell us what that is.

If there is snow on the ground, or it is windy or humid, that time is going to need to be adjusted. You would not be mad at yourself (hopefully) if it was a snowstorm and you could not hit your pace. There are  so many conditions that can affect the way you run, and every single day, you are on a different run. Therefore, all you can ask is that you run the best you can for that day (remember that can also include running easy!)

If you turn off those expectations of running a certain pace, your body will learn what to do. You will learn to listen to what your pace feels like; how calm your breathing is, how your legs feel, the motion of running that pace. That way, if someone says to you, go out and run 8 minute pace, you know how each of those aspects feel.

Yes, sometimes you are not going to run 8:00 pace, but if you take it as you are going to run 8:00 pace effort then you are doing the best your body can for that day. You are not limiting yourself if you feel good. If 8:00 pace feels easy that day, then you may run 7:40 and be pleasantly surprised by the end. Had you looked at your watch, maybe you would have panicked about being too fast, freaked out, and slowed down to calm yourself down.

On the other side, if you had a bad week of sleep, it is cold and windy, or you are stressed at work, maybe you run 8:20 pace, but at least you do not spend the whole time panicking that you are “off pace”. Maybe that is the best your body has for that day, and that is OKAY!

So therefore my friends, my challenge to you is to cover that watch up during your runs for the next few weeks. I am not going to lie, it is going to be hard to resist looking at first, but you will learn to trust your instincts, and let your body guide you towards what it can handle for that day.

Once you have handled this, you will start to understand how it feels at various effort levels. We know the first part of a race should feel easy. With the adrenaline rushing through our body, and the energy of the crowds, you are going to feel great.

Listening to your body really is the most critical factor when it comes to learning to run conservative and pacing yourself. I will share the rest of my tips next Wednesday, but for now, will you spend the next few days really trying this no watch thing?

I would love if you would report back to me how you feel….other than it driving you crazy as you want to look, that will pass….okay, maybe not pass, but the voice will be quieter, and you will get the rewards enough to see its worth it.

After all, we are always talking about how our sport is so simple, and that is the beauty of it. Why would we make it complicated when it doesn’t need to be?


Will you give this a try?


How to Use the Effort Scale Cheatsheet

Get your printout to refer to as you begin effort based training

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  • I have no problem running without my garmin. There are times when I run just for the love of running.

  • You already know this worked for me and it worked again this past weekend when I ran 4 races over 3 days!!! My favorite line from this post is “My Garmin does not tell me how I feel!” Exactly. Thank you so much for sharing this and I will continue to practice my non-looking 🙂

  • Like I said yesterday, I can’t wait to give this a try when I’m 100% back into running. I’ve let my Garmin dictate how I feel about a race way too much. Excellent advice Tina!!

  • I only run with my Garmin during long runs. And that is basically to track distance! I am fully committed to garminless running!

  • I think this is such an important post for anyone. I run at least 1-2 times weekly without my Garmin. I think it allows me to truly take the run easy and not focus on my watch. Great post Tina!

  • I found that conversation so helpful at the retreat and it just makes so much sense. The times I’ve tried to stick to a pace when my body wasn’t feeling it I always burnt out! I’m slowly learning and trusting that my body knows what it’s doing. 🙂

  • This is such good advice. I’m such a stickler for looking at my watch and over-analysing, rather than enjoying the run and trusting my body. Definitely going to attempt this! (When I’m no longer injured)

  • Excellent post! I run without the Garmin about once a week and it’s liberating!! I haven’t raced without it for fears as you’ve mentioned above. Especially the marathon. But it makes me wonder if I did trust my body enough to pace my run if I could run stronger? Hmmm maybe the next race! But this marathon I’m trying to qualify for Boston so I’m currently obsessed with a very specific pace. Lol

  • I do love running without my watch as well. For me running isn’t always about pace it’s just my me time. Great tips!

  • Rachel Cholerton
    October 21, 2015 8:40 am

    Yes, I love this post!

    I’ve recently gone out on a few runs with my Garmin on, but just set to clock mode (no pace, elapsed time etc.) and I’ve found that I hit negative splits, along with a steadier run and feeling stronger at the end of the workout – more often than when I am looking at my pace. It’s crazy hard for me to not look at the watch and overanalyse – I end up focusing on the maths and predicted times rather than how I feel. Running ‘without’ my watch does give me a new lease of life, and overall I feel like I’m performing better as a whole. This post couldn’t have come at a more convenient time for me!

  • Love this post, girl! I think one of the main reasons I was able to stick with running this time around was because I left the Garmin out of the equation and went by how I was feeling instead of by how I thought I “should” be running. It’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers game (especially in the blog world!!), and that takes all the fun out of it and increases the chance to get injured. I definitely hope that people take your good advice to heart 🙂

  • I have never ever owned a GPS watch. Amazing, right? I always run by feel. The only time I watch my pace is during a race and that’s when I print out a pace band and tape it around my wrist!

  • I feel like sometimes a GPS watch just makes us feel worse about ourselves and our runs. If we go out and just RUN, we return and feel good. If we go out and run with a GPS watch and look at it each mile, and slow down, or the mile split isn’t right, etc, we worry about it, stress over it, and it makes the run less fun. Or, we figure “well, I already blew this run, may as well turn around” or not focus on goals. Sometimes an interval can be a little slower than we intended, or a mile can be faster when the next is slower (maybe a little hill, or having to slow down to monitor traffic, etc). Sometimes the GPS itself can be a little off!

    I try not to look at mine on training runs… and just wait until I’m done. That way I can focus on the run itself more and conditions. It’s helpful for racing and especially trail running- every mile will be a little different.

  • I can’t agree with this enough! I recently ran a half marathon on feel at the suggestion of Jesica and had one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in a race. I’m running my second marathon next month and I don’t plan to look at my watch.

    What’s funny is the very reason I got my Garmin (“I want to see my pace real time!”) is the part of it that has actually held me back. Great post!

  • I don’t wear my watch on training runs for this reason. I know the distance and I like to forget about the pace. I should get back into racing without it though- just to try! Maybe for Rock n Roll Philly next weekend I will!

  • So much truth here…I know it’s hard for some of us type A runners but it really does make a HUGE difference! Thank you!!

  • I really only use my Garmin now to track distance and have data to review later – most of the time I run by feel, but I am so guilty of overchecking my Garmin in races. Definitely trying this for my next race!

  • I’ve only ever run with a Garmin once and HATED it! Old school all the way here…your body knows best!

  • I have to admit, I get intense separation anxiety from my Garmin even when my sleeve is covering the watch face. But since I’ve started reading your blog (about two months now), I’ve been slowly going longer and longer without peeking at the split. Today, I had 7.5mi at MP on the schedule and after reading your post vowed not to look at my watch until after 7mi.
    Ohmygoodness, Tina. The run itself felt amazing, my legs felt awesome, and I was right.on.pace. Seriously. Within a second. Honestly, if you ever, EVER, question whether or not you’re making a difference with your blog, PLEASE cease and desist immediately. You give excellent advice and I love your perspective. Keep up the amazing work and thank you again. 🙂

    • Ahhhh yay!!!! Comments like these make my day! Thank you SO much!!!!! That is amazing, and really makes me so happy, I am honored! Keep up the good work, and you will see you get even better at it 🙂 Keep in touch, I honestly want to know how you get on!

      • Chelsie Smith
        October 22, 2015 6:51 am

        I’m looking forward to practicing, for sure! The brief taste of Garmin freedom I got was incredible, I’m very excited for more, and I will certainly keep you posted. Thanks again for all the awesome encouragement. 🙂

  • Laura Anderson
    October 21, 2015 12:59 pm

    I have found my easy runs are much easier and less stressful without paying attention to my watch. I still wear it so I can track everything (nerd) but am far better than I used to be about being a slave to it. Though, this is something I could definitely work on for my workouts- tempo runs (well, non-treadmill ones) I am guilty of looking FAR too often!

  • I always wear my Garmin but I NEVER look at it until I’m done. Then I turn it off and log the data at night (I run in the morning). I run all races this way too – I never look at my watch during a race. It also kind of annoys me when I’m running with friends and they are constantly looking at their watch and (sometimes) telling me our pace! Ha. Can’t we just enjoy the run?:)

  • Martina Di Marco
    October 21, 2015 3:28 pm

    While I never look at my Garmin during easy runs and regular long runs, I do stare at it during races and speed workouts/tempo runs. I would love to change this, but I noticed that every time I stop checking my pace, my pace drops because I subconsciously slow down. I promise you that I will give this a try though. I have a 5M race this Sunday that I will use as a LTP run… let’s see what will come out of this!

  • I’d definitely struggle to ignore my garmin but will give it a go for definite. Good advice 🙂

  • Good advice and I’ll try it out more in the coming months. I don’t always run with GPS but for marathon training have been using it a lot, usually to make sure that I don’t go too fast on long runs or easier runs. I know I hated my first race with a Garmin (though it was a PB) cos I felt such pressure, and I said I’d never use one again in a race. I did though. I must try another race without it in future.
    Thanks again for the great advice and for sharing your own experiences!

  • I run with mine twice per week and that’s it. I really hate looking at it, it sucks the fun out of running! Long runs and tempos I use it, for data only.

  • I actually started ignoring my Garmin a few years ago and I was amazed every single time I looked at it because, yep, I was faster than I thought I was. I hadn’t done it in a while but this past weekend my husband built me my own running trail on our property and I was so concerned about my footing that I didn’t bother to look at the watch. I was assuming it would be a really slow time because it was a trail but no, it was faster than I could have even imagined. Now I can’t wait to do it again. Great advice as always!

  • I try to remember to wear my watch, but I purposely don’t look at it and try to guess the average pace at the end. I like looking at my splits on Strava and try to remember how I felt during each section. I think of it as a surprise at the end. My next race isn’t until May so I am trying to keep my runs fun and easy now anyway. 🙂

  • Tina, this is SO GREAT!! I know it’s true…my Garmin was acting crazy (I think it was the weather) during my long run last Saturday and this exact thing happened – I started out conservatively and continually, gradually increased the pace through the end of the run – and presto! Negative splits!

  • On my easy days I rarely wear my watch anymore. It was really disheartening coming back from several months of being sick and seeing what my pace was so for peace of mind I decided it was time to run without it and learn to run by feel. Luckily my times are dropping again so I will continue to run with out it and listen to my body more. I know we all have those “too slow” days but I tend to freak myself out when running faster than I think I am capable of and make myself slow down instead of just going with it!

  • I am just starting to run and NOT look at my watch. Usually it goes great, i feel good and am surprised with my times after I’m done. I ran a marathon this past weekend and didn’t look except to see overall time to know when to take gels, and I felt FABULOUS, had awesome splits until about 20-21 and I fell apart. 🙁 I did PR, but missed a BQ by 5 minutes (my goal). Apparently I need to work on your other piece of advice about going out slower and negative splits. 😉

  • I run with my Garmin, but mostly to track the distance. I do peek at it when it beeps each mile, just to see where I am. Is that bad? Great post and yes – we need to run by feel!! Thanks for this great advice 🙂

  • Christine @ Love, Life, Surf
    October 23, 2015 11:40 am

    I love this advice Tina and I loved seeing it put into action at the Maine half! For the longest time, I didn’t have a GPS watch – I don’t think I got one until two years ago but it’s crazy how much it’s changed how I think about running and how dependent I am on it! I can’t wait to try this too when I’m back to running.

  • Great post! I do run without looking at my Garmin on easy runs. But when I’m trying to run faster, my body always wants to run slower, so if I don’t look at my pace I slow down. I would love to internalize pace, though, so I’m going to try as you suggest & try some non-easy runs without a Garmin. I’m not training for anything right now so it’s the perfect time. I look forward to your next post on pacing!

  • Caroline Cole
    October 25, 2015 4:16 pm

    Ohh this is so good. I stopped running with a visible GPS and watch (I keep a tracker in my running belt) when I got back into running this year and it’s been really great. I tend to use running as sort of a Zen habit anyway, so I enjoy it much more when I’m not tied to my wrist. Great post 🙂

  • I’ve done this a few times when NOT in training and it definitely works. But when I’m in a race situation I feel like I need it because it helps reel me in if I am going too FAST!

  • Great advice! Now I’m even more excited to run my half next weekend:)

  • I did this when I trained for my first marathon! I “hid” my watch from myself so the face was turned down and only looked at my mile splits and just ran by feel. It definitely helped mentally!!

  • Thomas Bobby Philip
    November 1, 2015 6:48 am

    My best runs have been, while running without my Garmin. Raced 3 halfs and a 10K without GPS and could not have experienced something better. My only challenge is after crossing the finish, when I would love to analyze my run, I do not have any statistics 🙁 ..

  • Just found your blog and I love it! I’m currently off my feet due to injury, but I am filing this away for when I’m cleared to start running again (that’s probably the best time to try this out, honestly). I’ve always leaned heavily on my Garmin, but over the last year I’ve made an effort to use it just for distance during my run and check out the data later after I’ve uploaded it.
    Thanks for blogging, Tina. I really like seeing things from the perspective of an elite!

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