My Garmin

‘Try writing five sentences every day for a week on an object. Perhaps, an object that weighs you down, an object of beauty, a functional object, an object you’ve said goodbye to, an object you’ve had with you through lockdown, an object of utility, an object you regret giving away, an object you have inherited.’ Julie, the writing course teacher on the course I’m doing Journal Inspiration instructed.

Having got the instruction, I attempted to start it the following day. The immediate task was to choose an object.  I spent time, looking around the house for perfect things to write about.  I got in a bit of a spin considering what one object would make a writable topic, let alone five. All I suggested to myself I rejected, and gave up on the task. In hindsight, could they have been perfectly usable possibilities?   

I recognised procrastination. Rather than spinning (and procrastinating), what we’re told is better is to just begin.  Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones is firm on this.  She says on writing from “first thoughts” – keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper, and be disciplined about writing every day. 

Many writers express similar thoughts of discipline and just beginning. Jack London, a prolific writer, is one of these:

Don’t dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast. Don’t write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story, rather than dissipate it over a dozen. Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it. Set yourself a “stint,” and see that you do that “stint” each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.  From: Jack London (1876-1916) American novelist, “Getting into Print,” The Editor Magazine (1903).

Per London’s advice, we were being asked to do 5-sentence ‘stints’.   On the second morning, I didn’t procrastinate. I came in from my daily run.  I was wearing my Garmin Forerunner 35, a wrist-watch device a lot of runners use to track running progress.   I took it off and, to my surprise, I sat down and started writing 5-sentences on it. It turned out that over the five days I only wrote about the watch. Taking the prompts as starters. Here are some bits of each.

Stint 1: A functional object.  My Garmin is not a top of the range device.  Even so, it has an impressive range of features and functionality.  It does things.  The blurb informs: 

  • Monitors heart rate1 at the wrist, all day and night, using Garmin Elevate™ wrist heart rate technology
  • Built-in GPS tracks how far, how fast and where you run
  • Connected features2 smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect™, live tracking and music controls
  • All-day activity tracking1 counts steps, calories and intensity minutes and reminds you when to move
  • Features training tools like intervals, audio prompts and a dedicated run/walk activity
  • Preloaded sports profiles for running, indoor running, cycling and cardio.
  • Automatically uploads2 your data to Garmin Connect, our free online fitness community where you can join challenges, receive insights and share your progress as you meet your goals

I only use it for tracking how far I run.  I try not to look at the how-fast functionality as it’s always too slow for my aspiration.  I can’t be bothered with all the other stuff, although I’ve tried the virtual pacer and the interval features with the idea that they would help me speed up.  Instead, they slowed me down as grappled with reading the screen on the run, watching the virtual pacer, and trying to hear the interval timer.

Stint 2: An object of utility.  My feature laden device has become a GPS-enhanced pedometer as far as my usage goes.  And that’s it’s obvious utility value to me.  On my daily runs, I want to know how far I’ve run.  The thing is, because I have a ‘bank’ of runs of varying length, and I do them frequently, I know how long each is without needing to strap the Garmin on my wrist.  It’s less obvious utility is in making me feel I am ‘a runner’.  Its got a validation utility. I feel less of a runner when I’m not wearing it.

On the races that I do, I also want to know the time it’s taken for me to do the run.  I check at the end of the race, unless I forget to check, because either I’m so elated or exhausted (or both) at the finish.  Sometimes, as happened in a recent race, I forget to turn the Garmin on at the start, and there’s no point in starting the tracking once the race has begun, so all I know at the end is the actual time.  In these, not infrequent instances of Garmin-neglect, I wait for the official chip timed result.

Stint 3:  An object you’ve had with you through lockdown.   I got this specific Garmin in August 2019 a few months before the lockdown started.   In the period August 2019 – March 2020 I wore it at all the various running races I participated in, never uploading or keeping my data though.  Then in lockdown all races stopped.  I didn’t do any virtual ones, I just continued with my daily running routine on my known routes.  I can almost imagine the sigh of my Garmin, as it recognised its wasted functionality,  as we set off on the known routes, and all I did was track the distance, which I already knew. 

But sometimes I compare the Garmin tracked distance with Fitbit tracked distance.  I have a clip-on Fitbit One which I wear all the time on my underwear.  I wear the wrist-watch Garmin only when I’m running. Why?  I don’t like habitually wearing things on my wrist, and, as I said, when I’m running with the Garmin I feel like a real runner.  The Fitbit is my full day’s step count. As with the Garmin I only use the Fitbit One as a pedometer (not GPS enabled).  Often the Fitbit suggests I have covered more ground on my run than the Garmin has logged.  I quite like that discrepancy.  It gives me a choice on how much I think I’ve covered.

Stints 4: an object I’ve said goodbye to – which was an Garmin Forerunner 201, bought in 2004. I gave up on it first because just tracking the distance when I already knew it seemed a waste of a device. Second, because it was big and clunky. Third, because the screen was hard to read once I started to wear glasses running. I was Garminless for a good while between giving away that Forerunner and getting my current one, egged on in that by a running friend who kept saying how marvellous hers was.

Stint 5 an object that weights me down – for all its value as a distance and – on race days only – a time tracking device.  My Garmin is a bit of a weight.  I feel I should be more interested in its functionality.  I might gain a lot by using more of it.  But then again – would I?

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