Why TechRadar's fitness editor is ditching the running watch in January

Woman fastening running shoes, not wearing a watch
(Image credit: Oatawa / Shutterstock)

Much as I love my running watch (I’ve been lucky enough to try heaps of great running watches, but the Garmin Instinct Solar is still my favorite), first thing in January I prefer to leave it in a drawer and head out with bare wrists.

3 tips for mindful running

Get stress out of your system
Before you warm up, take a moment to write down anything that's bothering you so it's not circling around in your head while you run.

Leave the headphones at home

Running without music or a podcast lets you be more aware of the world around you.

Disconnect from Strava

Take the pressure off by skipping the competitive networking app.

It’s not permanent, and I still don’t go out without a phone just in case of an emergency, but it’s a great time to remind myself that I don’t need tech to enjoy running. When you allow yourself to get into the zone, the simple joy of movement is enough.

It can feel unnatural to go out sans wristwear, particularly in January. A new year means new goals, and if you’re a runner you might have already started by signing up for some races with a view to setting some new personal records. Perhaps a 10k in March, a half marathon in May, a full marathon in August, or even a combination of all three if you’re feeling particularly ambitious.

You might have drawn up a training plan too, aiming to steadily increase your mileage each week alongside a sprinkling of interval and hill sessions. It’s a great way to prepare and get yourself race-ready – but you don’t necessarily need to circle January 1 in red and head out with a new purpose first thing in the morning.

Free and easy

Instead, I like to use the new year, when the roads are quiet and the air is calm, to remind myself why I started running in the first place – and that’s the escapism of it. When it’s just me alone, with only the rhythm of my feet and breathing, it’s wonderfully freeing. With no watch to check, I can spend my time enjoying my surroundings, listening out for birds and insects. And with no particular time or pace in mind, I’m free to explore and discover new places as you go. I can just move at a pace that feels comfortable, and go on a little adventure.

On a recent watch-free run, I spotted a little flash of electric blue by the river Avon – quite small, but too large for a dragonfly. It was a gorgeous little kingfisher hunting for its lunch, and if I’d glanced down at my watch I would have missed it completely.

Happy woman in pink jacket running in the woods

Not checking your stats means you're free to take things at your own pace and become immersed in your surroundings (Image credit: Shutterstock / Maridav)

Running without tech can also help avoid the disappointment that sometimes comes if you’ve been too busy to train as often as you’d like towards the end of the year, then taken a long break over Christmas. It can be disheartening when your pace suffers as a result of a little too much festive cheer, and making your first few runs untimed and untracked can take the pressure off.

Finally, it allows you to listen to your body rather than being governed by the digits on a screen. I can dial back the effort if I'm starting to tire, or push myself a bit harder if everything feels good. It's turning the run from a conversation with an app or social media into one with yourself.

There's a saying that if a run or bike ride isn't on Strava, it didn't happen, but for me the new year isn't a time for keeping pace with the Joneses. It's about falling back in love with running, and that's what I intend do do.

This article is part of TechRadar’s Tech Resolutions series, a motivating blast of encouragement showing you how to supercharge your new year with tech. Running from Sunday December 26 to Sunday January 2, our series will also reveal how we’re aiming to level-up our gadget lives in 2022. So whether you’re looking to become a Chromebook power-user, beat your takeaway obsession with a new air fryer, or use a smartwatch to propel you to new fitness heights, we’ll show you how to get your new year off to a flier. And when it all inevitably goes wrong, you can always blame the gadgets.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)