By Claire Ayles
Last weekend I took part in the London Duathlon (like a triathlon, but you swap the swim for an extra run). I’m no Brownlee, so this was never going to be an easy endeavour, but it was one that was made tougher by the event’s ‘no phones’ rule.
On the most basic level, asking me to give up my phone for getting on for two-and-a-half hours is like asking a baby to quit its dummy. But more than that, my phone has become an essential part of my exercise regime as I absolutely rely on an app to tell me how fast (or slow) I’m going and how far I’ve gone. On Sunday, I had to depend on just road markers, my wristwatch and some mental arithmetic, and felt surprisingly lonely without the reassuring tones of the MapMyRun voice talent talking in my ear.
It got me thinking just how obsessed I’ve become with using tech to track my every move. For example, I commute to work by bike. It’s the same distance every day yet I still log each journey so I can assess whether I’m faster or slower than normal. As sad as it sounds, few things annoy me more than when the GPS fails and the kilometres and calories don’t get added to my lifetime stats.
Not only does this app store my personal data, it tells me how I rank against other runners and riders on the same routes. This is dangerous information when placed in the palms of a competitive person. Beating the time of ‘Sophie B, Queen of the Southbound Southwark Bridge Sprint’ was a fixation of mine for at least six months. Her name still haunts me.
App developers are of course making the most of the addictive qualities of their inventions. Strava (the tracking app of choice for professional cyclists as well as the sport’s millions of fan boys/girls) has such a cult following that it’s launched its own clothing range. The company’s even become a big data player, providing information about where people ride to help improve cycle infrastructure planning in London and Glasgow.
As a tech fan and a bike fan, I think that’s pretty damn cool.
It’s not just apps; devices are being launched left, right and centre as well. While I could have done with a basic GPS watch on Sunday, the likes of Jawbone, Fitbit and countless others are gradually upping the ante in this market, helping you log every step you take and even how well (or badly) you’re sleeping.
The emerging generation of smart watches may eventually render all these apps and devices obsolete, but manufacturers will have to sort out the battery life problem first. With the Motorola smart watch battery life described as ‘woeful’ and Apple tight-lipped on how its watch will shape up, there’s a danger that the watch will stop before the runner. And that’s definitely not an option for those of us who specialise in taking a little bit longer to get from A to B.