Besides the metronome, which is a key tool in ChiRunning and ChiWalking, the next important accessory is a good watch. We recommend a digital watch with a chronometer, a single and double countdown timer, and a 30 to 50 lap memory. As you get to know what your watch can do, you'll find that you'll be able to create workouts that are fun and interesting to do.
Here's a list of the things we use the watch for during the day and while walking or running:
50 lap memory to note the duration and date of up to 50 runs or up to 50 splits
Countdown timer for form or speed intervals
On-the-hour beeper for a reminder to body sense or check posture
Measure heart rate
If you keep a running or walking journal, the 50-lap memory can keep the duration and date of up to 50 individual workouts. That can come in very handy if you want to keep track of how often and for how long you are running. If you remember to use it each time you run, you don't have to go to your journal right away. You can transfer the information off your watch into your daily running or walking log when you have the time.
It is very important to know this information for any program upgrades and to make sure you are not over-training. We highly recommend keeping track of the duration and frequency of your runs. Over time it will help you keep consistent and see where there are issues in your training program.
The 50-lap memory can also track splits within one run or one race (or 10 splits in five workouts). If you're doing a track workout, you can start a new split at regular intervals (every mile, every quarter mile or whatever you want to track) and see if you are actually going faster or slowing down as you do more splits. In ChiRunning, we recommend that you start slow and increase your speed as your body warms up and you begin to relax. The lap memory is a great way to see if you are getting faster as you relax.
While running a race--such as a marathon--it is great to keep track of your mile splits. In ChiRunning, we get great feedback about runners being able to go faster the second half of the race. This is a good sign that the runner isn't going out too fast, is getting into a good rhythm, and is relaxed and comfortable in the second half of the marathon. Keeping track of your splits will tell you a lot about a race or workout.
Single Countdown Timer
The single countdown timer is a great tool for simple intervals. You can set the beeper to go off every two minutes as a reminder to check in with the form focus you are practicing. As we all know, it is easy for us to get off focus and let our mind wander. The countdown timer is a gentle reminder to focus on your body and on the form focus you want to work on. I'll work on one form focus such as leveling my pelvis. When the timer goes off, I'll either do it again or relax my shoulders, or pick up my feet rather than push off. If you don't practice your form focuses, your body can easily revert to old ways of running. The countdown timer is a great wake up.
Danny uses the singles countdown timer in every race to drink every 10 minutes. When it goes off, he faithfully takes a drink to stay hydrated. This is a crucial part to the workout.
Dual Countdown Timers--Intervals
The dual countdown timer lets you get more sophisticated with your form focus practices and is an essential tool for intervals.
There are several kinds of intervals. Many people use intervals to develop cardiovascular strength or to develop speed. We also think intervals are a great way to work on your walking or running form. You can set the first timer for two to three minutes and the second timer for one minute. Then, work on your form focus for two to three minutes and take one minute off to relax.
This also works for building cardiovascular strength. You go a little bit faster for two to three minutes. Get your heart rate up, then take one minute at a recovery pace to let your heart rate slow down. Then, increase again for two to three minutes and so on.
Speed intervals are similar, but the focus is specifically to build your speed. As with ChiRunning, we feel you should only focus on speed once you can keep the ChiRunning form over a good distance. Speed comes from working on form and learning to relax.
However, lots of runners are very interested in speed. ChiRunning is a great way to get faster, and your watch will really help.
The ChiRunning recipe is to build your speed while intervals and the overall workout. The goal is to make your last interval your fastest interval. In many training programs, you go all out in the first interval and each interval then gets slower. We have found that if you practice good form and get more relaxed as you run, the relaxation will give you the speed.
With your dual countdown timer, you can set your first timer for two to three minutes or whatever interval you choose. Then, set the second a timer for a one minute recovery. Another goal is to reduce your effort while you run faster.
You can also use your 50-lap memory to do intervals by your number of times around the track. You can time yourself to see if you are going faster or slower per interval.
Remember: gradual progress. Start out slowly and build speed with good form and deep relaxation.
Check Your Heart Rate
The basic chronometer and two fingers is a low tech way to check your heart rate. As a baseline reference point, it is first important to know your resting heart rate. As your level of conditioning improves, you will notice a drop in this number so it's good to look at occasionally to chart your progress towards better health.
How to Find Your Resting Heart Rate
Before you go to bed, lay your watch next to you within easy reach from where you're sleeping. When you wake up, the first thing you should do is reach for your watch. Take your pulse by holding your pointer and middle fingers on your neck next to your throat. Hold your watch in the other hand so you can read it. Count the number of heart beats that happen in 15 seconds and then multiply that number by four to get beats per minute. Jot it down in your running or walking log. Those of you who are starting off in the lower end of the fitness spectrum will get to enjoy the largest drop in this number as you workout more frequently, so you have a lot to look forward to.
Once you know your resting heart rate it is good to take your heart rate during your workouts. At various times, stop and do the same thing as above. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four. If you have heart issues, it is good to know your goals for the percentage of your maximum heart rate during work outs.
Danny and I always have our on-the-hour-beeper on. It reminds you stop and check in with posture, body sensing and yourself throughout the day. If you know you slouch at the desk, it can be reminder to sit up. Use it to drink water. Take a two-minute computer break. Do whatever is going to help you most.
Of course our watch does the basics, too. It can tell the time and date, and light up in the dark. It also has three alarms to wake you up or to set as reminders for appointments. The watch even has two time zones to set the clock to if you're traveling.