Describe a piece of electronic equipment that you find useful
You should say:
- What it is
- How you learned to use it
- How long you have had it
and explain why you find this piece of electronic equipment useful
This is an interesting topic. My immediate thought is that I don’t use all that much electronic equipment – I don’t even have a smart phone. I do use a lot of rather common place technology; phone; laptop; ‘white goods’ like refrigerators and washing machines, but I think they’d be quite boring to talk about. I mean, there isn’t much I could say about learning how to use a fridge is there? Not to worry, I can think of something I find really useful and only acquired very recently. It has been a learning curve, but it is so worth it. I’ll tell you what it is, how I’ve learned to use it, how long I’ve had it and how come I find it so useful.
The piece of equipment is a GPS (global positioning satellite) watch. It’s called a tomtom runner, and basically, if I wear it whilst out running it tracks various bits of information. It will tell me how long I’ve run for, what pace, what distance, the elevation and other useful things. It can buzz on my wrist after every mile for example which is either motivating or dispiriting depending on how well my run is going! When I get back home after my run, I simply connect the watch to my laptop, and through some magic of technology, it uploads my run onto a software programme called Strava. This means I can see a map of where I’ve run, compare that day’s run with previous attempts at that route, and even see who else has done the same run if they use Strava too. It even tells me how many calories I’ve burned doing that run – never as many as I’d like if I’m honest
How did I learn to use it? Hmm, shall I be honest. I cheated a bit. I’m something of a late adopter with technology, I find it frustrating learning to use new equipment, and given that I’d been managing perfectly well without a fancy GPS running watch ever since I’d started running a couple of years ago I couldn’t see the benefits of putting myself through all that angst or working out how to use it properly. However, all of that changed in January this year. My running club had organised a three-month winter challenge, we were put in teams and had to commit to do so many runs each week of a certain distance. To take part, I’d need a GPS watch. Points were given for distance, elevation and number of runs, with bonus points for running in sub-zero conditions or very early in the morning. The idea was to encourage us all to keep on running through the dark and dismal British winter. Rather reluctantly, I went to my local running shop. They were BRILLIANT. They recommended a ‘cheap and cheerful’ starter watch, and set it all up for me. They charged it, connected it up to my laptop (which I took in with me); downloaded all the software. All I had to do at first was push a button to start the watch when I set out, and push the same button again to stop! After my run, I just connected it to my laptop and as if by magic everything updated. To begin with, this was enough, but after a few weeks I started to play around with other buttons on the watch and discovered it can do more fancy things! I am still learning how to use it properly, and it is rather trial and error, but now I can see the benefits of this nifty bit of kit I’m much more motivated to invest time in working out its finer features! I’ve now had the watch for just about 6 months.
Why do I find this GPS watch useful? Well, it’s been really unexpected, but I love that I now have a record of all my runs. Even if I feel I’ve had a bad day running, being able to see the overall distance I’ve covered, or the elevation builds my confidence. I was surprised at how many miles I actually cover each week. True, they are slow miles, but they add up all the same. It also has made running much more fun. I can see if friends have done the same run as me, and there is even a feature on Strava that allows me to identify other runners I passen route, so you can see how your runs compare with theirs. There are some fun things too. There is a trend towards something called Strava Art. Basically, that means you deliberately try and run to create the outline of a picture with your route. During our winter challenge, we had to try and ‘draw’ a rabbit, with our run route (for Easter) and a heart shape (for Valentine’s Day). It was had planning it out, and plodding round the paths I was really unsure if it would actually work. Would the satellite pick me up? Would the route really turn out as expected once it was uploaded? It was incredibly rewarding when they did, but even when they didn’t that was really entertaining. Because everyone in the running club was doing the same challenge I really forward to seeing their shapes too.
What I’m trying to say, is that this unexpected bit of technology has really revolutionised my running. It enables me to track progress, it tells you if you’ve achieved a ‘Personal Best’ time on a particular segment, and it makes running much more social. It has also made me a bit more accountable to others. I can see what my friends are doing – but they can see what I’m up to as well. It makes me want to try harder so I’m not caught out slacking. Seven months ago, before I got my GPS watch I really didn’t understand why anyone would want one. Now, I feel bereft if I run without it. It feels like ‘if I can’t upload it on Strava afterwards, my run didn’t really happen!’ I know rationally, that is a stupid attitude, but honestly it’s true. I think if you asked most runners, or cyclists who use this bit of electronic equipment they would sheepishly admit to the same thing. It seems it is quite true, you can’t miss what you never had. I never gave a moment’s thought to how useful a GPS watch might be until I was nudged into it by my running club, but now I find it hard to imagine how any runner could function without one! What a difference a few months makes eh.
I’m still not ready for a smartphone though… one day perhaps.