What success metrics should you track in your run training?
What success metrics should you track in your run training?
It's super easy to get sucked into the latest and greatest gadgets and graphs, but what do they actually mean? Do you even need them and what should you be tracking to make sure you become a better runner.
On this quick video, Brad and Lindsey discuss what metrics you should be tracking in order to get the biggest bang for your buck in your run training.
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto the next edition of Run with Coach Parry, I’m Brad Brown and we’ve got the coach with us once again, Lindsey Parry. Lindsey, howzit?
Lindsey Parry: Very good thanks Brad, haven’t chatted for a week.
BB: Absolutely. Lindsey, such a great question today. It’s got to do with feedback on training sessions and the best way to monitor things and whether you should be doing it on a session by session basis or on an overall cycle basis, but we’ll chat about that in just a second.
Don’t forget as well to check out the #BiogenJourney. Let us know what you’re training for and you could win access to the Coach Parry online training platform. We’re following James Hobson’s journey to Ironman 70.3 and we’d love to help you, just as we’re helping ‘Hobbo.’
Make sure you tell us what you’re training for, the hashtag is #BiogenJourney and we’ll pick it up on social media. Lindsey the question was in our forum and I think it’s such a great one to talk about. It’s about tracking what you’re doing and following what you’re doing and should you be analysing the living daylights out of every single session that you’re doing and what constitutes a successful training session?
Is it how you feel or a perception of how it went or is it about the numbers? In your opinion, what’s the best way, what’s the metric of success on a training session?
Tracking metrics are not cut and dry
LP: Brad, the answer to that question is both. I know that’s not what people always want to hear. They want to know some slightly more black and white answers, but it’s really good to look through all your sessions and understand what your body is doing and how it’s feeling. The reason I say both is because you don’t want to get too caught up in one individual session.
What we’re rather doing is looking at patterns over two or three sessions that start to paint us a picture of whether we’re going in the right direction or the wrong direction. Mostly around things like fatigue, we’d use, obviously, RPE, so how did I feel in those sessions.
That would be one of the most important metrics, but taking into account how I feel versus what speed did I run over the profile and have I run that profile before?
What does my heart rate look like, what does it look like compared to previous sessions on the same day and with reasonably similar conditions.
Many factors go into how you react to your run training
Even then, if it’s exactly the same route with exactly the same conditions, there is going to be a little bit of variation. Don’t get too excited if you feel like you improved and don’t get too disappointed if you feel like you went the other way because a cup of coffee or a fight with a colleague or pressure at work. These are all things that can play into the mix.
We want to know how we’re responding and we want to look at that against the backdrop of our overall training programme. That is to say that it would be taking into account at least the previous month, if not longer, training because that will establish a baseline for what does my heart rate look like on easy runs.
When I go back and I look, even though I may have felt like I ran easy, that heart rate looks a little bit high compared to normal. Okay, does that carry on for a second day in a row?
Warning signs that you're overtraining
Maybe there’s a problem and I need to have a look at that and adjust or even worse, I can’t get my heart rate up, so when I’m doing very high-intensity sessions, doing interval type of work and no matter how hard I push myself, I can’t get my heart rate up, it’s staying very low and it’s unresponsive.
Or if it does go up, it’s taking much longer than normal to go up and those are warning signs that we look for that we are overreaching and over-training. For me, the stunted heart rate is much more of a warning sign.
What people will then ask me, what’s the difference between my heart rate getting better and better and better because then it’s getting lower, is that a problem? No, it’s probably good.
When it will become a problem is if you’ve got that… Let me say, when it’s not a problem is that when you’ve got that happening and your heart rate is lowering, resting heart rate is coming down, you’re running at a lower heart rate at easier runs than you normally do, but when you push hard, you get an immediate response from your heart rate and by running hard, you can get that heart rate up.
If you find that on easy runs everything is low-low-low and when you try to do hard runs, it’s still not responding and going up. That’s when you can see whoa, warning signs, got to do something about it. Maybe I need some extra recovery or at least to check things out and make sure I’m okay.
What happens when your running numbers don't match the way you feel?
BB: Lindsey, the flip-side of that coin too, somebody could be looking at the numbers and they could be going, gee, my numbers look amazing, but I’m absolutely hating every single run, it’s just not feeling right. How big a role does perception and feeling play in this thing?
LP: The biggest role and I think maybe part of the point of this question, which I didn’t answer at all, is to say that the best gift you can give yourself as a runner is to know how to listen to your body and to learn to run on exactly how I’m feeling now. When you get into a race situation, that’s the sort of intuition that’s going to lead you to be able to execute a race perfectly.
There’s only so much that a coach or an external person can tell you to say you should be running a three and a half hour marathon. You line up on the day and for the first 10km you blindly follow that 4:30 per km and you get to 15-20-25km and you’re like, I’m shattered.
The best gift you can give yourself as a runner
It’s because you couldn’t recognise in those first 5km, although from all the calculations it’s likely that you could and should be able to do a 3:30, maybe 3:40 was the right number and being unable to feel that from the beginning is what then leads to a disaster in the second half.
Absolutely, you do want to be able to learn to run on feel and you don’t want every single session to be ruled by a stopwatch or a heart rate or a training speed or a power and I have quite a few runners that don’t look at all during, but then still look for analysis purposes afterwards to get an idea of where they were or weren’t, but what they’re doing by not looking at all during the race is they’re really teaching themselves to run better off intuition.
BB: Lindsey, you mentioned not ignoring individual sessions but seeing how they fit into cycles and over a few days if there were some warning signs.
That’s one thing you do need to be careful of, when you’re digging into this data, is digging too deep in individual sessions and the making assumptions about your training long term or not digging in deep enough over a three or four day cycle if there is something that pops up because you don’t want to leave it for a month or two months before you make adjustments because then it’s too late, you can’t get that time back. You’ve got to find that balance don’t you?
LP: Yes and definitely leaving a month before making adjustments, that would be too long and certainly in cases where you’re going into overreaching, that would be catastrophic. I think you wouldn’t be able to. You’d eventually get so tired that you’d essentially be in a position where you’d be forced to do something better.
Pushing yourself too hard is more problematic than not pushing hard enough
Having said that, if you’re training on the other end, which is too easy and not pushing yourself enough, perhaps you don’t want to wait a month to make those changes either because as you say, you won’t have caught up last time but in my experience, that error is actually quite forgiving because it really creates a powerful aerobic system.
Being slightly under is going to beat being slightly over every day, every time.
BB: Brilliant. If you do need help with your training, make sure you check out the Coach Parry online training platform. You can get access to every single one of our training programmes from 5km right through to ultra marathons. There are over 60 training programmes in there at the moment.
There’s strength and conditioning as well, so definitely check that out and it’s all available through our very easy to use IOS and Android app as well, you’ll absolutely love it, so go check that out, coachparry.com/join and as I mentioned at the top of this video as well, be sure to share your Biogen journey with us.
Use that hashtag on social media and we could be making you a winner and giving you access to the Coach Parry online training platform. If you’d like to follow ‘Hobbo’s’ journey and some of the other cool things that we’ve got going on, make sure you listen to our audio podcast as well. You can get access to it through iTunes or any other podcast player and you can find out if you are a winner if you use that hashtag on that audio podcast as well.
Until next time, from myself, Brad, and the coach, it’s cheers.