Today we can collect many measurements on how we performed during a run with the advanced generation of watches and other equipment like power metres and lactate socks. None of these are critical: old-fashioned ways of measuring your progress such as running known courses and comparing time and how you felt subjectively, can provide you with much of the information you need on whether you are training to the right level.
Do not under any circumstances trust yourself!
The critical step is not HOW you measure your training but THAT you measure it. Subjective feelings run into limitations here eventually because many things influence how we feel on any given day and our memories are inherently imperfect. In Kahnemann’s ‘Thinking fast and thinking slow’, the author had two groups of people do a survey on their political convictions 30 years apart. At the end of the second survey they had to state whether the respondents believed they had changed their views. Most expressed confidence their views were as rock solid as ever. But comparing the surveys showed the respondents had very different opinions 30-years on than when they first filled out the questionnaire. In their heads the respondents had ‘rewritten’ their own story to make it seem more consistent. So, our memory is faulty – the way we remember our lives is not reality but rather like a biopic – adapted to suit the audience of today (in this case yourself). How you want to remember things to support how you view yourself today.
Bigger and bigger fish
As a coach and runner, I see the same in others and in myself when looking at training performances across time – like the fisherman’s fish getting bigger on each telling and the storms harsher, so our highs get higher and our lows lower. No wonder training diaries were implemented early in athletic history – something needs to keep us moored to some kind of objective reality.
This is where our many tools can provide value: Strava, GarminConnect, Golden Cheetah, WKO, TrainingPeaks and many other platforms allow us to easily compare performances on similar courses against a wide variety of variables, so we do not get hoodwinked. It’s easy to assess run A as better than run B if we forget that run B was hillier. Or think Run C was terrible compared to Run X forgetting we were much less recovered from Run C.
Modern platforms place all this information at our finger-tips and record our pace, heart rate, climb, running dynamics (technical aspects) and now even power (the actual work you create for your pace).
These many measurements in terms can be compared both within each run and over time to measure improvement in very technical areas like running efficiency as well as providing accurate information on the relative stress each run creates on our bodies. This allows better planning and better reflection.
In the small video below, I show how we can use this information to review our training daily with one of our training plans and TrainingPeaks / Stryd Power Centre. The point I want to make with the video is not that you need these exact tools – what is important is that you follow the line of though expressed. That you review whether what you did hit the mark. If you consistently miss the mark you were intending to hit, your training will regress into under or overtraining just as surely as an assassin sneaks up on you in the night. You’ll never see it coming…