How To Monitor Your Running Progress

Running Training

How To Monitor Your Running Progress

Whether you’re an Olympian or just enjoy the occasional trot around the block, we are all motivated by improvement, it’s what drives us. If you are running regularly then monitoring your progress is crucial.

Whether you’re an Olympian or just enjoy the occasional trot around the block, we are all motivated by improvement, it’s what drives us. If you are running regularly then monitoring your progress is crucial.


As well as being a powerful motivator, checking your running progress enables you to see whether your training is effective and helps you to make any necessary adjustments. Here’s how you can measure your improvement:

1

Improved times

If you’re looking for an objective measure of your running progress then the watch never lies! Timing yourself over a measured distance is one of the simplest ways to monitor your current fitness level. For comparative purposes it’s best to use the same measured loop or route where possible so that you eliminate any fluctuations due to the terrain or elevation.

Timing yourself over a measured distance is one of the simplest ways to monitor your current fitness level.

The track can be a great tool for measuring your pace without the need for a fancy GPS watch. However, if you’re using your track training times as a gauge of your fitness then it’s worth remembering to be consistent. Some tracks don’t allow you to run in lane one for training purposes, so if this is the case try to stick to the same lane where possible so that you can monitor your progress more accurately.

2

Increased distance

Measuring the distance that you cover in a set time is a great way to monitor your progression if you prefer to run to time rather than a predetermined number of miles. A useful way of looking at this approach is that your mileage will naturally increase as you get fitter so there’s no need to force mileage targets.

Of course many runners swear by their GPS in order to measure distance, however it’s worth bearing in mind that these devices can be a little inconsistent at times so don’t beat yourself up too much if you fall slightly short of your target some days!

3

Perception of effort

Although it’s a subjective measure, perception of effort is probably the most widely used indicator of running fitness. As you get fitter, running at that same pace feels easier, it’s as simple as that. Learn to trust your perception of effort. Our bodies are incredibly effective at providing us with internal or biofeedback whenever we exercise. Information on our breathing rate, heart rate and fatigue levels within the muscle is constantly being fed back to our brain so that we can monitor our effort.

4

Lower heart rates

A heart rate monitor is a great tool to help you to gauge your effort and monitor gains in fitness. Essentially a reduction in heart rate at any given intensity in theory should be a sign of improved fitness as several cardiovascular adaptations have taken place that enable your heart to pump out more blood per beat and therefore it doesn’t need to beat as often.

Essentially a reduction in heart rate at any given intensity in theory should be a sign of improved fitness...

If you monitor your heart rate as a means of tracking your progress then it’s best to do this over an extended period of time so that you get the most reliable results. It’s worth considering that there are several factors that are completely independent of fitness that can cause fluctuations in heart rate such as dehydration, heat, altitude, sleep and hormones.

5

Higher lactate threshold

In scientific terms, the biggest predictor of endurance performance is what physiologists term ‘lactate threshold’. This is essentially the fastest running speed at which your blood lactate levels remain at a steady state. Any faster and lactate begins to accumulate in your blood more rapidly.

Lactate and hydrogen ions are by-products of anaerobic metabolism and are released into the muscles when you start to exercise at a higher intensity. Hydrogen ions make the muscles more acidic and interfere with some of the enzymes responsible for energy production, which means that you start to fatigue pretty quickly in their presence.

The higher you can push your lactate threshold, the faster you can run before your body starts to accumulate lactate and you are forced to slow down.

Through training at paces just above and below your lactate threshold you can improve your body’s ability to buffer the lactate and therefore delay fatigue. Essentially, the higher you can push your lactate threshold, the faster you can run before your body starts to accumulate lactate and you are forced to slow down.

Lactate threshold is best measured in a physiology lab, where conditions can be controlled. You will be asked to run at incremental speeds on a treadmill and a small blood sample is taken, usually every 3 minutes. Many Sports Science departments at local universities run private consultancy services where you can undergo this type of testing, although it does come at a price.