Although I claim to be mathematically-challenged (much to the chagrin of my dad, who is an engineer), I totally geek out when it comes to workout stats. Whether it’s miles ran, swam or biked, there’s just something so fulfilling about poring over the numbers after a particularly tough workout — not only to celebrate great days and learn from not-so-great ones, but also to set benchmarks for gauging current performance and goal setting.
But the ways in which we can now quantify ourselves is almost getting out of hand: From calories burned, miles traveled, heart rate, steps taken, sleep patterns, weight, etc. — it’s easy to get caught up in quantity to the detriment of quality (i.e. the bigger picture). For example, sometimes I’m so intent on hitting mileage goals with my runs that I’m tempted to swap a stretch session in favor of more time to log miles. Big mistake!
Everybody (and every body) is different, so you’ve got to find what works for you, your lifestyle and your goals, but I tend to think it’s best to keep it simple when it comes to tracking stats. Granted, there are certain times and training cycles where this may change, but as a rule I live by quantifying the following three things for each workout.
1. Shoe Mileage
Why: I used to run my shoes into the ground (literally) trying to save a few bucks by stretching out their life as long as possible. But when minor aches and pains crept up and morphed into injuries, I learned my lesson: A pair of good shoes that will support and cushion you properly is priceless.
How: Rather than running in one pair until it feels “flat,” I buy two pairs of shoes and rotate them on a weekly basis to give the cushioning time to bounce back. I’m also getting better about tracking actual mileage — one of my goals for 2014 is to figure out exactly how many miles it takes for me to wear my shoes out (the average is about 300-500, depending on the runner) — so I’m keeping a tally on each to know when to rotate future pairs.
2. Exercise Duration
Why: We’re all time-crunched and multitasking to the max, so it’s easy to get in that mid-workout daze and just power through reps as quickly as possible. But by giving myself a set about of time for each exercise and working out for that entire interval, it forces me to focus on form, which inevitably gives me more bang for my buck in the long run.
How: Whether it’s with a stopwatch or another kind of timer (my favorite is GYMBOSS because it’s a repeating interval timer, countdown timer and stopwatch all in one), set your segments and actually stick to ’em. You’d be surprised how long 30 seconds feels when you’re working hard — but keep yourself honest, and you’ll see results that much faster.
3. Workout Details
Why: Logging workouts not only provides a sense of accomplishment, but it also allows me to analyze performance, discover trends (i.e. running after a leg day leaves me feeling slow and heavy, so I switch up the schedule for better results), recognize potential issues and injuries, as well as motivate myself to make goals for future sweat sessions.
How: I still keep an old-school workout log, which I fill out every day (even on my off days; in fact, it reminds me to schedule them in!) with workout type, details, duration, etc. But you can get as specific as you’d like when recording individual workouts. For example, you might want to use a GPS watch to keep track of pace, distance and other elements of runs (I currently use the Nike+ GPS SportWatch, but have heard enough good things about Garmin to want to check it out), or there are apps and programs that will also help you keep track of workouts in other ways (I use MapMyRun to create routes, and I’m also testing Strava to challenge myself on rides and runs).
However you decide to quantify your workouts — or not — it’s all about finding tools that work with your workout style and allow you to stay motivated, train more effectively and have fun in the process!
What stats do you track when working out?