So you have started to get serious about your running workouts. At least, as stated in previous blog, just to your inner competition with yourself. Now you have created a necessity for keeping track of your workouts. That is the way to measure performance and improvement of your endurance. I’ve been thinking about this lately after realizing the world of alternatives for that purpose available out there.
A few months ago, when I started running, I didn’t have even a watch. My old watch broke and I never bothered to get it fixed or replaced because I got used to checking the time on my cell phone. After a few runs, I started to think about keeping track of my workouts and I store sale on watched gave the excuse to buy one with stopwatch function (among some other features that I always wanted to have but that is subject of another story.) That function allowed me to start keeping track of my workouts and got me excited when realizing that I was indeed getting improvements by means of reducing times when running the same trail (Lake Fayetteville.) More recently, I have grown a desire for something beyond keeping track of my times at running the lake Fayetteville trail: I want to know the real distance run for example and that kind of things. I saw the opportunity when looking for running shorts at a Nike store, noticed their running gadget sold under the Nike+ name which is a wristband, usb-type device that works with a nice looking flat token that inserts underneath the innersole of one of your shoes. Of course Nike offers shoes made especially to receive that token. A tip: you don’t need to buy the shoes neither the wrist band, only the token ($19.00) if you have an iPhone (yes, there is an app for that).
There are some other apps that don’t need even a token and can keep track of your work out (there should be similar apps for other kinds of smart phones; it’s just a matter of looking). These things are really neat technological advances because they not only let you keep track of your workouts by keeping record of distance, time and calories burned, but also let you upload the information onto the web and share that with friends or even publicly. Some go even further by allowing live track so that your friends can see where you are in real life and thus catch up! Another interesting feature is that it is possible, by means of sharing the information publicly, find running partners in the area where you are located or plan to get a workout. The app I know allows for this is called iMapMyRUN.
There are some other gadgets that also monitor your heart rates and blood pressure, besides keeping track of your distances and times at working out. I have no experience with any but I suggest you do a little research online and check reviews for the products and brands you are interested in as I heard that some stop working as soon as sweat starts pouring out your skin. Don’t only buy cheap, do your homework before as most times you get what you pay for!
So, as you can see, there are plenty of gadgets that help in different way to keep track of your workouts. It is a matter of defining what you want to do in order to know what you really need. Keep in mind that what you have right now may be all you need (if you have a smart phone for example, look for an app that allows you to log your workout.)
Now the next thing; how can you keep track of your workouts and improvements without gadgets? The short answer is, by using your senses. This is interesting and I’ll explain with some examples next, but first must note that these are only ways to SUBJECTIVELY measure your workout advances. First, feel the way your body responds to the physical demand of the workout and try to relate that to landmarks on your trail. You will not start sweating right away and rather you may start sweating 10, 20 or 30 minutes into the workout. If you have a point of reference along the trail where you notice you start sweating that will be one way to know whether you are running a little slower (chances are you are not sweating yet) or you may be pushing yourself (you start sweating a little before getting to your point of reference.) During the workout you will also start feeling pain and, as you progress, the pain will go away. Check those two other points of reference. Of course, those physiological responses (sweat, pain) can be altered by other conditions (see http://alberto-albertosblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/it-pays-off-to-plan-ahead-your-running.html or http://alberto-albertosblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/does-iphone-impact-performance.html for examples) that is why they are subjective.
A logical one is your breathing rate: short of breath, you are tired and or pushing yourself, whereas if you feel comfortable and able to breathe in and out through your nose without major effort, don’t be lazy and run a little faster!
Be aware of everything around you in general. That will give you not only ways to keep track of your workout but also ways to push yourself and increase your performance and endurance. An example of this is what I noticed this evening while running on the dirt section of Lake Fayetteville trail which is narrow and goes through the woods. A biker behind me gave me the warning so I moved to the side of the trail and jogged on the same spot while he passed and also indicated there was another biker behind. I looked back and saw nobody so I continued running but continuously checking behind for the second biker. I ran faster! It was a challenge (to and with myself of course) as I tried to cover as much distance as possible before the second biker passed me. It turned out that the second biker did not catch up (he probably fell off his/her bike) because nobody passed me for the remaining mile to mile and a half of the trail. Another thing is, for a biker to pass by it only takes one second so don’t stop way early for them to pass. If you remain jogging on the same spot for a biker to pass, and that takes you ten or more seconds, you are wasting time.
OK, this blog is getting a little too long so I’ll stop here. I hope you got some ideas on how to keep track of your workouts, with or without gadgets. I reckon the latter can be fun!