6 tips for tracking your running progress

There is nothing more unsettling than standing at the start line of a race feeling as if you haven’t done enough training. Equally, there's nothing more satisfying than crossing the finish line knowing that you’ve given everything you got.

6 tips for tracking your running progress

1. Logging your miles

A training log is, without doubt, the best way to keep track of all those miles you’re clocking up each week. Why not log your miles in our bugmiles section? You’ll not only see if your weekly mileage is actually increasing - which we hope by this stage it is - but more importantly, it will also allow you to record how you were feeling on the run.

On the other hand, it’s worth nothing that although you may be hitting your weekly mileage targets, the quality of your training is equally as important as the volume.

Moreover, should you lose a few days due to illness or a niggling injury, it doesn’t mean that you then have to cram in those lost miles. It’s more important to rest when you need to. Even if you have to take a week off training - you can still use this time to stretch or work on your core strength.

2. Listen to your body

Last month I learned an extremely important lesson. After a rather stressful week of deadlines and burning the candle at both ends, my training suffered. I had four days where I didn’t go for a single run. Come the weekend, I went out and ran the best part of 45 miles in the space of three days - and quite inconveniently picked up a chest infection.

This mileage isn’t any different to a normal week, it’s simply that I ignored the fact that I was feeling a little run-down - and I’ve now made things worse and have to take several weeks off. So, listen to your body and respect it when it says it’s tired.

3. Listen to your heart

When you wake up in your morning, this is the optimum time to record your ‘resting heart rate’. If you do this regularly, then hopefully you’ll note that your heart rate should, over time, decrease as you get fitter. But it’s also an excellent tool to let you know when you’re overtraining. If it’s a lot more elevated than normal, take it easy that day or take the entire day off!

4. Get a heart rate monitor

It’s not only in the morning that you need to monitor your heart. Having determined your minimum and maximum heart rates, you can then work out what your training zones are. If for instance you know that an easy run for you is at 135bpm - then try and stick to this heart rate for a 4/5 mile run that you regularly do. You’ll know that you’re getting fitter if you maintain the same heart rate but your time gets quicker.

5. Not every run should be a ‘hard’ run

There are some clever gizmos out there that will help you work out the intensity of your training. If they are GPS enabled, they will combine your speed and heart rate to calculate how hard you’re working. Another method, and much simpler, is to look at your average heart rate. If it’s too high for too long, then you will need to ensure adequate rest afterwards.

Some watches, like the Suunto Ambit, give you a Peak Training Effect (PTE) score. What this does is calculate the impact of a training session on your maximum aerobic performance. They rate this on your minimum and maximum heart rate - so the fitter you are, the harder you have to work to achieve a high PTE. Clever stuff!

6. Enter a 5K run

5K might not be a long way when you’ve got 42K to do, but the extremely popular ParkRun series on Saturday mornings are brilliant for determining if you’re getting any quicker. Because it’s not very far, you’ll be able to run flat out, using this as a benchmark of your fitness.