I took a look at the small window which popped up on my computer. Usually at this point I see a bar filling across the screen; the progress of my Garmin uploading data to my computer. I take five minutes once or twice a day moving information from the Garmin onto a spreadsheet, the story of my (jogging) life.
But this time was different. Something didn't seem quite right.
I punched the button again. A third time. And a fourth.
One of the things which infuriates the data-obsessed runner is when technology fails to work as promised. On many occasions the glitches are quickly remedied by a reset protocol or a download of software. But there are times when even those stop-gap measures are not going to provide satisfaction.
This particular episode made me think about what information is most important to the casual jogger or the semi-serious runner-in-training. Most of the data can be collected with a good-quality heart rate monitor or running watch and kept either in a notebook or on a computer spreadsheet.
Here's what I think are the most important data points to collect as part of run training:
Time Spent Running - most run coaches consider four-to-seven hours a decent week of training, with the overwhelming majority recommending no more than ten hours a week. This number, naturally, can be tracked with either a running watch or heart rate monitor.
Number of miles run - A runner who focuses on short-distance races might need to run little more than 30 miles per week, with marathon training requiring anywhere from 40-to-60 miles. Not only should the average runner look at how many miles they are running, but the number of hard efforts; look at the amount of speed work (to include interval workouts, repeats, fartlek runs and tempo runs) compared to "regular" runs. Speed training ideally should take no more than 25 percent of the training volume. Lastly, how many miles has the runner accrued on each pair of running shoes used for training? A decent pair of running shoes, if used in a two-or-three-shoe rotation, can last for 20-to-25 weeks (400-to-500 miles) before it's time to consider replacing them. Naturally, a heavier/sweatier runner who trains in a more humid climate may need to replace their shoes a little faster than the lighter one training in a drier climate. If you use the same courses without variation, you probably won't need a GPS. A good on-line map program to figure out your run courses and training loops will probably suffice.
Average Training Heart Rate - A workout can not only be judged subjectively by the "did I kick things and take names today" question, but also by a more-objective means, otherwise known as "training effect." A good heart rate monitor will provide the average heart rate for a workout bout. If you know the percentage of maximum heart rate, you can multiply the percentage by 2, then multiply that number by the number of minutes exercised. So, a 60-minute workout at 50-percent of maximum heart rate would have a score of 60 (.50 x 2 = 1; 1 x 60 = 60). Scores less than 150 are low stress, 150-to-300 are medium, and 300-to-450 are high. Low stress days can be recovered from the following day; high stress days would naturally take a few days longer.
Resting Heart Rate - the heart rate can tell not only how much demand for blood and nutrients was necessary during the workout, but also whether the body is still repairing from the previous days' exertions. A resting heart rate (taken first thing in the morning before rising from bed) which is above normal can be a forecast of overreaching or overtraining.
Hours of Sleep - a sudden change in the amount of sleep necessary, or the ability to sleep, is also a warning sign which can tell the runner they might be training too hard.
Of course, the resting heart rate and quality of sleep - as well as training adaptations - can also be affected by our diet, work stress, personal relationships, and so forth. We forget on many occasions that training is holistic - what happens outside the track or trail often affects how we do, and the other way around. It doesn't necessarily take a $300 gadget and an overabundance of software to tell us what we really need to know. We just need to know what to look for.