Whether you are a new or experienced runner, all the data can be overwhelming. How much should you care about pace? Does heart rate or cadence matter? Too much data can be difficult to interpret. Instead, you are best consistently tracking a few pieces of information. Metrics such as Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), your weekly mileage, and your sleep are helpful to any runner. These metrics can allow you to understand your running self: how you feel, how you are improving, and how well you are recovering.
Rate of Perceived Exertion
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a scale used to measure exercise intensity. There are a few different versions of RPE scales. A common one ranges from 0-10, with 0 being no effort and 10 being maximum effort. In terms of running, 0 is not running, 1-2 are very light jogging, 3-4 are easy running, 5 is moderate, 6-7 is moderately hard, 8-9 is hard, and 10 is an all-out sprint. Your Runkeeper app allows you to note RPE in the notes section.
RPE is an important metric to track both short-term and long-term. Short-term RPE allows you to assess the intensity of a session. Your pace may vary based on weather, the distance of your run, and your energy level. RPE lets you know that you are training at the right intensity even if the pace is different.
In the long term, RPE can let you see your improvements over time. For example, a 10:00/mile pace may have felt like an RPE 5-6 when you first started running. After months of training, it may now feel like an RPE 3-4 because you have gotten fitter and faster.
How you feel on you runs
Not every run will feel amazing but not every run should feel awful either. Most runs will feel somewhere in the middle. If runs consistently feel bad in some way–sluggish, painful, etc.–your body is sending signals that something is wrong. However, it can be easy to miss out on patterns over time if you are not keeping a log.
Runkeeper provides an area in each run to make notes. In this area, you can note how the run felt. Did you feel good? Any areas of pain or discomfort? Making these notes will keep you in tune with how you feel. Then, you can look back and see if there are any patterns over time. If runs feel too hard or uncomfortable too often, you should adjust your training or sleep.
How well you sleep
Sleep is vital for runners. During sleep, your body releases hormones that repair muscle tissue. Muscle repair allows your body to recover from running and adapt to your training. Without adequate sleep, your injury risk increases, and your performance decreases.
Runners should aim for a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep per night. The more you run, the more sleep you need. Tracking your sleep can help you understand if you are actually getting enough. Many fitness trackers will record your sleep. You can also make manual entries into your training log on Runkeeper about how many hours you get per night.
The Runkeeper app will track your weekly mileage in the Me tab. Weekly mileage is an important metric to track for running. You can use weekly mileage as a metric for how to improve your training and how to prevent injury.
Rapid increases in weekly mileage can be risky for beginner and experienced runners alike. Increasing your weekly mileage too quickly raises your risk of overuse injuries, including stress fractures. You want to increase weekly mileage by only 10-15% at a time. Ideally, you also allow a week or more to adapt to mileage before increasing it again.
Read more: Mileage: Sometimes less is more
If you are not improving as much as you want, you may be running too little mileage for your goals. Long-distance races like the marathon and half marathon require endurance. Running more miles per week improves endurance. For example, if you want to run a half marathon in under two hours, you will likely need to run more than 20 miles per week. Your weekly mileage over time will show you where to improve in order to meet your goals.
Any metrics that you find valuable are helpful to understanding your best running self. Information should never feel frustrating or discouraging, so if any of the above feel too stressful to track or make you feel discouraged about your running, then stop tracking them. The data is only as good as it helps you understand your best running self!
Please note: This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.