Most of the triathletes I know love their fitness tech and I’m no exception. My Garmin comes with me on every run and captures a range of data which indicates my level of prowess (or lack thereof). Distance, pace, heart rate, cadence, training effect and the amusingly titled “vertical oscillation” all get recorded. It will even record for me which sweaty pair of trainers I’ve used on my run and how far said trainers have now progressed through their working life. All this wonderful data gets pored over on my iPad before the light sheen of post run perspiration is even dry on my brow. “Have I improved on this run?”; “How’s my form?”; “Was I near a cardiac arrest today?” are just some of the killer questions I’ll be expecting my devices to answer for me. The very act of synching my Garmin also uploads my data to my Strava account so other sporty people (mostly of greater talent than me) can also marvel at my ineptitude.
Now that I’ve commenced a proper training plan for the first time, one of the things I do actually find really useful is the ability for my Garmin to store “Workouts”. In this context, a workout is a pre-planned set of stages of the run (warm up, main set, cool down) which can be configured to certain parameters like pace, distance, time etc. “Why is this useful?” I hear no-one cry. Well let me explain.
The training plan I’m using is great. It’s easy to follow and gives me a structure to my running that I’ve not had before. But, and here’s my only criticism, it’s a bit vague. Using abbreviations, the plan talks about Easy Runs (ER), Steady Runs (SR), Threshold Runs (TR) and Interval Runs (IR). The plan will show any given run as a combination of these lovely abbreviations which looks to the uninitiated like a centipede with inky boots has walked across the page. Here’s an example from this week: 10min ER 7 x (3min IR, 2min ER), 10 min ER.
The guidance notes that come with the plan explain that Easy Runs are run done at less than 60% effort; Steady Runs are 60-70% and Threshold 80%. Being a bit data obsessed, I find these descriptions a bit too fluffy. After all, perceived effort will vary based on lots of factors – time of day, tiredness, hangover and so on. In my quest for freedom from fluff, I came across the excellent Runners World Training Pace Calculator. This great little web page will take one of your known result times for a particular distance and via some black magic and witch craft turn it into TANGIBLE minute/mile paces. Oh Joy! Now I can program my Garmin to measure my pace on the run against my target pace for a given section of the run.
What have I learned from all this? Two things mainly:
- My Garmin is now a tyrannical beast much akin to a military drill instructor. It bleeps and buzzes angrily at me whenever I drop out of the 15 second band I’ve set either side of my defined target pace.
- I find it pretty difficult to run to a target pace (especially a slow one). Most of my previous runs have always gravitated to a steady state with little variation. The plan and my own wrist bound dictator are forcing me to adapt my training and I’m seeing better data in my post race analysis as a result.
I’m running Brighton Marathon in April and competing in the Holkham Outlaw Half for the East Anglian Air Ambulance. If you’d like to donate to this great cause, please visit my page at https://www.justgiving.com/EnduranceDaddy