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Marathon Training Series: How and why to track your training

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
Posted by
06 Sep 2019

Ben from Full Potential, our training partner writes about why tracking your training can be useful to you and the best ways of doing that.

Image of a running watch
Tracking training

Keep a training diary

Keeping a training diary is one of the best things you can do as part of your marathon training. You need to be able to easily and regularly fill it out, so make sure however you plan to keep it fits into your lifestyle.  

A training diary will allow you to look at the progress you are making each week as part of marathon training. It provides a written body of evidence about how far you’ve come as an runner. It can be a real source of confidence and motivation when it comes to marathon week and those pre race nerves kick in. Getting out the diary and seeing all the hard work you’ve done really will provide that confidence boost we all need.

Your training diary can be anything you want it to be. There are online tools where you can upload your runs and make notes there, you can buy a running journal or create your own in a notebook, use your computer and build your own tracking document or write it as a note on your phone. There’s endless options and no excuse to not fit it in.

Try out different training apps

Make technology work for you, by creating a reminder each day to write about your training, you can just get prompted to jot something down. I like to make my notes on the previous days training in the morning, that way I’ve had a chance to sleep on the day and write down what was important to me. That’s what I’ve found works, and it’s up to you to experiment and do it your way.  

At a basic level, you want the diary to record the training session you did, how far you went, and how you felt during it. It really is that simple.

I want to talk now talk about ways you can record your running. You can either use a GPS watch, or your mobile phone, there are advantages and disadvantages of each.

Track your training

If you are looking to take your training on, then I do suggest owning a GPS Sports watch. The watch will record the distance you are running, and give you the pace you are running. Some watches have interval functions built in, heart rate recording features and can store music or podcasts on them. Garmin can probably be described as the market leader here, and offer basic GPS watches from £100. The Apple watch is also available, and is a great watch for those that are into fitness, not just their running, and syncs amazingly if you have an iPhone.  

If you aren’t into using a watch, all smartphones come with GPS as standard and you can use that to track your runs. The advantage of this is you aren’t spending any more money, you can take your music with you and it’ll just work. The disadvantage is that phones seem to be getting bigger and bigger now and so you’ll need a way of carrying that with you on a run and it isn’t easy to just quickly glance to see how far (or fast) you have gone.  

There are so many available apps to record your running. The Nike Running App is a nice ecosystem to use, Strava offers a running and cycling app that you can use and Runkeeper is a regular favourite with runners. All the apps are free so you can download them and try them out. See which one works for you.  

There are a number of online sites that let you view your runs, routes and stats from the sessions. Garmin users will probably get on with Garmin Connect, Strava is a great website and has a lot of social features, it’s a lovely way of connecting and supporting other runners too.

Don't sweat your stats

One danger of using any numbers based tracking system is that it’s very easy to get frustrated or disappointed with the numbers that are coming out. It’s vital you keep the training in perspective and an eye on the bigger picture.

The only day your pace is going to matter is on race day. Everything you do before that is just training for the big day and you are more than likely training too hard if you are looking for Personal Bests in training.  

Training is just that, training. It’s designed to work a certain energy system (hence the effort levels you are running at) and the sessions are not there to show you how fit you are. One day you’ll fly along, other days you’ll feel like you are running through treacle! This is just the ebb and flow of endurance training, and nothing to worry about.

Go at your own pace

Your training diary will evolve as you do as an athlete. Take some time to think about how you are going to start yours and get going.

To connect with other runners and share training tips, join our Run Bloodwise group on Facebook


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