Most Important Data To Look At After Your Run

Pace, speed, heart rate, cadence…These are just a few of the data points smart watches provide us these days post run.

But, which ones are the most important?

Whether you just want to save and remember the most important data points or you’re focusing on taking actionable steps with your data, this can be important.

Coach Hayley answers this question for you in today’s daily podcast.


Audio Transcript

Hayley: Hey Runners Connect fans. Today’s question is, what piece of data is most important to you to look at, after you’ve completed a run?

I’d say its distance and average pace or pace per interval, if it was a workout. I’d say those are the key metrics that you really want to a take note of after every run. They’re just simple effective ways to track your training and quantify it.

You can use distance and average pace to make sure your run was in the right zone. For example, you can check if your easy runs were in the right pace range, and if they were truly easy.

You can do the same with your tempo runs and your interval workouts, to check if you’re in the right pace range to get the maximum benefits. This is key to keeping your easy days easy, and harder days hard.

I do a lot of running by feel so often I won’t look at the pace until after. That’s after a bit of experience and knowing my body. But especially after an easy run, I often don’t check the place till after.

This can give me really important information about how recovered I am. For example, if I do an easy run and just focus on being totally easy and this comes out like a minute per mile slower than normal, I might think about how much I’ve been training this week, and whether I’m getting fatigued, or getting sick.

That’s a pretty good trick. Try to guess the pace of your easy runs and look at it afterwards. This will tell you how your body is coping with the training.

If you thought you were going a lot faster than you actually were, perhaps you need an extra rest day or an extremely easy day.

For my fitness checks, I’ll do this for a tempo run. I’ll run the tempo by feel or heart rate and then check the pace afterwards.

If I see I’m way down on what my pace normally would be, that’s a sign I might be getting sick or under-recovered.

If it’s a faster pace than I normally run, hey I am getting fitter. But I’m not forcing the pace during.

I’m running by feel or heart rate, and then checking my pace afterwards to see if my fitness and recovery states are where I want them to be.

For an interval workout, I check through my splits for each rep and I’ll see how they change and hope that they’re consistent or getting slightly faster as the session goes on.

If I’m slowing down throughout, this suggests I started the session too fast. Similarly, if you check your mile splits and your tempo on a steady state run, and they get slower throughout the run, you might want to think about how quickly you started.

Obviously, there’s a terrain and weather factor. Checking the elevation reading on your G.P.S. watch can explain why a particular mile split might be off.

A power meter can be cool here because you can check you kept your effort level constant even if there were hills or a headwind.

Distance and paces are the main things I look at but I’m kind of a data nerd, so I like to look at other things too and I think this is really important to get some context.

I think context is really important here.

Heart rate; I don’t always use a heart rate monitor. This is something I find useful to check after easier tempo runs. If I’ve been running a certain pace, I’ll check my heart rate at this pace compared to previous rounds of this space and if it’s slower, that suggests that my fitness has improved.

If it’s higher, maybe I’m overtraining or getting the beginnings of an illness, but it’s something to watch out for.

I’ll look at elevation too.

If there are any particularly slow mile splits or particularly slow reps, this can put the pace into context as well as the increases in heart rate.

If you were going up a big hill, hey that’s why your pace was a bit slower for that mile. If you have a power meter, then you can look at your power output to calculate how hard you’ve been working, which is useful if there’s a headwind or a tail wind, as the pace might not give an accurate reflection of the effort level.

You can try to keep it constant even when the terrain varies.

There are some other things I look at. Maybe not every week unless I’m trying to make some changes, like changes to my form. But G.P.S. watches and power meters can do so many great things these days.

Most power meters and G.P.S. watches will tell you some things about your form. They often tell you your cadence. I don’t necessarily check this with every workout unless I’m specifically trying to work on it.

However, it might be worth checking this frequently if you’re trying to improve it or if you’re returning for an injury or maybe if you’re getting injured a lot. It can give you some clues.

Similarly, vertical oscillation is something you can get from some devices and it’s also something to look at, to see if you’re bouncing up and down too much when you run.

Another good form check. These are just extras so don’t become too hung up on them. They’re useful to have though.

I’d record these data in your training diary along with how you felt during your run, both effort wise and energy levels wise.

You can check back and see improvements to your phases over time in your training diary. You can also detect overtraining in this way and maybe pick up on some reasons why you’re feeling injured.

Have you increased your mileage too quickly? Things like that. Training diaries are important by the way. You can get great data from your watch onto paper or even into some slightly nerdy spreadsheet.

I’ve got one of those. It will help you to see how your data changes over time and see when you’re getting fitter or when you’re increasing things too much too soon.

Pace and distance is a key factor to look at and I hope I’ve gotten across that you don’t just want to consider in isolation.

Check your heart rate, and correlate changes in distance and pace with elevation changes, and look at splits, not just average pace. You don’t want to drown in data but having several metrics can be really important.

But if you want to geek out, go ahead.

However, do make sure you take note of how you feel. Any injuries, how you slept, maybe your nutrition? You can correlate these things with data from your watch.

You don’t need to spend ages filling in a training diary but it can be helpful. For example, if you’ve been noting sleep hasn’t been so great for a few nights, that might explain why your pace on a workout was slow.

Similarly, if your nutrition was subpar, that might also explain a bad time. You have to consider the whole picture and put things into context.

Hopefully this has given you some idea of how to do this and to combine everything and look at the big picture.

I’ve really enjoyed answering this question and I hope you learned something. Thanks so much for asking.

For those of you listening that want to have your questions answered by one of the Runners Connect coaches, head over to runnersconnect.net/daily and click the record button to send over your question.

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After all, the two most important things runners want to know; how far did I run, and how fast did I run. There are loads of other features and I’m going to explain each one this week. But if you’re ready to get your own right now, head over to stryd.com and use the coupon code RC20 and you’ll get $20 off of your order so you can power your run.

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