Running numbers

Louise and Anna, Hyde Park route
Louise and Anna, Hyde Park route

With work, travel and family commitments it has seemed an absolute age since I last ran with my friend and fellow TM teammate, Anna. This week we put but an end to this draught and managed to sneak a couple of lunchtime runs together, along the river and around the Royal Parks, and each time, as we set out, we both hit the ‘start’ button on our respective Strava run tracker apps.

Anna got me hooked on my run tracker and now I won’t run without it. With the mapping, time and speed stats offered by a run tracker, I am able to maximise my run time, whether it be by adding an extra loop around St James’s Park during my lunch break to hit a distance target, or by adding sprints to various segments of my route to beat my short distance time goals. The mapping feature is also really useful to me, as I have absolutely no sense of direction, and it gives me a better sense of where I’ve been and where I can go to extend my routes most effectively.

On completion of a run you can compare your stats, not only with your own previous runs, but also with those of your friends on Strava, as well as with other mystery Strava runners using the same routes or route segments.

It’s this social side that means that although I haven’t had chance to run with Anna for a few weeks, we have been regularly updated on each others progress, motivated from a distance by Strava email updates. In that bizarre way that social media permits, when Anna told me she had been on a park run in Crystal Palace over the weekend, my response was ‘I saw it on Strava’, while she knew exactly the route I’d propose for our riverside run. Likewise, after our run on Monday I received a ‘kudos’ email from my brother-in-law who had seen my run on his feed, and who I know went on to run a quick 5k later that evening to cool down after his half marathon at the weekend.

So is there a benefit to using a run tracker and can it improve your performance? Obviously this is a personal thing, but for me, the answer is a resounding yes. Having a public record of your runs and an app that emails you weekly run and distance averages not only holds you to account but also allows you to set yourself personal goals and monitor your performance. Key performance indicators, speed, distance and time are recorded such that you can clearly see improvement (or room for). During the course of writing this post I also came across this interesting 5 minute TED talk about how we can use data to improve ourselves, which struck a chord and is worth a watch.

In the same way that training for an event fuels my motivation, so too does being able to record and monitor my progress. When taken away from a treadmill, where you are provided with stats on tap, a run tracker provides the data you need to stay on course (literally in my case!).

Strava is just one of many run trackers available for free or at a cost. My running club friends swear by their Garmin’s and Nike+ also have a great offering.

Happy running!

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