Interesting one this …. you have a great programme and work heard but are you actually getting fitter? Most of use some very crude methods such as being able to run a distance quicker. So you do a personal best for the Park Run and then next week you are 20 secs slower – losing fitness? Or is it the wind, temperature, ground conditions, size of field, being nearly tripped by the dog/children pack which you had to overtake……
There are some scientific white papers on this subject and Garmin have incorporated a number into their devices such as VO2 max etc. These are good – if you understand them – and certainly if you increase your VO2 max score you are undoubtedly getting fitter.
Most of the fitness predictors use heart rate as a key – why is this as it does not make you run/cycle/swim faster – that’s the muscles in your arms and legs isn’t it? Indeed – but take a not very fit person and fit person who run or swim the same distance in the same time. One is gasping for breath and red in the face – the other is hardly breathing hard at all. They have both performed at the same level but the fitter person has improved the efficiency of their energy burning system so that they need less blood pumping to deliver Oxygen to the muscles and so can either perform at the same rate for longer or have the capacity to improve their performance. In effect its the speed you run and how hard your heart works to achieve that speed.
Simply put if you run at a certain speed for a certain time and your heart rate works less hard then you are getting fitter. So key is to use a Heart Rate Monitor every session – they are inexpensive these day and after the Sports watch very definitely an indispensable piece of monitoring equipment.
So how then do you measure this easily as a time poor athlete! We all see the ‘time in zone’ stats and think ‘mmmm’ not quite sure! Well I’ll show you what I do as a quick and easy way and give an example. It may seem complicated but it’s not.
First to keep it simple measure your running pace and heart rate over a fairly flat but hard session. I use the club efforts session each week to measure but you could equally well use Parkrun or just a hard run. It doesn’t have to be the same distance or course or even time – just average pace. Our club sessions are about 20 mins hard efforts so I use that. I have a Garmin which measure both average pace and average heart rate so its a good start but if you have not then most watches will give you an average pace – then you can take your heart rate after the last effort. Remember to stop your watch between efforts or your rest periods will count.
So then quite simply its the distance in metres (or yards if you are old school) in a minute divided by your raised heart rate. So if you did your 20 min efforts at an average pace of 4 mins/km then in a minute you did 1000m/4 = 250. Divide this by your average working heart rate increase (average heart rate minus resting rate) – say 110 (180 from Garmin-70 resting rate) and you get 2.27. If next week you do the same pace but your heart rate has now reduced to 176 then your EF is 250/106 = 2.35 and so an improvement. An increase in efficiency is good – if it gets less then you are going slower or your heart is working harder.
Below are a sample of my stats over the past couple of months. To put my training into context my yearly training cycle gives me a break in September for 2-3 weeks and so what you see is the end of last season and the start to build for next.
So it’s an indication which helps look at how your body is reacting to training in a less crude way than simply looking at times..
|Average Pace||Ave HR||Resting HR||Fitness Factor|