Pretty much since I started running, I've tracked my workouts in some capacity. Typically, I've done this through a wearable fitness tracker that mapped my route, calculated my pace, noted my mileage, and pretty much any other data point I could want about my run.
Reviewing my data postrun is one of my favorite parts of the entire training process. In fact, it's safe to say I get a satisfaction from studying my run history that's only trumped by the run itself — barely. Learning about my running patterns helps me spot my strengths (eight miles is my sweet spot for a long run), improve my weaknesses (I start out too fast), and improve my overall attitude toward running.
In fact, next to investing in a solid pair of training sneakers like the new UA HOVR™ Phantom 2 RUNANYWR Running Shoes ($150), my advice to any runner just starting out would be to pay attention to metrics. Because after years of training, these data points have given me the strength and knowledge to go from a casual runner to a multimarathoner.
But I also know that runs aren't just dependent on stats. Factors like attitude, outlook, and emotion are just as important when you take off for a run as physical stamina. I started to realize: I always track my physical performance, but I never take note of my mental or emotional state.
So I began paying attention to my runs in a way that I never have before — I journaled. Now, I'm not saying I started each entry with "Dear Diary." Rather, I recorded simple notes about that day's run: how I felt before, how I felt after, where I ran, if it was a good run or not. Little things! However, even small details started to tune me into a part of my training that I had not been in touch with before. And although I knew my attitude affected my runs, seeing on paper (OK, the notes section of my phone) that a crummy day resulted in a crummy run allowed me to draw patterns in my training and thus make smarter decisions.
I learned there are certain neighborhoods that make me happier after running through them than others. I noticed I was faster — and enjoyed a run more — while on a mini weekend visit to the country than I was running the same old route at home. I even noted when, after a few days of a negative attitude toward running leads to a series of "bad" runs, it may be time to take a break and try some yoga or sign up for an online class.
It's only been a few weeks since I started these quick couple-sentence notes about my runs, but they've already made an impact on how I view my sport, and that's just as valuable to me as any data point my watch can possibly track.