Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to track training progress: monitor rolling averages

For this year, I'm tracking four rolling statistics to monitor my training to make sure I'm training consistently and not overtraining by packing two weeks of training into a single a ten-day period.

Seven-day totals: I'm keeping track of how many miles and hours/minutes I've run in the past seven days.

Three Week rolling averages: This shows my average weekly mileage and time as calculated over the last three weeks.

The idea sprung from a portion of Relentless Forward Progress, which if you (want to) run ultras, is a must-read. Tracking this has shown a few things.

1. Zero days have a huge effect on the seven day totals.

Well duh. For every day that I don't run, the totals spike down. For everyday that I skip and then later run the following week, the totals spike up. For this reason, monitoring these numbers help me eliminate (or reduce) zero days because I care about these stats. Less zero days mean more consistency, and more consistency will lead to better race-day results. The same goes for days where I run more than my average daily run, i.e.when I did a 16 miler for a mid week run.

2. Three-week totals are much less volatile. 

Again, duh. When zero days are balanced out over three weeks (because hey, they come and go about once per week), their individual effect is mitigated.

3. What I ran seven or 21 days ago (rightly or wrongly) influences my daily mileage decisions.

I look at my training log (almost) every day. When I do, I tend to check the mileage I ran on this day of the week last week and three weeks ago. It is those numbers that will be dropped when I add in today's time. Runners have a tendency to think "more is better," and so long as it is part of a consistent training plan, more is better when achieved in small increments tends to work for most folks, including me. Thus, when I look back at what I did last week and three weeks ago, I want to run at least that mileage (or more), subject to this week's plan, so as to not diminish my rolling seven-day and three-week totals.

This is not terribly intelligent because it tends to prevent recovery days or recovery weeks from being entirely effective. But it is effective at getting me to run higher mileage weeks, especially going forward with this week and next when I am shooting for a weekly effort - 60 miles with two quality runs - that I have so rarely in the past achieved with any consistency.

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