Wearable technology, namely fitness trackers, have experienced a surge of popularity in recent years. With continual advancements and improvements to their functionality, athletes can stand to benefit immensely from the data that is gathered and compiled by such pieces of technology. However, individuals may not know what to make of the information available to them. For runners, knowing what information is collected, where to access it, and what to make of it can help improve their methods and overall performance.
Various apps and devices are capable of monitoring and documenting a number of different metrics. Some of the most important ones include heart rate, elevation, and distance. Keeping track of your heart rate during your runs can help you make sure you are achieving an optimal target heart rate while exercising; a heart rate that is too high could suggest you are overworking yourself, and one that is too low could mean you are not pushing yourself quite enough. Monitoring the elevation and distance of your runs can help you keep track of the difficulty, duration, and impact of your runs.
Beyond these metrics, other helpful aspects to track through technology include hours of sleep, water intake, and perceived exertion. In order to perform at your best, you should monitor how much sleep you get each night (as well as the quality of sleep you receive) and how much water you drink; keeping track of these can help you identify trends over time to determine when you performed in peak condition and how your sleep and hydration levels affected that performance. Monitoring perceived exertion entails documenting how hard you feel your body worked after a run; keeping track of this rating of perceived exertion (RPE) will help you determine what levels of exhaustion are normal, what you should aim for, and how to tailor your workouts to your desired exertion.
When it comes to making sense of data, runners may not know where to start. Looking for run distances and times can help you identify your pace. Depending on your goals, you can work to increase your time or distance by small increments over set periods in order to increase endurance or speed. Shaping your runs with this data in mind can help you plan effective workouts.
Many runners want to improve their efficiency, but they may not know how to go about doing so. With wearable technology, metrics such as cadence and ground contact time can provide some guidance. Cadence refers to the number of steps a runner takes per minute, and as the name suggests, ground contact time accounts for how long a runner’s foot stays on the ground with each step. For individuals who have experienced a foot injury or who simply want to run more efficiently, monitoring their cadence on a weekly basis can help guide efforts to become more efficient. Similarly, tracking ground contact time and identifying the typical pattern of your steps may help improve efficiency; runners who have lower ground contact times tend to use their energy more efficiently, and runners who bounce while running tend to expend more energy than runners who are more horizontally driven.
Acknowledging, documenting, and assessing the data you can gather through wearable technology, as well as simple observation, can help runners improve their methods, efficiency, health, and success.