Tracking your runs

Runners love to track. Tracking looks different for everyone, but most often takes the form of:

  • Indicating what days you run
  • Recording the distance or pace of your run 
  • Totalling the time of your run

Tracking can be healthy! It helps us to remember and prioritize rest and recovery days, see our progress, and monitor injury and running come backs. But tracking can also have its consequences. The more we become focused on the actual tracking, rather than the reasoning for it, the more obsessed we as runners can become with the stats. We can lose sight on how the run feels, focusing more on the statistics that we see at the end – which can increase risk of injury (and just prevent us from reaping the full mental health benefits of going out for a run and purely enjoying it for the sake of running). We’re all guilty of this at some point or another.

How do runners track?

As I’ve become more involved in the online running community, I’ve become more invested in analyzing how others are tracking and the potential effects sharing these stats have on other runners. The online running community has flourished during the past year, which has had so many positive effects on runners of the GTA. Instagram accounts dedicated to running fill my ‘recommended’ page.

What I’ve noticed through scouring these pages is that, often, the daily posts are of the classic running stats that a running watch spits out for you. It’s almost as though Instagram has become the new Strava for pandemic runners. And, while I’ve loved becoming more immersed in this community – being on Instagram while injured during the pandemic has been a challenge. Every day I’m faced with seeing the distances people are running, their new PB paces, and how great their run felt. And hey, maybe this is healthy for some runners – maybe this is what tracking needs to look like for them! But part of me feels as though this has become the go to method of tracking – the only known method – and it can become obsessive for some runners (guilty). 

Why do runners track?

In my downtime from running, I’ve thought a lot about this, and what I’ve concluded is: It’s important to not lose sight of why we track. But, to remember why we track, we need to remember why we run. From there, we can adapt how we track to make it the healthiest version of tracking for us! We all have different reasons for running, different needs, and different wants – so why has tracking become this ‘one type works for all’ approach?

For me – yes, I run to work towards longer distances, faster paces, to race, but…that’s not what motivated me to run. I needed to find a space outside of an aesthetic sport environment – a sport space where my body functionality was supported over its appearance. With this being the case, my tracking should focus on how runs make me feel, and what my thoughts towards my body are during/after each run. Yes, I still track runs on my Garmin. But, I’ve also now started to keep a journal where I record my response to a few different prompts every day on a scale of 1-10: overall run feeling, energy, body image, and confidence.

At the end of the day, tracking can be healthy. It can be a runner’s source of motivation. I encourage you all to think about how you can make tracking work best for you. We all run for different reasons, we all have different running goals, so why should we all track our runs the same way? I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on what really got you started as a runner, and work on embedding that reason into your tracking habits!