6 Benefits to Tracking Your Training in Hours Instead of Miles

Numbers don’t lie, but neither does your body

Walter Rhein
Aug 20, 2020 · 5 min read
Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Achieving your personal fitness goals requires a year-round commitment. It is important to push yourself so that you can conquer new challenges, but it’s equally important to maintain your motivation. A reassessment of how you track your training can be hugely beneficial to your overall success.

The best fitness advice that I’ve ever received was when a friend told me that I should track my training hours instead of logging my miles. A good training log should provide you with the confidence that you are prepared for a difficult event, and it should help boost your enthusiasm for your overall program. Here are six ways tracking your hours can result in superior fitness.

1. Not all running miles are the same

When you are on a year-round training plan, you will encounter an enormous number of variables. You will go through moments of fatigue, illness, and be faced with inclement weather. Tracking your miles can be brutal. There are simply some days and weeks where you can’t meet your mileage goals through no fault of your own.

Runners are driven people, and they like to push themselves. Although this inclination is great for a competitive event, it’s not a good strategy for writing a training plan. If you set training goals that you cannot achieve, you begin to develop a sense of dissatisfaction with yourself and your plan.

If you are fatigued, or if it is a very hot day, you shouldn’t push yourself to reach your designated mileage. Pushing through heat or exhaustion can have an extremely negative effect on your long term progress. By assessing your preparation in hours instead of miles, you have more flexibility to listen to your body and get the most out of your training.

2. It helps with the mental side of running

No matter how much you love to run, there are days when you’d much rather turn off your alarm, rollover, and go back to sleep. We don’t always spring from our beds jumping for joy and ready to start the day. The prospect of a run can be daunting, and the demand to run a set number of miles can be an extra obstacle to overcome.

When you track your hours, you can give yourself a pep talk. “I’ll just go at a very relaxed pace, it will be like a brisk, morning walk.” Understanding that you aren’t required to push yourself to an extreme, makes it easier to get out from under the covers and lace up your shoes.

Most often you’ll find that you’ll begin to feel good when you start running and you’ll naturally pick up the pace. Giving yourself permission to go slow helps you get through the morning cobwebs and make a run happen that you might have skipped under other circumstances.

3. A time limit is finite

When you say, “I’m going to run twenty miles,” you have no way of knowing how long the workout will take. Depending on the weather, the difficulty of the course, and your physical condition, your estimation could be off by hours.

Everyone has a busy life with other obligations beyond their running objectives. Reorganizing your training log in terms of hours makes it a lot easier to take advantage of the gaps in your schedule. When you say, “I’m going to run for four hours,” you can moderate your pace and know exactly when you’re going to finish.

4. It gives you more victories

It’s always frustrating when you don’t run as far as you’d hoped or planned. Maybe you have a limited block of time, but during the run, you start to reassess and you realize you forgot to allow yourself a few minutes to clean up and change after the workout. Even if you have a good reason for cutting the effort short, you are still left with a feeling of dissatisfaction.

Tracking your hours puts all of that out of your mind. Focusing on your training time helps smooth out variables and makes it much easier to plan. It is very important to focus on positives when you’re committed to a year-round training program. You must congratulate yourself when you set the goal of running for an hour and you achieve that goal. If you happen to go farther than normal, that represents an additional victory.

Giving yourself permission to celebrate your victories makes arduous training more sustainable. If you are constantly failing to live up to your goals, chances are you’ll abandon your program.

5. You might end up running more miles

Tracking your hours allows you to take better advantage of your free time, listen to your body, and improve your motivation. Although it’s likely that you’ll run slower during these runs, you might be surprised to discover that your total number of miles is higher.

A huge part of training for endurance events comes down to simply putting in the hours. Speedwork will still be necessary, but that represents a small part of your overall program. It’s important to give yourself the best chance to get the most out of your training.

6. Knowing your hours brings you confidence

You are always going to be nervous at the start of an event, and it’s good to have a way to assess your preparation. If you’ve put in the hours, you know that your body is prepared even if the butterflies in your stomach make you think otherwise.

I used to try to do 400 to 500 hours of training a year. That included running, strength work, cross-country skiing, and bicycling. Within the total block of time, I’d also keep track of blocks of training hours specific to each event.

The first year I did a marathon, I tracked only 30 training hours of running in the three months preceding the event. It wasn’t enough, but I was young and I managed to get through it. The next year I jumped up to 60 training hours, and by the third year, I was over 100. Training by hours provided a simple way to assess preparation effort versus results.

Your training diary is your best friend

Achieving a superior level of fitness requires an analytical approach. Sometimes you get to the end of a week and you have a sense that you didn’t do enough exercise, but when you actually tally the numbers you discover that you put in a tremendous effort.

In order to make good decisions, you need the best information available. It can be overwhelming to interpret data and try to crunch numbers. Evaluating heart-rate, power output, and mileage can leave you confused and unable to make an accurate assessment.

Sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back and simplify everything. Designate a total number of hours for the year, and break down the percentage that should be dedicated to strength and speed work weekly. The remaining hours become a form of “cushion” training where you can listen to your body and adopt a comfortable and beneficial pace. Training by hours is one of the easiest ways to energize your training program and get the most out of the time available to you.

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from…

Walter Rhein

Written by

Small press writer with Perseid Press, Burning Bulb Publishing, and Harren Press. I have a web page about Peru at www.StreetsOfLima.com. walterrhein@gmail.com

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

Walter Rhein

Written by

Small press writer with Perseid Press, Burning Bulb Publishing, and Harren Press. I have a web page about Peru at www.StreetsOfLima.com. walterrhein@gmail.com

Runner's Life

Runner's Life is a publication for advice and stories from the intersection of running and life. By runners, for runners.

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