Are you ready to take your running game to the next level? Then you’re in the right place because we’re about to dive into a world of advanced running metrics that will revolutionize the way you train.
Thanks to modern wearable tech, you can now track and analyze every aspect of your performance, from your heart rate variability to your cadence and even your running power.
But when you’ve a lot of data on hand, it makes hard to use it to your advantage.
That’s where today’s article comes in. As a seasoned runner and fitness enthusiast, I’ve spent countless hours poring over running metrics and experimenting with different training techniques.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain nine of the most important and commonly used advanced running metrics. I’ll also show you how to leverage each one to optimize your training and achieve your goals.
So let’s lace up and get started!
Running Metric – 1. Training Load
Imagine this: You’re a dedicated runner, logging mile after mile, pushing your limits day by day. With each run, your conditioning improves, and you feel your body adapting to the demands of your training.
But here’s the catch: If you slack off often, your hard-earned progress could slip away. So, how do you navigate this delicate dance of pushing your limits while avoiding burnout? Enter the game-changer: training load—the key to monitoring the combined strain of your workouts and optimizing your performance.
Think of the training load as your personal compass, guiding you through the maze of fitness adaptation. It’s like having a trusted coach by your side, constantly assessing the stress on your aerobic system and providing invaluable insights.
. This innovative feature goes beyond simple distance tracking and taps into the intricate web of physiological responses within your body. It meticulously analyzes the toll your workouts take, providing a comprehensive snapshot of your training load.
Armed with this powerful data, you gain access to a personalized recommendation engine. It’s like having a virtual trainer whispering in your ear, advising you on when to scale back or push a little harder. This invaluable guidance ensures that you stay within the elusive “sweet spot” throughout your training, where growth and progress thrive.
But what does the research say about training load? A study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences revealed that monitoring training load can significantly reduce the risk of overtraining and injury while maximizing performance gains.
Running Metric – 2. Ground Contact Time
Ground contact time, or GCT, might not be the first metric that comes to mind when you think of running, but don’t be fooled by its unassuming name. This little number packs a powerful punch when it comes to improving your running efficiency and preventing injury.
Think of GCT as the amount of time your feet are in contact with the ground while running. Elite runners typically have an average GCT of less than 200 milliseconds, according to research. But why is this important?
Well, for starters, a longer GCT is generally associated with an inefficient running economy, which means you might be wasting energy and slowing yourself down. By improving your GCT, you can make your running more efficient, allowing you to go faster and farther with less effort.
Of course, don’t take my word for it. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reported that improving ground contact time can boost running performance. That’s a good thing if you ask me.
But that’s not all. GCT can also reveal important information about your running form and leg symmetry. If you have a longer GCT on one leg than the other, for example, it could indicate a strength imbalance or leg length difference. Ideally, you want your gait to be symmetrical and balanced.
So, how do you improve your GCT?
I’d recommend increasing your cadence, which is the number of steps you take per minute. By taking quick and light steps, you can reduce the amount of time your feet spend on the ground, which should lead to a lower GCT and faster running overall.
But don’t stop there. Incorporating lower-body strength exercises and sprint training into your routine can also help improve your GCT and overall running performance. And don’t forget about your stride length – shortening your stride can also help reduce your GCT and improve your overall efficiency.
Additional source – Here’s the full guide to average stride length.
Running Metric – 3. Vertical Oscillation
Have you ever seen a kangaroo bouncing around? They might look impressive, but that kind of bouncing is not what you want in your running. Vertical oscillation measures how much your upper body bounces up and down with each step you take. But why is this important? Well, excess bounce means wasted energy that could be better used to propel you forward.
Research has shown that minimizing vertical oscillation is beneficial for running economy, or the amount of oxygen needed to run at a particular speed. One study found that reducing vertical oscillation by just two centimeters improved running economy by 6% in trained runners.
Excessive bouncing can also indicate poor form, which can lead to injuries. Monitoring your vertical oscillation can help you identify when your form starts to break down and make corrections before it becomes a problem. Vertical oscillation is like bouncing a basketball – just as bouncing a basketball too high wastes energy and decreases efficiency, excessive vertical movement during running can waste energy and decrease efficiency
So how do you lower your bounce? The simple way is to shorten your stride length. This, in turn, helps you maintain a lower center of gravity. Another way is to work on strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles. Exercises like squats and jumps can be great for this.
Remember, the goal of running is to move forward, not up and down.
Running Metric – 4. Vertical Ratio
Think of your body as a car. The vertical ratio is like the gas mileage of your vehicle. Just like how you want your car to have great gas mileage, you want your body to have an optimal vertical ratio to improve your running economy and efficiency.
Research has shown that elite runners typically have a vertical ratio of less than 5%, while recreational runners tend to have a ratio of 7-9%. That may not sound like much but it does impact performance, especially the longer you run.
So how can you improve your vertical ratio? One way is to focus on improving your running form. This means practicing proper posture, keeping your core engaged, and landing softly on your feet. Another way is to incorporate strength training exercises that target your legs and core muscles, such as squats and lunges, to help you generate more power and lift with each stride.
But remember, improving your vertical ratio isn’t just about working harder; it’s also about working smarter. Monitoring your progress with this metric and adjusting your training plan accordingly can help you reach your goals faster and avoid injury along the way.
Additional Resource – Here’s the full guide to running watches
Running Metric – 5. Heart Rate
Heart rate, the rhythm of your beating heart, is the drummer of your workout band. It beats in tune with your effort and gives you a real-time understanding of how hard you’re working. It’s like your body’s built-in tachometer, measuring the intensity of your activity.
Your heart rate rises as you ramp up the intensity of your workout, pumping more oxygen and nutrients to power your muscles. The more you push, the faster it beats. And tracking your heartbeats per minute gives you a precise indication of your effort level.
Knowing your maximum heart rate is critical to using heart rate training effectively. This number represents the highest number of times your heart can beat in one minute while exercising at maximum capacity. Your age, genetics, and fitness level all play a role in determining your HR Max. Although subtracting your age from 220 is a popular way to estimate HR Max, the most accurate measurement occurs in a lab.
Different heart rate zones correspond to different levels of workout intensity, and understanding which zone you’re in can help you optimize your training. Generally, the higher the zone, the harder the workout and the greater the benefits. Conversely, pushing yourself too hard can lead to injury or exhaustion.
Additional Resource – Does running make you old
Running Metric – 6. Running Power
Running power is like the fuel gauge in your car; it tells you exactly how much energy you’re spending while running. Monitoring your power output helps optimize your training and improve your overall performance. What’s not to like, really!
Research shows that tracking running power can help prevent injury and improve running economy. A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that runners who used power meters to monitor their training saw significant improvements in their running economy and performance compared to those who relied solely on heart rate or pace.
Another advantage of using running power is that it allows you to adjust your running form in real time. By paying attention to your power output, you can make adjustments to your stride length, cadence, and foot strike to improve your efficiency and reduce your risk of injury.
While running power is a relatively new metric in the running world, it’s becoming more widely available with the increasing popularity of wearable technology. Products like the Stryd running power meter and the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod allow runners to easily track their power output during workouts.
Additional resource – Your guide to heart rate variability
Running Metric – 7. Stride Length
Stride length is one of the most important aspects of running. In fact, it can make the difference between a smooth, effortless stride and a choppy, inefficient one.
Improving your stride length isn’t just about covering more distance on each step; it’s about finding that sweet spot where you’re not overstriding and creating a braking effect with each step. Stride length acts like the gear ratio on a bike – just as selecting the right gear for the terrain can improve bike performance, optimizing stride length can improve running performance.
And research agrees. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has linked an optimized stride length to improved performance and reduced injury risk.
The ideal cadence is 180 steps per minute, but that can vary based on factors like height, speed, and running experience.
Having an optimum stride length can make all the difference in your running, but finding that perfect balance is a matter of trial and error.
Running Metric – 8. Cadence
Cadence, or stride rate, is the number of steps you take per minute while running. A high cadence means a faster leg turnover and can help you generate more force to drive you forward.
Improving stride rates helps run faster and more efficiently while reducing stress on your muscles and joints. A higher cadence means shorter stride length and less impact on joints, which can reduce the risk of injuries such as shin splints or knee pain. A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that increasing cadence by 5-10% can improve running economy and reduce the risk of injury.
In addition, a consistent cadence can help runners maintain a more efficient running gait, which can lead to improved running economy and faster race times.
Most experts recommend a cadence of 170-180 steps per minute for optimum running efficiency.
Here’s the good news: improving cadence is easy.
One of the best ways to do so is to find a playlist with a tempo of 170-180 beats per minute. Next, try to synchronize your steps with the beat of the music. Another effective method is to use a metronome. Count the number of steps your right foot hits the ground in one minute of running, then multiply it by two to determine your cadence.
Running Metric – 9. VO2 Max
Though it may sound complicated, VO2 max is simply a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen you consume per minute during intense training
By determining your VO2 max, you’ll be able to set better training goals, assess your progress, and determine the effectiveness of your training.
Just like HR max, the most reliable way to determine your VO2 max is conducted in a sports lab while using expensive gas exchange equipment.
However, some wearable technology can help you, at the very best, estimate your current VO2 Max by using intelligent algorithms and a heart rate monitor.
Any type of exercise helps your VO2 max, but research has found that going intense and short—as in doing high-intensity interval training—to be one of the most efficient ways to increase and/or maintain an optimal VO2 max. Learn more about VO2 max charts here.
Advanced Running Metrics – In conclusion
From the looks of it, this may seem like a lot to keep track of, but at the end of the day, when used together, the running metrics I shared today can help provide a detailed and precise picture of your overall progress and training effectiveness.
And the more you practice them and build the habit, the easier it will be to wrap your head around the different stats and features. Yes, it’s just a matter of practice. The important thing is to make the most out of the tech you have. Don’t let it abandon you and waste your money.
Please feel free to leave your questions in the section below.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep running strong.