Measuring your training efforts is critical to performance improvement and to keep you motivated. As humans we like to measure things and measuring your results is important to helping you achieve your training goals. Keeping an accurate training record of times will not only help you stay motivated but it will allow your coach or yourself to measure your progress and get the best results. As I have been sprinting most of life using a stop watch every session was drilled into me from a very early age and continued on into my later years as a masters athlete by my previous coach Peter Crombie. We accurately measure each and every run and more importantly the rest between each run. The rest between each effort specifically determines the type of session you are aiming for. Shorter rests could be more endurance based or acid tolerance type work where longer rests are for pure speed work. An extra 30sec-1min between runs can change the entire session. It will either allow you to maintain your set target time or set % effort or blow you out of the water. Like wise if you are really trying to build up your lactic threshold, having an extra 30sec-1mins rest may ruin the desired outcome. This is true for short or long distance runners. You can change a session completely by just modifying the rest periods.
Take a distance runner for example. Lets say you are doing 3min interval work below your 5km best time and the rest is 3mins between efforts. By reducing the rest by just 30 seconds will completely change this session. I would also encourage you to play around with the rest times. Try setting yourself a target to reduce the rest between your 3min efforts by 15 seconds each week until you can’t go any lower. Once you have reached a threshold, try increasing the pace but go back to the original rest of 3mins then work your way down again.
We do a track session that we only reduce the rest by 15 seconds. But its 15 seconds per run.
5 x 200m @ 85% (rest = 4min less 15seconds per run) Lactic session for @400/800m runner. A 200m runner may want to start at 4:30 for the first rest.
Running with a watch will also allow you to accurately measure the % effort for each run. In the above 5 x 200m session if you get the 85% effort wrong and go closer to 90% you will pay dearly. People are always amazed when I tell them that we do efforts at 85%, 87%, 90%, 93%, 95% and 98%. They alway ask how we can you tell the difference. My answer is always the same. You quickly learn or you pay the penalty. Running faster than the target time by just a few % will have you rolling around on the track with so much pain from the acid build up in your system that you wont to do it again.
Using a watch will also provide good feed back when you may need to stop a session. We had one of these session recently in the lead up to the NSW Master State Champs. Chris was doing a multiple 200m session and he missed the second 200m by more than an acceptable amount so I we just stopped the session. There was no benefit to keep grinding through as the watch told me he was tired and needed more rest.
So running with a stop watch has many benefits.
1. It will help you improve you performance.
2. It will assist you or your coach to design a better training program.
3. It will let you know when you need to stop running and rest.
4. It will help with your race pace.
5. It will keep you motivated