12 Non-Time-Based Ways to Tell You're Getting Better at Running

Getting Faster. It Doesn't Have To Be Your Only Run Objective. 12 Telling Ways You Get Better At Running That's Not All About Your Time.

Coach Kim & Pam Celebrating Huntington Olympic Tri Finish
Pam's Huntington Olympic Tri Finish with Coach Kim

It's not simply about lowering your pace or time when it comes to getting better at running. In fact, putting too much emphasis on metrics can backfire.

Even if your aim is to run faster in a race or just over a certain distance, according to Kimberly Townsend, an expert runner, Boston qualifier, & Running & Triathlon certified coach based in Indiana, pushing yourself every day to make those numbers fall isn't the greatest approach to get there.

And, maybe more importantly, it can make your runs feel a lot less enjoyable. It will definitely take away from the other benefits of running frequently and suck the fun out of your runs.

"Trying to beat your time from the week before, or the day before, adds a lot of pressure," Townsend says. "We see changes in running over the period of weeks, not days," says coach Kim.

After all, according to the Fort Wanye- based running instructor Coach Kimberly, your pace might vary depending on everything from how far you're going to the terrain you're covering to the temperature—and even how much you slept the night before effects your running performance.

Now, there's no rule that says you have to improve your running skills. It's completely acceptable if you're happy with your current speed. In fact, you don't have to strive to get better or faster at all; simply getting out there, maintaining your fitness, and enjoying the mood boost is totally acceptable.

However, if making improvements motivates you, you might want to explore other indicators that your cardiovascular and respiratory fitness is increasing. The good thing is that there are lots. It's also beneficial to tune into them if you expect to keep running for a long time.

Coach Kimberly, shared with our team, "I often find that people identify their runs too much with their pace." When runners are hampered by injury, age, or other factors, they may experience increased stress or even be compelled to quit.

"It becomes critical for people to identify at least a couple of distinct ways that running provides them benefits, worth, and purpose beyond their running pace for staying power," Coach Kim adds.

Here are 12 different ways to track your running success that don't include your time.

What Signs Point to Improving Running Performance?

1. You've improved your training consistency.

Logs shows that over time, running has a slew of advantages, ranging from making you feel happier and healthier to improving your cardiorespiratory fitness. Coach Kimberly points out, obtaining all of these benefits necessitates going out on a regular basis.

If you just run once or twice a week, your body will feel as if it is beginning from scratch each time, making your workout feel much more difficult. Your musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and neurological systems, on the other hand, learn to absorb the impact of running with consistent practice—and build adjustments to get better at it.

Because consistency underpins so many of running's impacts, setting regular runs as an early goal is a good idea, according to Coach Kimbery. It will certainly seem easier after three to four weeks if you can manage three runs each week, even if they are super-short. "For the first month, running might not be much fun. "However, if you can get through the hump and stay with it for a month, you will notice a difference," she says. (If three times a week seems onerous, keep in mind that it's likely frequency related; if you've been running once every couple weeks, reducing to once or twice a week would likely provide some regularity benefits.)

2. The movements appear to be more natural.

When you're just starting out, ramping up, or returning after a break, Coach Kimberly believes that running form can feel odd and uncomfortable. Every step and leg movement can feel taxing, as if you're aware of everything your body is doing.

However, after you've found your stride, the connections between your brain and muscles become more efficient and need less effort. "It's almost as if you're floating," she explains. Bonus: If you can run outside, reaching this milestone allows you to take in and appreciate the environment around you, which is another indicator you're progressing.

Kim Townsend Runner on trail in newton running shoes
Coach Kim Heading into #globalrunningday

3. You are able to run longer distances.

In 2012, Camille, SBR Fun Events Director, tried her hand at jogging for the first time after having a few babies. She recalls stumbling along the neighborhood trail path, which was lined with street lamps. "I couldn't sprint the entire length of those lights—I had to pause, regain my breath, and walk a little," she explains.

In 2014, she returned to running on a more regular basis, and her cardiovascular system improved to the point where she could run from the first to the last streetlight on the trail path without stopping.

New runners, according to Coach Kim & Camille, should start with a run/walk interval and celebrate every time they reduce their walking interval and raise their running interval. You might set a goal to go even further once you've worked up to a consistent run.

Coach Kimberly suggests selecting one run per week as your long run. If you want to go further, gradually increase the distance of that one weekly outing—for example, from two to three miles, four to five, and finally more if you want.

Even if your pace isn't changing, the fact that you're putting in more kilometers is a sign that your run game is improving. Warning-Increase no more than 10% at a time, max 1/2-1 mile, for super beginners.

4. Week by week, you can run more.

Running is such a high-impact sport that adding too much too soon can lead to injury. However, progressively increasing your strength and resilience is an indication that your muscles, tendons, and joints are responding.

If you've been running two days a week for a few weeks, Townsend suggests adding a third and seeing how your body reacts. You can then build up to four or even five if you desire. Simply aim to raise your overall weekly mileage by no more than 10% at a time, which may mean shortening each day at first.

Tracking your training is one technique to ensure that you don't burn out. You can track your distance using digital logs on sites like Fit Bit, Garmin Connect, Strava, or TrainingPeaks, but it's also vital to pay attention to how your body feels. If you go through your logs frequently, you'll start to find patterns in how you feel, how much your body can endure, and how far you've come, says Townsend.