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How to stop struggling to understand the data your GPS watch is spitting out

One of the biggest fears that runners express to me is that they are afraid to collect even more data.

They cannot manage the data they have already so the idea of "more" is terrifying!

If this sounds like you, read closely.

I am about to tell you why you cannot manage the data you currently have, and what you can do about that.

The challenge with metrics like pace and heart rate is that they offer a limited view into your training.

They are certainly useful, accurate metrics because it is important to know how fast your heart is beating and how fast you are running.

But, the speed you are running and your heart rate are affected by so many variables.

Speed is affected by hills, wind, and fatigue.

Heart rate is affected by caffeine intake, cardiac drift, sleep, and many more variables.

You don't have a comprehensive view into what is going on.

When you sit down to analyze your data, you have to ask yourself many questions to drill down into why a certain metric changed.

Did this metric change as a response to an increase in effort...?

Or, did this metric change as a response to something else?

Here is what I mean by that:

- Did heart rate increase because you were working harder? Or, did it increase due to cardiac drift?

- Did pace increase because you were working hard? Or, did it increase because you started running slightly downhill, even though your effort remained the same?

It is not always possible to find the answer to these questions because pace and heart rate give you a one dimensional view into your training.

You really need to understand why your metrics are changing to get the best use out of them.

Without this understanding, your heart rate and pace data might as well just be noise.

Running power makes heart rate and pace more useful.

Since running power represents your effort, you can easily understand why pace or heart rate changed.

If heart rate increase but power stays the same, you immediately know that heart rate changed due to a factor such as drift, temperature, or the onset of fatigue.

If pace increases but power stays the same, you immediately know that you are being aided by a slight downhill, a tailwind, or you have warmed up and become more effective at turning power into speed.

The addition of running power makes the process of understanding the data you already have easier and more insightful since it unwinds the typical mysteries encountered in analysis.

If you want to make your pace and heart rate data more useful and easier to understand, you should begin running with power.

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