No Races in the Immediate Future? Here's How to Gage Your Fitness

runner on track

Maybe your budget is extra tight or you live in a rural area with few race options. Or perhaps, like the rest of the world, you're self-isolating due to a pandemic. Whatever the situation, there are plenty of ways to measure your fitness level right now—no starting line required.

If you've been running for a while and are anxious to see if you've made any improvements, a race is an easy way to do that. But when that's not an option, you need to get creative. The right solution will vary depending on your unique situation, so check out our suggestions and choose the option that speaks to you!

Try a Time Trial

One of the simplest ways to assess your fitness and challenge yourself is to run a time trial. You can choose almost any distance for a time trial, but 1 mile and 5K are popular options. How to do it: Warm-up by jogging a few miles to a track or flat stretch of road. If you're not on a track or measured path/road, you'll need to rely on a GPS watch to calculate distance. Once you're warmed up, run the distance at race pace (as fast as you can). Record your time and repeat the time trial periodically to track your fitness.

Repeat a Workout

If a time trial isn't your cup of tea, consider running the same workout two or more times to compare your effort. For example, you can try running an interval workout such as three rounds of 1 mile at 5K pace with a 2-minute jog recovery after each mile. After a few weeks of training, attempt the workout again and see if you can improve upon your time. A variation on this could be to increase the number of repeats (e.g. four rounds of 1 mile) or decrease the amount of recovery (e.g. a 90-second recovery jog instead of 2 minutes).

Assess Your Everyday Run

Do you have a go-to route? Whether it's 2 miles or 6 miles, track your finish time over the course of a few weeks and challenge yourself to shave off a few seconds.

Increase Your Personal Distance Record (PDR)

Not interested in speed right now? Work on your endurance and try to run farther than you ever have before. To avoid burnout and injury, add just a mile or two to your long run each week.

Get Strong

Similar to a PDR, you can challenge yourself to a different type of task. Can you commit to strengthening your core by planking every day for a month? Building up to 20 push-ups? When your focus isn't on a finish time, the fitness world is your oyster!  

Evaluate Your Heart Rate

Measuring your heart rate can be a good way to determine fitness level. You can either track your resting heart rate (e.g. the number of times your heart beats in a minute while at rest) or your heart rate while running. Generally, the lower your heart rate is at rest or while running a certain pace, the fitter you are.

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