Quantifying Hiking and Running Part 1

For the last eight years (2012-2019), I’ve been keeping tracking of my daily steps and miles using a pedometer.  I realize there are better gadgets to do this: Fitbits, watches, and phones that will do this job with more data and better graphics. I like to “roll my own” and I thought I would write up what I have been doing. I welcome constructive feedback; my goal is to maintain and improve my fitness as I age through data analysis.

I record my mileage data daily and analyze my results weekly, monthly and yearly.  Here is a link to my monthly and yearly mileage data in a Google Sheets file. In Table 1, I want to look at my mileage results on a yearly basis; I’ve also included my age. I can see that my mileage increased significantly after 2013, one reason for this is a greater emphasis on hiking and running. I can also see a drop in yearly mileage in 2016; this was due to some medical problems that required surgery, I had some months were I couldn’t exercise very much. In 2017 and 2018 I was training for ultra marathons and had increased my annual mileage. I find having yearly goals, such as races or long distance hikes, motivates me.

Table 1: Yearly Mileage
Year Miles Age
2019 3174 61
2018 3387 60
2017 3286 59
2016 2754 58
2015 3117 57
2014 3008 56
2013 2634 55
2012 2470 54

Here’s a summary of the mileage I’ve done month by month. Table 2 provides a monthly view of my mileage.

Table 2: Monthly Mileage
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
2019 301 241 289 242 238 250 273 269 276 280 274 242 3174
2018 318 271 315 252 304 315 272 338 229 301 240 232 3387
2017 256 296 298 259 286 295 288 283 214 291 281 240 3286
2016 187 188 193 215 206 225 238 267 267 305 269 194 2754
2015 245 258 260 244 266 281 247 306 255 250 237 269 3117
2014 224 211 239 206 212 253 282 302 265 267 275 273 3008
2013 210 190 208 229 243 238 256 220 221 209 199 211 2634
2012 147 201 184 192 242 238 245 190 200 213 202 214 2470
Mean 236 232 248 230 249 262 263 272 241 264 247 234 2951

For example, in the first three months of 2016 my mileage was lower than usual, these were months when I was recovering from surgery. Looking at the monthly mileage data, a high mileage month for me has been greater than 300 miles. For each month, I have computed the mean monthly mileage. My mileage tends to be lower in the shorter winter and early spring (December through April); the most likely cause is the dreary Pacific Northwest winters I manage to slog through each year. There are some exceptions such as 2018 when I was training for a 100 miler in the winter and 2019 when I spent time in South America during the winter.

Another way I like to view the monthly mileage data is a cumulative view. Table 3 shows the cumulative monthly data over the course of a year.

Table 3: Cumulative Monthly Mileage
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2019 301 542 831 1073 1311 1561 1833 2102 2378 2658 2932 3174
2018 318 589 903 1155 1459 1774 2047 2385 2614 2915 3155 3387
2017 256 553 850 1109 1395 1690 1978 2261 2474 2765 3047 3286
2016 187 375 569 783 989 1214 1452 1719 1986 2291 2560 2754
2015 245 502 762 1006 1272 1553 1800 2106 2362 2612 2849 3117
2014 224 435 674 880 1092 1345 1627 1929 2194 2460 2735 3008
2013 210 400 607 837 1079 1317 1573 1793 2014 2223 2422 2634
2012 147 348 532 724 966 1205 1450 1640 1840 2053 2256 2470

The sum of all the yearly mileage is 23,831 miles over 96 months or 248 miles per month. Now, how does this compare to my goal performance?

In 2014, I decided to set a goal of 3000 miles in a year. A yearly goal of 3000 miles works out to an average of 250 miles per month or 8.22 miles per day. Before that, I had goals but they were haphazard. Here are my monthly goals for each year (adjusted for leap years.

Table 4: Cumulative Goal Monthly Mileage
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2019 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2018 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2017 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2016 255 493 748 995 1249 1496 1751 2006 2252 2507 2754 3009
2015 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2014 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2013 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2012 255 493 748 995 1249 1496 1751 2006 2252 2507 2754 3009

Once I had my goal and actual monthly mileage, I can compute the difference. A negative number indicates that I am less than my goal. Figure 1 shows the cumulative difference from goal over eight years.

Figure 1 shows five trends that are significant to me.

  1. January, 2012 to May, 2014 there is a negative slope: every month my actual monthly mileage was generally less than my goal of 250 miles per month./li>
  2. June, 2014 to December, 2015 the slope is mostly positive; my actual miles were greater than my goal of 250 miles per month.
  3. January to July, 2016 the slope is again negative; this is the period of time when I was recovering from surgery.
  4. mid-2016 until the end of 2018 I have been (mostly) exceeding my goal of 250 miles per month; the slope is positive with a few wintertime plateaus.
  5. For 2019, the slope is still positive but not as steep, I haven’t been traing for ultra marathons; only a trail marathon and lots of hiking

Keeping track of my monthly mileage difference from goal provides me some useful month to month feedback. Of course, I am motivated by numerical metrics; not everyone is. I have discovered there is a quantified self community; that discovery came just a few years ago. I welcome feedback from everyone. It’s good to learn from others!

I find that this feedback, along with yearly specific hiking or running goals such as run a 100 mile race or hike the Appalachian Trail (a 2020 goal) keep me on track and motivated.

In part 2, I will add my daily and weekly hiking and running goals and tracking methods.

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