In their new book Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness lay out the simple equation for improving as a runner: Stress + Rest = Adaptation. Provide a stimulus, give the body time to grow back stronger, and you’ll reach levels of performance you might never have dreamed of. But if the stimulus is too much, you might get injured; too little, and you’ll never reach your potential.

So how can you quantify stress to make sure the equation doesn’t get out of whack? Tracking workouts using the “lap” function on any GPS watch can make you an expert training mathematician, solving the Stress equation with ease.

Here’s how it works. Most of your runs shouldn’t be “workouts.” They can be adventures, or jogs, or cruises, as long as they are easy and aerobic (in the “Endurance” and “Active Recovery” zones). The goal of these low-stress days is aerobic development and recovery. For those easier days, physical stress is limited—you can set your watch, and forget it.

Meanwhile, where the real growth comes from are the days when you turn the stress up through more intense efforts, or “workouts.” The purpose of each workout is to provide a specific stress calibrated to your goals. Using “laps” and Strava’s Premium workout analysis takes the guesswork out of the calibration. To get the most out of your analysis, make sure you’ve entered a recent race time in your Strava profile so that your pace zones (e.g. VO2 max, threshold, or tempo) are calculated accurately.

Workout analysis puts all the information you need to design and calibrate training at your fingertips. Did your perceived effort correspond to your heart rate and pace as expected? Are you training in the right “pace zone” to get the maximum bang for your training buck? Are you progressing across workouts? You can answer all those questions and more, making sure your training plan aligns with your training execution to lead you where you want to go.

Using Workout View

It’s simple to use laps in your training. When you start and stop each interval during your weekly workouts, click the “lap” button on your watch. When you upload your GPS file, select “Workout,” and Strava does the rest. No coach needed!

One or two workouts a week is plenty for most athletes, supplemented by as much easy running as you can do healthily. For an athlete at 25 miles per week building toward a half marathon, here is a sample 3-week schedule using the lap function.

Week 1

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 4 miles endurance zone with 6 x 20 seconds fast/2 minutes active recovery zone. On these fast “strides,” do a short bout in your “anaerobic” zone, usually 800 meter to mile race effort.
Wednesday: WORKOUT! 2 miles easy, 10 x 1 minute around 5k effort, 1 minute easy, 2 miles easy. (click lap at the start and end of each 1 minute fast)

Thursday: 3 miles easy
Friday: rest
Saturday: WORKOUT! 1 miles active recovery, 5 miles threshold zone, 1 mile active recovery. Click lap at the beginning and end of 5 miles.
Sunday: 4 miles easy

Week 2

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 4 miles endurance with 4 x 30 seconds strides/1 minute active recovery
Wednesday: WORKOUT 2 miles endurance, 5 x 2 minutes at VO2 max, 2 minutes tempo zone, 2 miles active recovery. Click lap at the beginning and end of each faster section
Thursday: 3 miles active recovery
Friday: rest
Saturday: WORKOUT! 1 mile active recovery, 2 x 4 miles starting in tempo and progressing to threshold with 1 mile active recovery, 1 mile easy. Click lap at the beginning and end of each faster section
Sunday: 4 miles easy

Week 3

Monday: rest
Tuesday: WORKOUT! 2 miles endurance, 4 miles threshold/tempo progression, 2 miles active recovery. Click lap before and after the 4 mile section
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 4 miles endurance with 6 x 20 seconds strides/40 seconds easy
Friday: rest
Saturday: 3 miles easy
Sunday: Half marathon race!

Harness the power of laps and workouts, and you’ll harness your own running potential.

Go Premium to get workout analysis and even more advanced analysis from Strava on mobile and web.