When all of your training consists of one activity, it is easy to compare your workout load from week to week. If you are only running, you can compare your total time ran or your total mileage. The same goes for biking and swimming. However, when you cross train or train for different sports, how best can you compare your weekly workload so that you can see your progression in your training log?

My principal sport is running, so that is where most of my work gets done and how I think of how much I am working. My weekly mileage is one of the most important metrics that I use to tell how much work I have done. My weekly mileage does not include how many times that I lifted weights or how much I swam, though.

If I were to track how long that I worked out for, then I could say that I got X number of hours of exercise in for any given week. However, an hour running at 7 minutes per mile is much different than an hour running a fartlek or doing quarter mile repeats (nestled into a warm up and cool down). Lifting weights does not really tell me very much time wise, because how much and how often that I rest makes a big difference in terms of my workload.

One possibility that I have thought of and to make things simple is to convert bike miles, swimming laps, and weight lifting efforts into “running mileage equivalent units”. Basically, freestyle lap swimming for a half hour or so (about 12-1300m) would be the equivalent of running 4 miles. Lifting weights in the morning would be the equivalent of running 2 miles. Riding 40 miles on a bike would the equivalent of running 6 miles, for example. The problem with this system would be that some sort of conversion formula would need to be created and tweaked to the point where it gives you a good measure of how much work that you have done.

Another possibility that I thought of would be to compare caloric expenditures for different activities. The benefits of this system would be that I would no longer have to rely solely upon miles ran as a measure of effort. By using the calorie expenditure I would be able to differentiate between interval miles and jig jog miles. This would also let me know exactly how much work I put into lifting weights or swimming and make accurate comparisons. I would also have an easier time of adding activities such as lawn mowing or snow shoveling into my training logs. The very obvious disadvantage to this system is that I would have to figure out how many calories are being burnt for each activity, and do more math than I really care for.

Other than just qualifying my miles with my other workouts and comparing activities seperately from week to week, what would you suggest? What systems do you use to make sure that you don’t overextend yourself? Or am I wasting my time on something that really does not matter very much?