Whether it’s running an entire mile without stopping or crushing your first unassisted pull-up, workout personal records, aka workout PRs, look different for everyone. That’s why if you ever hear someone say that they’ve set a new workout PR, know that you don’t have to try to match that PR and make it your goal. Personal records are meant to be just that—personal.
Here’s everything you need to know about establishing your own workout PRs based on your fitness goals and how to achieve them. From indoor cycling to running to strength training and yoga, personal records are a great way to help you stay consistent and motivated with your workouts.
What Does a PR Mean?
A personal record, or personal best, means you’ve achieved a certain goal in your fitness journey. For some, it’s their fastest and strongest time at an endurance sport, others consider their heaviest lift or their longest plank hold to be their ultimate workout PR. Those who are new to fitness or are just getting back into a workout routine may view never missing a scheduled workout for a week as their PR. The beauty of workout PRs is that there is no one way to define them.
“Personal records can come in all shapes and sizes. For many, this looks like hitting higher outputs on rides and runs, achieving more reps and using heavier weights in strength workouts, or perfecting tougher poses in yoga classes,” says Ben Alldis, a Peloton cycling and strength instructor. “Finding consistency in our training regimes is arguably a bigger achievement for many over hitting the highest numbers on the leaderboard.”
Types of Workout PRs
You can set a workout PR for every type of sport and workout, and there aren’t rules on what constitutes a personal record. So if you subtract a fraction of second off your finishing time or add a rep to your set, that is considered a PR.
There are many ways to achieve a PR in cycling because of the plethora of metrics available to you. For example, trying to hit a certain high cadence (rotations per minute or how fast you’re pedaling) can be a challenging goal.
“Working your way up to hitting and controlling speed at a 110-120 cadence could be a workout PR for some. In the same light, some people struggle with out-the-saddle climbing or jogging. Working your way up to spending 30-60 seconds out of the saddle could be a PR,” Ben says.
In addition, increasing your output, which is the amount of power you’re exerting, while you’re out of the saddle is a good goal to have. But with metrics aside, perfecting your form and technique on the bike is what’s going to drive your success in reaching your PR. If you’re not cycling with good form, it can lead to inefficiency on the bike, plateaus, and even injuries.
“Your form, technique, and ability to stabilize your body can make a huge difference to your outputs,” he says. For example, Ben recommends Peloton’s Power Zone training classes for improving your form and technique because they allow you to spend time at certain intensities to help you become more aware of your form and adjust as necessary.
“Focus on keeping the upper body stable and working on the push and the pull of the pedal stroke,” advises Ben. “Center yourself and minimize energy lost with too much movement left to right of your upper body. If you can become more efficient with your pedal strokes, you’ll be hitting new PRs in no time,” he says.
Workout PRs in strength training are pretty straightforward: It can be completing more reps of an exercise or doing exercises with heavier weights, Ben says. When you level up these two variables, you increase the overall volume of your workout. This determines the training load you will be putting your body through during a workout.
As you get stronger, you may start to feel that a certain exercise is easier to do. To continue to challenge your muscles, you can increase the weight you’re using as well as the number of reps you’re performing. This is what’s known as progressive overload.
“Progressive overload is where you slowly increase the intensity of your workouts over time by doing more reps or using heavier weights. This gets your muscles working harder over time and helps them grow,” Ben says. He recommends doing this type of training gradually over time.
What you can do to support your strength PR goals is to focus on improving your mobility and strength. Strength is a combination of power and stability; you need stability in order to control the power, Ben says. By consistently working on building your core strength, mobility (range of motion at the joint level), and flexibility (stretching), you can crush your strength PRs.
Much like strength training, a PR in running can look like many things. It can be the longest or fastest run you’ve ever done; it can simply be finishing your first mile or crossing the finish line of your first race.
“I recently went on a long run that I considered a PR since it was not only the longest mileage I had done in a while, but I felt that all aspects aligned: my hydration, my nutrition, my pace, my overall feeling,” says Mariana Fernandez, Peloton yoga and running instructor. “Maybe it wasn’t the fastest long run I’ve had in my lifetime, but in this round of training, it was a definite milestone for me. After years of marathon training, my PR goals aren’t just a number; it’s how the experience feels.”
The roadmap to reaching your running goals depends on what it is that you want to achieve. For example, if you want to run faster and build speed, you may want to re-evaluate your running form and make sure that your technique isn’t holding you back. You also want to do some speed workouts, such as tempo runs, hill sprints, and interval training.
Meanwhile, if you have goals of running a marathon, following a consistent training plan can help you get there. Peloton’s 18-week marathon training plan, available on the Peloton App includes a mix of running workouts, strength training, recovery days.
Work Out Where You Want, When You WantGet the Peloton App
Have you ever wished you could hold a full wheel, do hold a longer Warrior III pose, or perfect a handstand? PRs in yoga vary on your practice and your intentions behind it. Some people do hot yoga or Vinyasa, for instance, to achieve a particular yoga pose or goal.
“My PR in yoga used to be finally making it to a certain pose. What’s funny about yoga is that every time you step on the mat will be different. Finding you can hold a balancing pose for a few rounds of breath can be a PR. It might be longer or shorter next time,” Mariana explains.
Whatever your goal is, practicing yoga consistently will help you get there. You may find that instead of taking a modification recommended by the instructor, you feel confident enough to start progressing into the full expression of a pose.
“If I know that I got myself on the mat twice a week, I know I hit my milestone that week. Again, it's personal. It's about what motivates or drives you to do what you do. Whether it's a pose, a time, a number, or simply getting out there and moving, celebrate the little and big PRs throughout,” Mariana says.
Why Should You Track Your PRs?
Keeping track of your workout PRs is a great way to stay accountable to your goals and monitor your progress. It’s also an opportunity to re-evaluate what’s working and what isn’t.
“A great motivator is to see the benefits of your hard work you are putting in and tracking your PRs is a great way to do this. Knowledge is power and tracking your data is an amazing way to build knowledge of your performance,” Ben says.
Whether you use a fitness tracker, journal, or track your workouts through the Peloton App, the best way to track your workout PRs is to keep a record of whatever data is available to you. So if running faster is your goal, for example, take a mental note of your pace during your tempo runs and hill sprints. If you’ve been working on your back squats and are hitting more reps, jot them down. By keeping a record of your progress, you can make tweaks in your training to ensure you’re moving in the right direction.
“Different PRs will take different amounts of time. Typically as an athlete who is new to a modality or type of workout, you will likely see a quicker results in improvements and then as you get stronger, those improvements will begin to become less obvious,” Ben says. “It’s important to also note, we will all have periods of the year where we will be stronger than other parts of the year. There are a lot of variables that go into how well we perform in a workout.”
And remember, you can always reset your personal record. You don’t need to compete against a different version of yourself.
How to Set a New PR
Achieved your goal? Way to go! Now it’s time to set a new workout PR. Again, a workout PR can look like anything so don’t feel like you need to conform to certain goals. If you’ve reached a certain running pace, maybe your new workout PR is to run a longer distance at that pace. Have a new one-rep max on your deadlifts? Work your way to two solid reps. If you hit your goal of doing a handstand, ask yourself what you can do to improve your technique to hold the pose longer and with stronger form.
As you make strides in your fitness, look at your own training and see what can be changed to take your performance to the next level. If you want to get better at cycling, for example, Ben recommends adding strength classes to your training. This will translate to strength on the bike.
And if you want to level up on your strength workouts, consider following a specific training plan and increase the weight appropriately over time.
“In order to get strong across your whole body, I would always recommend trying to mix up the body parts you train across the week. Doing at least one upper, lower, and core workout a week is a great start,” Ben says. “Focusing on perfecting the form and technique in strength classes is important before upping the weights you use, however slowly increasing the weights you use for certain exercises over time is a great way to build strength and ensure you are getting amazing progress along the way.”
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