How to Keep a Running Log
While not every runner keeps a running journal, most see a benefit in tracking progress and having a written account of their experiences as an athlete.
If recording the particulars of each running day is too daunting a task, then now may not be the time to start. If you use the log obsessively and overanalyze every little detail, just put away the pen (or keyboard). However, if used properly and—most importantly—individualized for your needs, a running log can have many benefits.
Running journals can provide motivation or encouragement to help you stay inspired. Looking back on the week's work is sort of like recieving a paycheck, only instead of dollars, you're collecting miles run, strength gained and forward progress. There is nothing like gratification to put some spring in the step.
Hot Tip: Get Inspired
Many training logs have running quotes on each page to provide daily motivation. If your log doesn't, try finding and adding your own quotes to your journal before use.
Training logs also help you stay organized and accountable. With the flip of a page, you will know how many miles you have on your shoes (and if it's time to change them); how many workouts you've done in that week (and if you should do more or scale back for the rest of the segment); what races you have coming up; and much more. The amount of information you put in is the amount of feedback you get in return. So if you have a hard time keeping track of miles or rest days, a training log is a perfect solution.
Information can also help prevent injuries. And if an injury occurs, the objective material in the log can help a runner pin-point what went wrong: maybe it was too many miles, too many workouts or a buildup that moved a bit too fast. Regardless of the cause, use the clues in your log to take steps (or not as the case may be) to prevent an injury from happening again.
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Get to Know Yourself
A huge part of being an athlete is figuring what type of training does and doesn't work for you. But it's hard to think 400-meter repeats are good for you while you are hyperventilating on the track, so it's important to have a record that you can look back on with some sense of objectivity to see when you felt strong, what you did before a sucessful race, how many days in a row you felt bad before an upswing, and so on.
For example, if you hate hill workouts but you always set a personal record three weeks after a good hill segment, maybe it's time you revaluate their role in your training schedule.
Many athletes gain confidence after looking through their running journals. Even if the training has not gone according to plan, they are able to see the work that has been done. This is key for runners who could use a bit of an ego boost the evening before a big race.
Anytime you are nervous or feel down about something in training, just peek back at all that you have accomplished. Look for little things that you might have done that separate you from the pack, whether it's that extra mile, a perfectly placed rest day or a crazy new workout you designed yourself. Find the details that give you a mental edge.
Past training logs can be funny, depressing, invigorating and enlightening--just like looking back at an old diary. It can also provide perspective on current training and past successes.
If you are suddenly sold on the value of training logs, here are a few more things to consider:
Where to Write
First, you have to decide what form your running log should take. There are many options: a notebook, loose scraps of paper, an official bound training journal, an online blog, an online training log tied to a greater community, video, or something else entirely.
You have to figure out the exact purpose of your log: If you want to be able to communicate with other people about training, then explore online options; if you want an intimate, personal record for your eyes only, then find a spiral notebook; if you feel a bit aimless and want direction, look for a published running journal that has a full calendar with spaces labeled (miles, workouts, cross training, effort, etc); and of course, if you are a green-minded runner, just recycle on the back of anything you can find and keep it in a box.
What to Write
The next thing you need to consider is what information to write down. Some people stick to the basics, like mileage, tempo and time. Others really like long, thoughtful ponderings on their day's training, and still more like to be as scientific as possible with heart-rate readings, elevation gains, and exact GPS details.
Here are some of the more standard details you may want to keep track of:
Time of your run in minutes
Distance in miles (or kilometers)
- Description of the run (workout/easy/long/strides afterwards/etc.)
- Morning heart rate (to see if it is raised with fatigue or oncoming sickness)
- Weather conditions
- Terrain or route
- Splits from speed sessions to gauge training progress
- How you felt (on a scale of 1 to 10)
- A daily or weekly goal, so that each run has a purpose
*Keep in mind that journals should keep track of each day and each week, so that you can see both the details and the big-picture aspects of your training.
It's Ok, Either Way!
Like so much about this sport, keeping a running journal is an individual choice. When it comes down to it, many of these decisions are only as good as the mental and physical edge they give you as an athlete. In other words, what works for some may not work for others. So play around with it and hopefully you will find a routine that works for you!