How to Keep and Analyze a Training Log
Running – and, indeed, all other sports – is about more than just your workouts. To be a successful athlete, your training has to extend to nearly all aspects of your life, including what you do on your so-called “off days.” One particular non-exercise activity that is absolutely vital to any training program is the maintenance and analysis of a quality training log.
But why is a training log so important? How can you use one effectively to reach your goals?
The Value of Training Logs
As suggested by their helpfully descriptive name, training logs are records of your individual workouts and overall fitness progress. Later on, you’ll find greater details about precisely how these logs can be structured and used. For now, why is the practice of keeping an accurate training log so important?
In just about all pursuits, monitoring your progress toward your goals can be a powerful motivator. These logs allow you to plainly see on paper how you’re improving and what aspect of your fitness could use a little more attention. The simple act of seeing your advancement displayed by objective facts – like your weekly mileage or your pace – can be enough to encourage you onward.
Many training programs for runners require you to make incremental increases to the distance or duration of your workouts. How can you do that accurately without knowing what you accomplished last time?
The case for training logs, though, is not just based on logical conclusions. There’s some hard science at work here. For example, a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Coaching Science asked two groups of swimmers to keep a training log for one month. Although both groups were keeping logs, the monitored slightly different aspects of their performance – like training activity or recovery. At the end of the month, both groups showed significant progress in their program adherence, their workout enjoyment and even their punctuality.
The simple lesson is this: Keeping a training log helps you stay on track. Essentially, written records of your workout performance and recovery routine allows you to self-coach.
How To Do It
Right, so training logs are extremely effective tools. Or, at least, they could be. Just like any other tool, logs have to be used properly. So, how can you keep and analyze a training log in an effective way?
The first step is to clearly identify your goals. Granted, this should have been done when you were designing your workouts but is worth repeating. You cannot track your progress if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish.
Once your goal is defined, you can move on to the actual log. And, here, you have plenty of options. You can make your own training log or use any of the myriad scattered about the internet. Typically, training logs take the form of simple spreadsheets but many apps are now available that record more detail with a slightly more pleasing and easy-to-read aesthetic.
What sort of information should you be tracking? Of course, the stats that have a direct impact on your goals – like pace, speed and distance – need to be featured. But it’s also important to track other factors that could have more subtle influences. For example, your mood, the weather and the location of your workout are all worthy of note.
Be sure, as well, to note any aches and pains that you might experience. A clear record of this information could help you avoid injuries or understand their cause when they do occur.
Depending on your gear, you might also be able to track deeper biological markers like oxygen saturation, pulse and blood pressure during your run. Speaking of which, you may also find it useful to note what shoes and other equipment you used on a given day. This would allow you to see how that specific piece of gear helps or hinders your workouts.
Whatever you decide to record, it’s vital that you fill out your log immediately following your workout. Putting it off for too long leaves room for error or you might just forget to do it altogether.
After building and completing your training log, though, you’re work with it isn’t done. All of that data is useless without analysis.
As mentioned, some training programs will dictate specific increases to you. Your routine, for example, might tell you to increase your distance by 10 percent on a given week. In these cases, the type of analysis you’re going to do is pretty straightforward. Simply look at your previous distance and add 10 percent.
Training logs can do so much more, though. Like all athletes, runners often deal with training stalls and plateaus – frustrating periods where progress either stops or reverses completely. When this unfortunate scenario happens, the information in your training log could give you some insight into the root cause.
Really, then, training logs give you the opportunity to track and understand a huge amount of information. Combined with the power of wearable fitness technology, this could allow you to tailor your workouts so that they fit your needs exactly.