Do you keep a training log?
If not, maybe you should. Knowing your own stats and metrics can be invaluable and is the best way to set realistic goals and understand how to reach them.
We’ve put together this guide on how to keep a training log. If it seems unnecessary or complicated to you, you may change your mind by the end of this article.
But we feel that if you want an informative, interesting, and effective way of maximizing your performance, tracking your training is the way to go!
What is a Training Log?
Simply put, a training log is a record of your training. It can be a notebook, a training journal, or an app that records and stores your workouts and stats.
You can get training journals for just about every sport. Some are extremely detailed. Others focus on a few smaller but important stats.
What Should I Track?
Not every training log will be right for every athlete. But if you’re serious about using your data to improve your running, we’ve got a list of what you should consider keeping track of in your training log.
Now, it’s important to know that not all training journals will come with space for all of these.
But many give you some freedom to track your own preferred data, or you can simply make your own if you can’t find one with space for every metric.
It’s also important to remember that this log is yours and it’s for YOU! This means you can make it as detailed (or as simple) as you want. It’s up to you. But the more you can track, the more you’ll learn.
So let’s go, here are some different things to consider including in your training log…
Date & Time
Obviously, this helps to put timelines to things. You’ll be able to see how you’re progressing and measure it week by week and month by month.
Time of day can also be important. Some people perform better when they go out for a run in the morning. Others aren’t morning people and might feel better exercising around midday.
If you don’t have a set exercise time, keeping track of what time you went out and how you felt can help you to figure out which time of day is optimal for you.
Course & Distance
Take note of where you ran and how far. Note the terrain, any uphills and downhills, and any possible hazards.
It could also be a good idea to jot down your total weekly or monthly mileage here, too if you want to keep track of it in a given time period.
Warm-Up & Cool-Down
Don’t forget to warm up. Write down what you did to warm up, what stretches you performed, and how long you warmed up for. Also, jot down what you did to cool down afterward.
If you find that you’re suffering from unusually sore muscles or stiffness, it may be a good idea to reassess your warm-up and cool-down to better prepare/relieve your muscles.
Most GPS watches will show your average pace and your fastest lap (if you’re running laps).
Taking note of this can help you see if you’re improving or maintaining your speed. It’s a good metric to keep an eye on if you’re training for a specific time.
No GPS watch? Just map your route out (MapMyRun) to find your mileage and use your time to figure out your pace.
Did you do a full-on training run or a recovery run? Maybe you chose to do some intervals.
Keeping track of your exercise intensity will help you to structure your workouts in such a way that you won’t exhaust yourself by overdoing it.
Take note whether it’s cold or warm, if it’s a sunny day or if it’s overcast or rainy, and if there’s any wind.
These factors can impact your performance, especially if you know you’re averse to the cold or heat.
Not everyone does this, but you can also make notes of exactly what you wore on each run. That goes for shoes (especially useful if you rotate footwear), socks, shorts, shirts, accessories, and even underwear!
Your apparel can make more difference than you realize. If you’re getting a hole in one sock and it begins to affect your running, take note! If your shirt sleeve chafes on a particular day, make a note.
This will also help you stay aware of how your apparel is working for you and when it’s time to replace stuff.
Pre- and Post-Run Nutrition
For most of us, what we eat, drink, or supplement with before a run is simply a habit. But taking note of it can help you to fine-tune your nutrition and improve your performance.
Do you notice that you have to stop for a bathroom break every time you drink coffee before your run? Or maybe you find yourself crashing three-quarters of the way through your run.
You might not notice these things if you don’t make a point of writing down your nutrition and hydration!
Being able to track your progress is excellent. But having specific goals to work towards will keep you motivated to continue making progress!
Training journals often have a separate, dedicated space for goal setting. If yours doesn’t, or you don’t want to add it in to your custom journal, it may be worth creating a goals board or a separate book.
Having something to work towards is always the best way to improve.
This section is all about your thoughts and feelings about the run. Everything can be technically correct, you can warm up well, eat and drink the right things before starting, and be running at the right time of day for you.
But you never quite know how you’re going to feel on the day. Stress, lack of sleep, or specific events in your life can contribute to how you’re feeling and make your run more difficult.
This section should note how you felt during the run, your thoughts on it, what went well, what didn’t, and what you want to improve. You can also mention other external aspects that could be affecting your running, like work stress or an argument with your spouse, for example.
Something else you can mention here is injury. If you injured yourself during the run or went into the run with an existing injury it can have an impact on your performance.
Lastly, if you listen to music while you run, it could be worth mentioning any specific songs that really motivate you!
It’s a good idea to take note of your cross-training activities too. You may find that you’re always more tired the day after doing a heavy weight-lifting session, which could be a cue to restructure your routine so your energy is distributed optimally.
If you want to track more advanced metrics, most can be recorded on your sports watch. This can include:
- Splits (if running laps)
- Heart rate/Heart rate zones
- Calories burned
- Stride length
- Elevation changes
- Running power
- Overall fitness
- Recovery time
Reasons for Keeping a Training Log
You don’t absolutely have to keep a training log. But it’s something every runner should try because you never know how valuable that data may be when it comes to your performance.
If you need convincing, here are some excellent reasons to keep a training log.
To Monitor Progress
How will you know you’re making small but steady progress if you aren’t keeping a close eye on it? One of the most important purposes of a training journal is to keep track of progress, no matter how small it is.
This only works if you stay consistent. You can’t track progress unless you have a lot of data to compare it to.
To Improve Performance
Why track progress if you aren’t planning on improving? Knowing your stats means you know how to set realistic goals and can plan how to work towards them.
If you want to increase your pace, for example, you need to know your average pace before you even start. Then, you’ll need to set the goal and work out a timeline so you know exactly what to do to reach this goal.
To Motivate You
Keeping track of your progress isn’t just for measurement purposes. It can also be an excellent way of inspiring and motivating you!
It’s hard not to be motivated when you can see your numbers improving. It’s also really helpful to be able to see what factors could be influencing your performance when you’re not doing great.
Once you start to realize what little things you need to change in order to improve your performance, it’s highly motivating to realize that all you need to do is make small changes in order to see big results.
To Pinpoint Strengths & Weaknesses
Knowing what you’re good at and what you need to improve is half the battle. Do you thrive in warm weather and stiffen up in the cold? Do you run well on a small breakfast but feel exhausted on an empty stomach?
Do you even know?
A training log will give you insight into these kinds of things. Obviously, you can’t only ever run races in weather you like, but things like nutrition, apparel, training schedule, and types of cross-training are easy to tweak after a bit of observation.
To Learn More About Yourself
If you’ve never really thought about the type of things you’ll be recording in your journal, starting one will give you insight into your own body, the way it responds to exercise and nutrition, and the best ways to optimize your fitness.
To Foster Discipline
You can’t track exercise you didn’t do! Keeping a diary consistently can help keep you disciplined. Only tracking data half the time isn’t going to give you a well-rounded view, so discipline and consistency are extremely important.
To Build Confidence
You might not realize it, but tracking and understanding your own metrics is a great confidence builder. Not only will you be able to watch your numbers improve, but when you’re having a bit of a slump it’s an excellent way to remind you of what you can do.
You’ll also be basically building a blueprint for your own success. You’ll be able to see what you’ve been doing to improve your performance. Also, you should have data in your journal that helps you know what not to do if you want to improve.
Tips for Writing or Tracking
It’s pretty straightforward, keeping track of info in a journal. Most journals will have dedicated spaces for particular metrics, but if you’re creating your own, you have the freedom to record everything you possibly want to.
Here are our top tips for making journaling easy and quick.
Choose the Right Format
This really depends on you and your preferences. If you feel that physically writing stuff down helps, a notebook or physical journal would be a good idea.
On the other hand, if you prefer taking notes on your phone, there are many apps that serve exactly the same purpose.
For some, apps may be more convenient as they take up less space, can be carried easily with you, and also have the capacity to store photos, which isn’t nearly as easy with a physical journal.
They also generally track stuff automatically, so you don’t need to manually put everything in. You may still need to take some notes, though.
Keep in mind that many apps will require a paid subscription in order to access all the best features.
Try one of these apps if that sounds good to you:
Take Notes As Soon As Possible
Try to jot down your notes (whether you have an app or notebook) as soon as you can after your run. It may be smart to do some before your run even, like weather, pre-workout nutrition and supplements, and the route you’re planning to take.
The longer you leave it, the more you’re likely to forget. You can always check your watch for stats like time and distance, but things like aches and pains, how you’re feeling, and what music got you going may be hard to remember later.
Share with Others
If you want to be held accountable, share your data with others! This could be a friend, family member, or even an online group of other runners. You don’t have to do this, but it could help you to continue putting in your best effort and not get lazy as time goes!
Use The Data!
There’s no point in having a training journal if you aren’t going to go back, study the data, and implement new ways of doing things to improve your performance.
Don’t just write stuff down and never look at it again. We recommend spending an hour or two every Sunday afternoon going through your last week’s data, analyzing, figuring out what you want to do better in the coming week, and working out what you need to do in order to actually improve.
The point of keeping track of your metrics is to be able to use them to your advantage. Take the time to study your performances, your numbers, and work out how to use the data to do better.