A blog by runners. For runners.

Training diary tips: the anatomy of a good entry

The-anatomy-of-a-training-diaryI absolutely love the age we live in. There are tons of websites and apps designed to make tracking our athletic performance and progress easier. We can use all sorts of fancy tools to calculate possible race scenarios or come up with workouts tailored to get us across the finish line at a certain pace.

I, myself, have spent hours pouring over details and numbers on various dashboards. Plotting out running routes on maps. Sharing and comparing in information with real-life and online friends who have similar training goals. Indeed computers and the internet have done a lot for running.

But that doesn’t mean pen and paper are dead. I was pleased to discover I’m not alone in my love for the old-fashioned way when I polled my Twitter friends. It seems like we all have our favored applications or websites we input data into, but that the traditional training diary is still a useful tool and a good backup in this digital age.

Here’s the anatomy of a good entry.

Date and time of day
My coach likes to get a fresh notebook for each big race he’s running and keep track of time that way. You may wish instead to separate your logs chronologically. Regardless, the specific date, day of week, and time can be useful to you – maybe not today, but down the line when you’re looking at trends in your training. Maybe you’ll notice that afternoon workouts just don’t cut it. Or that running after that Saturday morning trip to the farmers market is always a struggle.

Weather report
The winter this year went on for eons. In my own paper log, I have the temperature and precipitation recorded well enough to give NOAA some verifications on their reporting. Just like with the date and time, you can gain better insight into your performance by remembering the type of conditions you ran through.

Road conditions
Did you run on sidewalks or roads? Trails or grass? Was there ice or rain or other debris? Recording the conditions underfoot is just another way to get the total view of your training. If you get injured down the line, for example, you might notice you were running on very hard surfaces and be able to adjust.

Purpose of workout
Whether you’re running an easy run, tempo workout, track session, hill repeats, or a long run — it’s important to note what you set out to do. That being said, you can also fully disclose if your workout went better or worse than expected. And from the other information in your log, you might be able to either go easy on yourself (a long run cut short by a severe thunderstorm) or try harder next time (an easy run skipped when it was a gorgeous sunny day).

Length and time/pace
Then comes the actual workout distance and time. You can be as general or specific if you wish, because some of us go exclusively by time or length, while others meticulously track with GPS device. Just be sure to record something meaningful so you can plot your efforts.

Foods consumed before/during/after activity
I always think it’s helpful to have a loose food log along with my training info. At very least, I try to record what I ate before, during, or after a run because it may have impacted my digestive system in a positive or negative way. It’s how I discovered that most energy gels just don’t jive with me. And drinking orange juice or eating hot sauce before a long run isn’t a good idea for me either. Little stuff like that can be very valuable come race day.

How it felt
Perhaps the most important part of the training log is this open-ended question of: How did the workout feel? Record as much information as you see fit for any given day. I love reading back through my comments. Anything from a brief “felt amazing!!!” to long diatribes about why a certain workout was just awful. Recording how you’re feeling both emotionally and physically can also be key in detecting if you’re over-training or perhaps need to push yourself a bit harder.

If you’re looking for a virtual training diary, check out the WalkJogRun Training Diary.

Written by Ashley Marcin.