How to keep a good training log

The form doesn’t matter, the content does.

Last week, I encouraged you to keep a training log.

But what do you put in the training log to make it useful for your future self?

There are many things that can go into a training log. Some are pretty obvious, some are less so. Let’s go through some of what I would encourage you to keep.

The numbers

Obviously, for every run, you want to record at least the basic stats you have. Distance, time, and so on. If you have a modern device like a GPS watch, this might be very easy. If you want to use the tools made available by the manufacturer, you’ll probably have an online training log with this already filled out. Obviously, you can also manually record these things.

Really, only time or distance are necessary. If you tracked both, then obviously recording both paints a more complete picture. Modern devices give us many more data points and some of those can be useful at times but I’ve seen people also get too caught up in meaningless numbers and miss the big picture so be careful if you’re recording a lot of data points. Don’t get so caught up in the details that you miss the big picture.

Comments

These are far more important than all but the most basic numbers. Being able to look back on your training and see how you felt, what you were thinking, and generally how you responded to the training is one of the most powerful aspects of having a training log. You only get that when you fill in the comments.

I strongly suggest filling in at least a few comments on every run. This can be as simple as “Felt good, ran relaxed.” on an uneventful easy run or it could be a multiple paragraph story on a more eventful run.

What do you want in your comments? Here are a few thoughts:

  • How did it feel?
  • Any aches or soreness?
  • What was the effort level?

These are just a few ideas. Obviously, you can put anything in there.

The most important thing is that you record something on how you felt on the run and how you responded to it.

Auxiliary training

What did you do besides running? Some notes on what you did and how it went in terms of non-running activities can shed some valuable light on what works and what doesn’t in your auxiliary training.

Other items to track

A few training logs let you fill out a numerical representation of your effort level and “how did it feel/comfort/discomfort” level, maybe on a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. If you are given these options, I’d encourage you to use them.

Some logs also give you the ability to record weather. This can be useful as it will allow you to track how the weather affected your training. Maybe that’s not something you have control over but it gives you a more complete picture of what happened and why.

Shoe tracking can be nice. You can see how many miles you have on a given pair of shoes and maybe notice a pattern that alerts you to when you need to replace your shoes.

Obviously, you can always manually record these things in any log that allows comments.

Beyond that, there are numerous things you can record. I’d actually encourage you to not get too carried away recording everything possible. Remember, the big picture matters more than the details.

Summary

To sum it up, I’d say the following:

Definitely log:

  • Distance
  • Time
  • How did it feel?
  • What was your effort level?
  • Any aches that should be monitored?

Optionally log:

  • Other data points your watch or app may make available (heart rate, cadence, etc.)
  • Numerical representation of how the run felt
  • Numerical representation of your effort level
  • Shoe usage
  • Weather
  • Stresses outside of running (family, work, etc.)

Be careful logging other things. I’m not saying don’t log them but think about whether looking back months or years from now will help you plan your training any better.

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