Why You Need a Training Log

Keeping records is important!
Keeping records is important!

If you don’t currently keep a training log, it might sound like a lot of extra work. Why bother? Isn’t checking boxes off on your training plan enough?

The benefits of logging your runs are, perhaps, a bit more obvious if you’re training for a specific event or race. During your training it can seem tedious to log every little variable of each workout, including how you felt (before, during, and after), what you wore, what you ate and drank, and what the weather was like. However, having all of that information recorded can be incredibly helpful in the lead-up to the race.

But where do you start? How do you pick a log? What do you put in it? What do you do with all that information, if anything? And again…why?

**

Find out if your plan is working

First of all, a training log allows you compare your actual training to your plan. Are you overdoing it? Missing too many key workouts? Both of these can be signs that your plan just isn’t working for you for one reason or another. If you’re constantly underperforming, feeling horrible or not getting workouts in, you may be in over your head and want to consider dialing both your training and your goal back a bit. If you’re constantly doing more than you’re supposed to be, it can be a red flag that you’re running into the injury danger zone.  If your plan is just too easy, use that information to help you switch to something more appropriate.

Tweak your plan for a better race

A good, detailed log can also help you fine tune every aspect of your race plan. Did you try out a new gel that was fine for 10 miles but gave your stomach the wobblies by mile 15? You’ll want to know that. Perhaps your favorite racing shorts start chafing at mile 10; you’ll want to know that if you ever decide to run a half marathon.

A good practice is to record anything new you try and its result, especially if it starts out fine but turns ugly after an hour or more on your feet. This is where an online or computerized log that you can search comes in handy, as it’ll let you easily check on what you have (or haven’t) tried in the past. By the time your race rolls around, you’ll have a full history with which to develop a nutrition and gear plan that is near-guaranteed to work.

Windermere Training Plan - Recap
Cilantro’s training plan for her last goal race allowed her to easily see her planned vs. actual training. From the chart, it’s clear she overtrained, and the race didn’t go great. Think she’ll make the same mistake next time?

Figure out how to improve from race to race

The biggest benefit of logging your training is when your goal race is over and it’s time for the post-mortem. Did you have the race of your life and PR? Great! Now you’ve got a solid plan for how to repeat that success. Were there things that could have gone better? Sometimes digging through your log can help you find patterns that might explain what happened.

Plus, as you run more races and accumulate more information, you can compare and contrast. Maybe your long run build was too aggressive or your taper was too long in all of your less-than-stellar races, or maybe, looking back, you see that you just didn’t put in the work that you should have. Either way, being able to compare across events can tell you a lot about what will and won’t work for you in your training.

Okay, so it’s important to log my training for a goal race. But what about when I don’t have a specific goal? Why log then?

When you’re not training for a specific goal, the work of logging all of your runs can seem a bit much, but believe me, there are benefits, especially for the newer runners in the crowd. If you’re still trying to figure out a routine (mornings? evenings? lunchtime?), logging the time of day and how your run feels may help you figure out what your best bet is. It can also encourage you to make a goal, such as, “I want to run 25 miles this week!” and then keep you honest when you’re tempted to skip a workout or overdo it for your fitness level.  Online logs with social components can be very motivating for beginners, as your friends can cheer you on as they view your progress.

Whether you’re a beginner runner or just beginning a new training cycle, when you’re first starting out it may not feel like you’re doing much.  But consistent miles will add up quickly, and when you see how much you ran all week it can be great motivation!

 

Logging when you’re not race training helps you make your training log a habit, so that when the time comes to prep for your first big race you don’t have to worry about adding something new into the mix. You’ll already have found a log that works for you, so you won’t have to worry about changing logs halfway through a training plan and then having to look through different places to review all of your data.  I’ve been there and it’s no fun–it’s much better to have it all in once place!

I know some of you experienced runners in the crowd might not log when you’re not in a training cycle, but consider keeping just a basic log. It doesn’t need to be as detailed as your full-out in-training logging, but a good, reliable record of how much, how often, and how fast you’re running will give you a much better idea of your fitness level when that next training cycle starts up again.

Sure, you could go by gut feeling, but having some numbers to back it up can come in handy when you’re nailing down that Big Awesome Stretch Goal. Perhaps you really want a BQ and think you’re ready to go for it, but a review of your recent runs shows otherwise. In addition to avoiding tons of frustration down the line, choosing an appropriate goal can also help you avoid overtraining and injury: two things no runner ever wants any part of.

Yes, I do it too!

I log all of my runs using an online log that uploads data directly from my GPS watch.  I add comments about weather, feeling, gear, hydration, pacing… whatever I think was important from that day. And even though I’m pregnant now I’m still logging all that information even though my only goal is to stay as active as I can while I’m gestating. Knowing how much I was able to do throughout the pregnancy will not only help me pick a good starting point after I deliver, but it’ll also help me keep my big Comeback Race Goal in check. That same log was also really helpful in figuring out why I’ve been having such a hard time covering small distances of just 2-3 miles:  that’s all I was running before I got pregnant, so that’s about all I’m going to get while I’m preggers.  This information has helped me both keep my expectations in check as well as made me feel better about dropping out of just about every summer race I was initially signed up for, because I could see that there was absolutely no way that they were going to happen.

Pretty soon, Salty Running will be reviewing lots of the most popular online training logs, including Garmin Connect, Daily Mile, RunKeeper, Log-A-Run, Running2Win and even explore the benefits of handwritten training logs.  So stay tuned for that!  In the meantime,

Do you log your runs?  If so, what kind of information do you include?  How have you used your training log to improve yourself as a runner?

In a previous life, I worked on computers and spent all day sitting. Thanks to running, I've rebooted my career and am now a running and triathlon coach and soon-to-be physical therapist. I've also got the mind and spirit of an elite trapped in the body of a back-of-the-packer.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 comments

  1. I used a combination of online training logs. I find that it doesn’t take that much time to use it and it helps me notice trends in my training – was it a hard/slow week or an easy one? Did I manage a workout 5-6 days this week? Do I do better early, mid-day, or late? I try to make notes about what I ate/drank and any niggling issues.

    I use RunKeeper because I have the GPS app on my phone and because it feeds directly into Earndit which I use to make charitable contributions. But I don’t particularly like the social component of RunKeeper. I have a few friends on it but they aren’t into the social ya ya – way to go! aspect. And there don’t seem to be as many serious atheletes on RunKeeper.

    So…

    I also use Dailymile. I have to manually input the information about my workout but I’m fine with that. I have about 30-40 friends and I try to keep them pared down but I enjoy the conversations and interactions with them. I find that other DailyMile users are willing to make suggestions to help with training without trying to give you a sales pitch on why CrossFit will change your life (or Hokas or whatever).

    I used to let my DailyMile post to both Twitter and FB but I’ve actually stopped posting it to FB because I started to get the feeling most of my FB friends weren’t into it.

    1. Debra, I do the same thing! I love DailyMile so much, and I really wish RunKeeper could automatically update to it.

      I pre-ordered a Bia watch and I’m actually interested in their logging site (www.bia-sport.com). I’m hoping either my Bia will auto-sync to DailyMile or that the Bia site will be just as cool. It certainly LOOKS just as cool!

  2. I feel I maintain a ridiculous number of running logs:
    1) Paper log. I have kept a paper log since I started running in 1994, and I continue to keep one because I fear losing my electronic data. I used to keep better records on paper – weather, what I wore, eating, etc but I’ve gotten pretty lazy about that. For the most part, I know what works for eating and what to wear at “x” temperature. But that temperature/clothing record was extremely valuable when figuring out my first Minnesota winter and how to dress for sub-zero temps.
    2) Excel spreadsheet from David Hayes of DRS (http://www.davidhays.net/running/runlog/runlog.html). I like it because it adds up my weekly, monthly, yearly and lifetime miles and keeps track of my shoe miles for me. I like that it highlights my long runs, intervals and races so I can find them at a quick glance. The parrot predictor is entertaining, and I used to like using the race record to compare races. I track my weight in the log.
    3) Garmin Training Center/Garmin Connect. Mostly just to pull the data off of my watch. I do use the Garmin Connect website to look at past history when I’m not near my home computer (or watch).
    4) Sport Tracks. Sport Tracks is pretty cool for GPS users. I like to use it when I am not sure about the accuracy of my GPS data because you can edit the tracks and delete weird trackpoints if needed. It will pull splits for you in distances other than what you tracked on your watch – so you could log miles on your watch, but then look at 1/2 mile splits, for example.
    5) Daily Mile. I’m not very good at keeping up with the social aspect of the site, but I like that part. I joined up after an old blog friend told me most of the old bloggers were on DM because it’s like Twitter for running.
    6) Breaking The Tape (http://www.breakingthetape.com). I haven’t updated in awhile, but I used it to display my weekly/monthly/yearly/lifetime miles on my blog, as well as a list of PRs. Back when Jeff created it (2004, 2005?) there wasn’t much like it out there.
    7) I have an outdated blog where I updated my weekly workouts.

  3. Regarding Debra’s GPS comments: I use Runkeeper and have been generally disappointed in their social media aspect. It does post all your comments and runs to Facebook, but it has never let you track your Runkeeper friends through the Mobile App. However, Runkeeper just added an update today, which gives you that facebook-like ability within the app. I can comment on my friends runs, view their routes,splits, and photos.

    I’m a numbers junky, so Runkeeper will tell me how my runs compare to others, regarding speed and elevation. It doesn’t mentally help me on “easy” days, but that’s an issue I need to get through. Great post!

    1. Courtney, I’m a RunKeeper user too, and you hit on my main complaint about it. For me though, I don’t WANT to use RunKeeper as a social app – I don’t like its interface. It’s basically just a way to “catch” all my runs so I can update DailyMile with them later.

  4. I’m terrible about keeping a log but I really need to get better. All my info is in Garmin Connect but it is pretty much just the raw data