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Why keeping a record of your training runs can make all the difference to your progress

Posted: 7 June 2006

"Look on a training diary as a coach, conscience and friend," says Steve Smythe, a runner and coach who's been writing down every run he completes since 1976. He's recognised that keeping tabs on his training is a great way to make the most of his running.

When you start keeping a training log, you're likely to include some standard information. Your resting heart rate, for example, will indicate whether you're becoming fitter. Noting the distance you run and amount of time you spend on your feet should help you prevent an increase in either by more than 10 per cent per week. However, it's what you may be leaving out of your training diary that could be the real key to improving your running. Next time you're writing up a training session, consider including some new details.
Beyond reason
"When you log your training, it's always worth having a motivational reminder on each page to tell you why you are putting in the effort," says Smythe. This might be anything from "marathon in September" through "beat Dave in the club 10K" to "beach body by August". By including the reason for your training, you'll have a constant reminder of what all your effort is for.

What hurts?
Record any niggles or twinges in your training log and you could protect yourself from a long-term injury. "If you don't log aches and pains, you're likely to forget about them until they become more serious," says Smythe. Prevent a long lay-off by logging any twinge. If it doesn't improve or feels worse next time you run, then treat it yourself or visit a therapist.

The weakest links
It's tempting simply to include your overall impression of a training session in your diary, but if you can break it down into the parts that went well and those that didn't, you'll start to understand where your weaknesses lie. Discovering, for example, that you lack pace during shorter reps, or that the last few miles of a long run are a struggle, will allow you to focus your training.

Positive spin
On days when you feel like writing "felt bad, ran slowly", a training diary will encourage you to examine why you felt that way. Make sure you include that you've been suffering from a cold, or have had a few bad nights; in other words, anything unrelated to your running that could affect your performance. If you felt bad and ran slowly without any obvious cause, it could be a sign of over-training so ease off for a day or two.

Drawing a blank
"The downside of a training log is that you can be a slave to it and run when you should really have a rest simply because you don't want to have a blank day in the diary," says Mike Gratton, a coach and former London Marathon winner. A blank entry, though, means a vital rest day so don't be afraid to leave the pages in your training diary empty, especially if you don't feel 100 per cent fit.

Compare and contrast
"You can look back to analyse what worked or didn't work in your training when you keep a diary," says Gratton. "Armed with that information you can plan your next block of training." Smythe finds it useful to compare training volumes and sessions year on year. You'll be able to pinpoint how you achieved a running milestone and plan your training to repeat previous success.

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Discuss this article

I have kept a running log for just over a year now, and it's been invaluable to me. Obviously now it's over a yearI have been able to look back and see the difference a year has made. It's been a great motivation tool.

i think it has to be the right one for you and personally I've found www.fetcheveryone.com meets my needs more or less totally.

Anyone else out there use one on line?
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:37

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:37

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:38

I'm just interested.
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:39

fetch was a turning point for me, i so wish someone had advised me when i started to log my runs! what a great motivation it is, oh and it's a great site besides that!

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:39

So true Santababy, so true.

i was lucky enough to find out about it in the early days. I "met" Fetch on the Wokingham thread in early 05, so that got me started. I wish I'd done one from the very start of my training, when run 1 minute was hard work.
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:41

Katie, I have been known to visit that site and keep a record of my runs on there.
Even with only a month or so's worth of data I can still see where I have improved.
I like the idea that you can plan your training on there. If you do not train on a day that you have planned, you have to delete it from your training log and that is not a good feeling. It motivates you to get out and run.
Also, the fact that others can support you and give you feedback on your training and races is really great, you feel like you are part of a team.
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:42

exactly! wouldve been so good to see me going from *running* say that very loosely this time last yr, to my mileage now! cant belive it myself until i see it in black and white...and red, and yellow...
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:43

Totally agree with you.

If you want a place to log all your miles; have fetch tell you what pace you were doing; how fast you could run a marathon based on your training; provide a database of more races than you could ever run; answer mundane and extraordinary training questions; receive motivation; provide an outlet to motivate others; etc etc etc

it's all there on fetch.

3000 members can't be wrong.
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:44

I am a member of the Serpentine running club and their websote has got a pretty fancy excel log that I used to log my FLM training:

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:45

I wonder if there are people who use other training log sites on RW, be interesting for them to try FE and compare. I'm just wondering what another site could do that FE doesn't.
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:47

Oh sorry x post TAFKA PB5.

Have you tried FE?
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:48

cant imagine!

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:49

Katie, I had a look at a few before choosing Fetch Everyone and it offers more features and analysis than any of the others that I looked at.

Nobel prize for Mr Fetch!
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:52

hear hear
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:53

And don't forget the all important.....PB betting!!

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:53

I'm not so good at the PB betting. MrE is losing me plenty of credits at the moment.

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 13:57

I have only recently started *running* again this year after a break, I have used FE and found it really useful. It's great because you can also add in your other training sessions, eg biking/swimming. Great, also helped me see I had increased my mileage too much one week, and hence found out how come I was having shin pain!
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:00


I'm another Fetch user! I tried the Serpentine log thing for a while before I tried Fetch, but as a relative beginner I found that the community thing on Fetch was a big spur to keep me going out.

As for running logs in general - I used to run a couple of times in a week, and then fall away from it, and go for months without, feeling guilty and then getting enthused for a week or so - and so on. Until I started recording my runs, that is - it's a great motivator to see your self improve over a course, or be able to run longer/further!

I'd also say blogging about your runs is a good indicator of how far you've come. It also helps you identify patterns etc in your training. I use a different one, but I think I'm right in saying that FE has a blogging side to it?

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:02

Yes, I had a bad run of results too.
Last time I did the Bushy Park TT I had about 400 credits resting on me getting a PB. It was very motivating as I was going around, knowing that there was some much at stake (in a virtual sense). I didn't quite manage the PB but I gave it everything anyway.

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:02

shoeless- FE has a blog too.
I didn't start to use it straight away though. Now, I blog most days and it has been usefull to see how injury, mood, weather etc has affected my running somedays.

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:05

Funnily enough Katie, I'm planning my diss next year based around doing something similar to Fetch but going further in certain areas. I've got a couple of ideas. Will let you all know more once I've got myself sorted for it!
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:06

Oooh, competition!


Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:09

I use FE for tracking races, but I "grew" my own spreadsheet for training.

I like to graph.....

I say grew becuase built would sound far too organised.
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:09

I'm a happy Fetch user too!

I have seen the prototype pages where Fetch lets you download the data in csv or XML (Please let the final version be xml) - once that's ready then I'll join Blackers on the graphing!
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:12

Blackers, you know about the graph facility on FE then?
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:12

Tell me more about this site "fetch" did you say it was called?

I think I may have I've heard of it. Is it good? Are the members mostly 'hot' chicks and 'cool' dudes.
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:13

Max you are the hottest and the coolest chick on FE and you know it.
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:17

<<ducks out of the way of the thing that just went over Pixie's head>>

I heard that the male members were all stallions, adonises (adoni?) who will stop at nothing to become the perfect runner, and the females all lithe beauties who bound like gazelles with a grace and beauty known to no others.

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:19

lol Hendo.

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:20

Hendo..............Very very good. I do beleive you are right!!

Hey Pixie!

KB - Methinks I am mearly one of the princess as surely you are the queen of Fetch. xx
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:21

Pixie - what is this 'train' that you speak of?
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:27

I really must stop typing with a fake foreign accent........
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 14:29

At the risk of sounding like a parrot Fetcheveryone.com changed the way I run. There is much more to it than simply being a running log, but even if that is all it did, I couldn't recommend it highly enough. You can keep years of records that are easily accessible. If you like stats and records this is the place to be. Me I put the 'anal' in analysis.

Oh and Hendo is right about the stallions.
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 15:13

Hendo, you are spot on there!
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 15:14

I put the lion into stallion.

Posted: 08/06/2006 at 15:55

My only complaint about FE is that someone pinched my nickname (and i went on there real early) and what's more he/she has never blimmin logged anything!!

*tsk* :)
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 16:19

I am a perfect running stallion who uses the fetch logs they do keep you on schedule better than a simple written plan
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 16:23

Hollywood that's interesting what you say about the download page - do you know if it's upload too? If it is, then 2800 miles will soon be hitting it!
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 16:45

Well, I just sent a note asking if I could have the FETCH "Blackers" acct and hey presto - it happened in less than 5 minutes!!! I'm gobsmacked! If only all tech support worked like that....
Posted: 08/06/2006 at 16:55

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