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