Today, I wanted to do something different and write about the importance of keeping a training log for your workouts. As always, I have no degrees or certifications, I’m still learning as a runner every day, and I am not a coach (unless you’re under the age of 12 and ran recreational track or cross country).
Each year, my Florence/Pee Dee run club gives out awards based on mileage for the year. Mileage is self-reported, so runners are on the honor system (obviously if you are a newbie who just completed Couch to 5K, you didn’t run 1,000 miles in 2013, and they know that).
In November, the Fitness World Run Club organizers ask runners to email their mileage in so they can get a count for awards at the banquet, and when it was posted on Facebook, I was surprised at how few runners track their mileage. If you expect to improve as a runner, you *need* to track your mileage.
Why track workouts?
Tracking your workouts lets you see what’s working and what isn’t. Not to mention, you get the satisfaction of knowing you ran X miles this year!
Even better, if you use a training log on a public site (Garmin, Daily Mile), you can add friends and encourage each other- what a great accountability tool.
Training logs help you set goals. If you have logged your recent 5K times and see that most are around 31-32 minutes, you can set a goal for a 30 minute 5K. Or, let’s say you want to run more in 2014. Instead of just making a goal to “run more”, you look back at your training logs and see that you averaged 15 miles per week in 2013. That way, you know where to set the bar for 2014, perhaps averaging 18-20 miles per week.
Training logs help you determine how to work out. Everyone’s seen that person walking around the gym looking like a lost wallflower- I’ve been that person, too. With a training log, I can look back and see when I last completed a weight workout, long run, speedwork, etc. If it’s been awhile, that gives me an idea of what I need to do when I hit the gym.
Plus, if you don’t know what pace you’re running or how much weight you’re lifting- how can you set a goal to improve?
How to track workouts
I track my mileage on DailyMile. You can view my DailyMile profile here. I don’t update it every day, but I’m on there every 2-3 days logging whatever I ran since I last logged on. Others use Garmin (there’s a foot pod you can purchase for runs on a treadmill), elaborate spreadsheets, or even pen and paper journals.
What’s important is to find a tracking method that works for you. If you’re not on the computer much, you might want to use pen and paper. Seriously- you could just write your mileage in your planner and total it up each week.
If you’re into Excel, use that to create an elaborate spreadsheet. Some runners are numbers nerds and love this- tracking everything from temperature to pace to what clothes they wore.
If you always run with your phone or your Garmin, use those tools. I didn’t own a GPS watch for the longest time, and even now, I do lots of runs without it, but I’m on the computer for work all day, so it’s easy to take the time to enter what I ran at DailyMile.
Which workouts should I track?
I track all types of workouts- running (including warm up/cool down), yoga, group fitness classes, and any cardio machines (elliptical, bike, etc). I think it’s important to know what I did, not just that I worked out that day.
For runs, I always log how many miles I ran- whether that number comes from my Garmin, the treadmill, or a course/race. If I know the time and pace, I log that as well. If not, I don’t.
If I run intervals or do speedwork, I always log WHAT the workout was. For example, 10 x 400 for 10 speedy laps around the track, or 4 mins tough/1 min easy for treadmill workouts that I measure by time. I usually know the time or speed, so I add that. If I’m off by a second or two, I don’t sweat it.
I also use DailyMile to log how many miles I have on my shoes. Yep- you can enter your shoes and log runs in them to see how many miles on them. Perfect for knowing when you need new shoes.
For yoga, I log that I did yoga and the amount of time. For a group class, I just log the class. If I do a weights workout and go heavy or increase my weights, I log the increase. For cardio equipment, I log time and mileage.
My workout tracking success story
I owe my PR at the Recycle, Reuse, Renew 5K to my training log. After my less-than-stellar finish at the Winter Solstice 5K (I don’t feel like my time reflected my hard work), I regrouped and took a hard look at my training log.
I found that when I do an hard, short, interval workout 2-3 days before my race, then take the day before off with just gentle stretching, I do better in the race. I also noticed that when I do 2-3 races in a row (several 5Ks within the same month), my times tend to improve. I guess getting back into the swing of racing and hard running does that for me.
Of course, everyone’s results vary. Some people do better in a race when they run easy the entire week before- some people even run the day before a race and still PR or do very well. Different strategies work for different people, but when you keep an accurate log of your workouts, you can find what works for you.