Pursuing a PR: Training Log Tips

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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25 Responses to Pursuing a PR: Training Log Tips

  1. KrisLawrence says:

    I no longer use dailymile but I do admit it was a huge training tool. It was incredibly motivating to see your own numbers added up and also everyone elses at the end of the week. It’s a great tool for runners!! Now I log on an excel spreadsheet and it’s not public but I still am holding myself accountable and seeing the miles and trends as the weeks go by. Great advice you gave!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Kris! Accountability is another great reason to be on a site like DailyMile, if you want to add friends you can do that and encourage each other. Or, you can just… not. One thing about a spreadsheet is you can customize it and track what you want- such as the exact workout, all times, what you ate, temperature, weight, etc.

      And it is so motivating to see the numbers add up! Sometimes I’ll run a little more because I know I’m *so* close to beating my mileage from last month or something.

  2. I agree about dailymile. It is one of my absolute favorite ways to track my workouts because I can also see how my friends are doing.

  3. I am always stressing the importance of tracking! It’s the only way to get stronger in any form of fitness! I was bummed to be only 15 miles away from my goal for the year and because of my foot couldn’t knock them out. This year tracking has begun and I am pumped!

    I love that some of my workouts get tracked because we film 1-2 of theme each week! The best diary!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      So sorry you didn’t get all your miles in, but you still had a really successful 2013 (even if it ended on a sad note with your foot and Kiawah). I like how you guys film the workouts and how you blog demonstrations, that’s a great idea because if you use incorrect form, you can get hurt doing the exercises (I also like how you used snippets rather than full length videos for things like the squat blog).

      BTW, if you want to start speedworking again, just let me know. I’m up for it this month as I want to get faster for the 10Ks :).

  4. harveylisam says:

    I’m all over tracking my runs and rides – I’m a numbers geek and I don’t like going out without having my Garmin with me (though sometimes it is nice to just go “naked”). I don’t track yoga or my other workouts, only ones where I can rack up miles haha.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I go Garmin-less quite often. Our Garmins die in the garages (well, they lose signal), so I never wear it on garage runs. I usually don’t wear it when I race 5Ks, either, because I look at it obsessively!

      Garmins are great training tools, but sometimes I really like just running and listening to my body and letting that guide my pace.

  5. I am gonna be more committed to logging my workouts this year! I started charting down my miles the last half of 2013 and loved adding up all my miles on New years eve!

  6. I am so crazy about tracking, I do know how people *don’t* do it! I am obsessed with seeing my charts. LoL. I love that Daily Mile lets you track your shoe mileage. It is the main reason I signed up! Friend-ing you now!
    ~Ang

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I also love that it tracks shoe mileage. It’s really helpful if you rotate several pairs of shoes because if you’re using 3-4 different pairs of shoes, they obviously can last longer than 6 months (I’ve had one pair of shoes for about 8 months now and they just hit 300 miles, and I run a LOT). It never hurts to know how many miles are on your shoes and when you feel like you need to replace them.

  7. allieksmith says:

    This is such a great post! I agree that tracking workouts really makes a difference, and I loved that you used an example from your own training log with your racing PR. Very awesome!! I love Daily Mile, and I really like the year end report that says how many miles I ran. It’s very satisfying!!

  8. I track marathon mileage, but am about to start working with a coach so I am excited to see what she has me do.

  9. I track my workouts in a few different ways and it really does make a difference. I can see how I am doing as well as others. It’s great to be able to see whats works and what doesn’t as the time passes.

    Good post lady!

  10. I couldn’t agree with you more! I barely post on Daily Mile though due to privacy settings. I am not really comfortable posting maps where I run. 🙂 I track my workouts on Garmin connect where it’s more private. I like seeing my progress. It makes me feel more accomplished. 🙂

    Love this post Amy Lauren! 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I think you can change the route setting so that only friends can view the route or only you can view it. I remember changing mine because like you said, it’s really not very safe (I pretty much trust my friends on Daily Mile but you never know, there are some crazies out there and I publicly post my URL to Daily Mile).

      I don’t post maps much… just distances, times, etc. But, as long as you’re tracking somewhere, I think you’re in good shape!

  11. I love keeping track of week to week! I usually do it on the blog, and it is great to check and see how great (or not so great ) it went!

  12. Laura says:

    I always track but haven’t been consistent about where I track – so I have no idea what I’ve done for the last few years! I downloaded an app for my iPhone this year though, and I’m determined to finally be accountable for my miles!

  13. LilMysNinja says:

    This a great post Amy!! Of course I’m one of those ones that track in an elaborate spreadsheet. 😉 You’ve seen it in my posts before. I’m such an organizational freak! Haha! I’m also on Dailymile though. I forgot you were too. I’m off to send you a friend request!

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