All you need to keep your own training log is pen and paper. They are one of the simplest, yet most effective training tools going around. You can go down the technological, gizmo route if you want to, but truly, you simply need a notebook and a pen to be able to track your training. A combination of both is often useful, as you can upload your workout to your PC and look at heaps of pretty graphs.
Why keep a training log?
- There is less of a tendency to skip training if you know you are reporting on it, even if you are only reporting in to yourself.
- You can share your training with others to keep you even more accountable.
- It keeps you focused on the task at hand.
- You can look back on past training logs to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
- If you happen to suffer an injury, you can analyse your training to assess whether over training, or a particular type of training, may have been the cause.
- Looking over past training logs can help you get your taper right.
Paralysis by Analysis?
The more information you have on yourself the better, however there is no point being so overwhelmed by all the metrics, that you give up and keep track of nothing at all. You need to find a level of record keeping that you are comfortable with and will be consistent with, for a training log to be of real help to you.
At the minimum, I’d suggest:
- Type of exercise
- Distance and/or time, or in the case of resistance exercise, set and reps
- How you felt/how the session went
- Where you trained
Stepping it up a level, I’d also record
- Resting heart rate daily- ie your heart rate when you wake up first thing in the morning – this can help you determine if you have been over training. An elevated heart rate for several days is often a sign.
- Type of shoes you ran in
- Weather conditions
- Unclothed weight before and after training (especially in hot weather) to determine how much fluid you should be replacing
- Who you trained with – were they a suitable training partner – were you able to run at the right pace for you, or were you struggling to keep up with them/had to slow down?
- Heart rate whilst training – during efforts and rest intervals
Most of these things need not much more than a watch with a stopwatch function, though a heart rate monitor is best if you want to record your heart rate whilst training. A lap timer is also a very handy function.
However you record your training, it needs to be something which you can quickly and easily access at the end of each training session, and if you are keeping track of your resting heart rate, something you can access easily form your bed, with minimal effort.
Keep clear records which you and other people will understand. You may need to share them with a coach, physio or doctor if you need help with pinpointing what’s going right and what could do with a bit of tweaking.
For that reason, I love the notebook and pen option. Other ideas are storing it on your phone, uploading information recorded on heart rate monitors/GPS style training watches, a simple spreadsheet on your computer.
I’d normally just keep a notebook style training log, but I’ll be putting my training log up on this website in the countdown to my fiftieth birthday. That will definitely keep me honest, and it’ll be a good guide for anyone wondering about suitable training volume and intensity. You might be surprised at how little I am doing first up. But, I’ve had a five week layoff, and I can’t expect just to pick up where I left off.
May 2015 Update: since I wrote this blog post, my training has been up and down. I didn’t keep a training log on this site – I just didn’t think it was worth it at the time. A little niggle which I didn’t look after turned into a nagging chronic discomfort. It still hanging around, but I’m happily dealing with it, and for the first time in about 18 months I’m running consistently. There’s been lots happening in that time, and whilst I didn’t sit back on my bum and do nothing, it’s not been the fittest time in my life.
It’s taken quite a while to get back into any kind of running shape, and for a while there I was officially the slowest runner in our household. Yes, both my kids beat me in a couple of fun runs. I know I’ve got no hope of catching the 11 year old (but then, he does run at state level so there’s no shame in that), but I’ve definitely got my 8 year old’s measure after a victory over him in our last 5km. There’s fight in the old do yet! So,whilst I’m still not back to being as fit as I’d like to be, I’m on the way, and am thoroughly enjoying running. That 18 months out was probably just what I needed.