Why you should keep a training diary

You might be thinking my watch does that for me right? Well no it doesn’t really and I don’t think the notes section on your watch has enough space for that. One thing I used to do on here in the before times is write training updates. The reasons I started doing that is because I wanted to show that anyone can do what I do and you know be all inspiring and stuff. Plus it’s pretty good content. Right? Now it has been a hot minute since you’ve seen one of those updates from me for obvious reasons. But there were so many side benefits to me personally for writing those updates that I want to encourage you to keep what is essentially a training diary too. I was able to notice patterns forming and look back to previous years for things that might pop up. Here’s the thing though when I went back the next year and re-trained for the same races or distance even those training updates were super helpful. For this post I used pictures from some of my biggest races and my training journals helped get me there.

What to put in your diary

Really you can put in anything you want but here’s what I find the most helpful. Usually I write a little blurb for every run or workout I do. I also take a picture. Truthfully a lot of the posts really only need to say “I went running today” but that’s not all that interesting to read. So I usually come up with some ‘other stuff’ to fluff out if necessary. Here’s the thing though that’s often the stuff that leads me to go “oh this WAS going on last year too.”

I’ll often write about the other stuff that’s going on in my life that’s making it hard to get my workouts in. In short why I was busy that week. Usually at some point in the plan I have do a couple of runs a week in the day and take some time away from work. By writing that down each time I know when that’s likely to happen. Looking back I can see late spring training can lead to some ‘hygiene issues’ and that blisters can pop up when my milage gets north of 50 km a week.

So I would say write down how you feel, any issues that are popping up and things you’re trying to get ahead of. If you realize that you need to make an adjustment write about that too. If you see your mood going downhill that could be a helpful trend to be aware of now or in the future. It works pretty well if you keep a file somewhere or a journal with a few sentences of what was going on that day and how you felt durning that workout and that’s as fancy as you have to get.

What to leave out

In short you can leave out anything that your watch is going to take care of for you. So the date, time, distance, route and pace are already archived for you. So too is what you were supposed to do in that training plan. So rather than focusing on the numbers of your workouts just write down the extras.

Why it rocks

There are some pretty obvious reasons you might find a training journal helpful the second time you train for a race but it can help the first time too. Sometimes just the act of thinking about something and writing it down makes you aware of something you wouldn’t otherwise. By looking back I’ve realized as my milage gets higher in the late spring it’s important not to aways wear my warmest kinda plastic-ish running tights. I’ve been able to book time off work for long runs or realize that season I insisted on training with a cold just made it hang around forever! In a current cycles it’s allowed me to track the results of the sock/blister experiment, know when to vary my shoes when dealing with hotspots and recognize that I was on the verge of exhausting myself. Plus a lot, lot more!

How to stick with it

Start a blog and post training updates! Just joking, kinda. You could start a training/accountability type instagram account and get to sharing or you could keep it more personal. One idea might be to keep a physical journal and pen where you stash your running shoes when you come home. Ditto for the bag you take to the gym. If you do go the paper route, which I think has some clear advantages spurge a bit on a journal you really love to write in. That way you’ll be motivated to update it and maybe even get more workouts in. If you opt for the digital option you could download a specific app or even just add an entry to your calendar.  Either way just stay diligent until it becomes a good and proper habit.

When to use it

The most obvious scenario is to look back to the same time of year, race or training distance the next time you’re doing it but there is more than that. Sometimes when I am lacking motivation I’ll look back on what I’ve done in the past and wind up with a no excuses attitude. I find that I look back on what was going on in my life then and then end up thinking “if you could handle that then, you can do this now!” Sometimes the act of writing something down makes me notice a pattern. It’s hard to know how tired is really a problem. If all your runs include notes like ‘felt like I was dragging’ or ‘seemed hillier than it was’ it might jump out at you sooner that you might be at risk for overtraining. That can help you prioritize things like sleep and nutrition or even scale back for a couple of weeks to get ahead of it. Once you have a couple of seasons under your belt the benefits you get from keeping a training journal might be really personal to you.

On a related note ya’ll will be getting weekly training updates from me on here again soon! 20 of them to be exact taking us all the way up until October when if everything goes according to plan I’ll be running the Boston virtual as my first marathon! To say I’m nervous about starting is a bit of an understatement. It’s been three years since I tackled a new race distance and that time it was a triathlon. Stay tuned for a post detailing all the anxious thoughts I’m having about that shortly. But… In the process whether I make it over the line or not my training updates will be valuable for me to look back on them. Do you keep a training journal? What does that look like for you and when has it been most helpful? Leave it in the comments below!

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