Running in high school and college, I never kept a log. I had allowed coaches to lay out and dictate a plan for me. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, and I had no idea why not. For the most part the importance of a running log was lost on me. And it wasn’t until I started running again that I realized the folly in not tracking anything.
When I started running again, I was hoping my times would get faster the more I ran, and eventually I might get to some semblance of the shape I had been in in college. Wanting to monitor my progress and times, I decided to start keeping a log. At first it started out fairly simple: how far, running time, and pace. Over time, my log has grown to include more information, while other information is removed. Recently I have been neglectful of my log and while I am still recording mileage and time, the details are left out. Sometimes, our logs can get too complicated, but at the same time, it is important not to over simplify them. For me, my log is an entity of it’s own that changes as my running and goals change.
In reality, there is no correct or incorrect way to keep a log, but for me, it should measure two basic things, subjective and objective measures. Objective measures are concrete a time is a time, a distance a distance, they will not change. For objective measures my log includes time, pace, distance, and the loop. (I also include weather just for chuckles.) You can also include weight as a rapid loss of weight can indicate overtraining. On a subjective level, it is important to include how our legs feel. While the feelings of our legs may be subjective, we should strive to give them an objective measure. While noting that your ankle is nagging, or your hamstring feels tight is good – give it a number. Ankle nagging – five, hamstring tight – three. Granted the scale may change, but ideally a seven should always be a seven. By giving things a number, we can go back and monitor pain and discomfort levels over the previous week, month, year – it’s easy to forget these things.
A log is of great importance to the runner, but it is also immensley helpful to your coach. A coach can give you workouts that typically work for the goals at hand, but as any coach will tell you, not all runners bodies function the same. What works for one runner may not work for another – your log helps a coach thresh that information out. Perhaps nagging injuries start to reoccur when a certain mileage is hit, or too much performance at one level of intensity, or maybe it’s your coach recognizing that you’re holding back. Being able to look at and compare data overtime is the only way to truly determine what works for the individual runner.
If you already have a log, go look at it and think about adding or subtracting information that may or may not be necessary or helpful. Think about how you can make your log more informative for you and your coach. One of my failings in terms of logging information is my lack of a weekly summary. I used to keep a weekly and monthly summary but that has gotten away from me. It is good to be able to compare any workout this year to last years workout, or this year’s Phase II Week IV to last year’s Phase II Week IV. A good log is an invaluable tool, from the highly competitive elite to the non-competitive weekend 5ker. And by all means if you do not have one, start one.