“Wow, I felt like absolute crap today on my 10-miler.”
This was the first thought that entered my mind upon finishing a long training run, leading up to my most recent half marathon. When I got home from the park, I uploaded the run from my Garmin, and looked at the data on my laptop with utter disappointment. I decided to click back a few months on my running log and compare to a 10-miler I did, on the same course, leading up to my previous half marathon. I noticed I had typed a note on my log saying I felt pretty good that day. Then, I scrolled down and looked at the final time. I ran four minutes slower that day. Here I was absolutely sure I had gotten worse, but in actuality, I had made tremendous strides, even though I felt horrible.
This was eye-opening to me. Our perceptions of ourselves and our expectations change immensely as we improve. Unless we document what we do each day, we often lose sight of our accomplishments. As runners we often base our successes solely on how we do in races. Seeing how we’ve improved in our training is just as important. Documenting our daily runs is helpful in seeing the big picture, and also capturing those important details.
My running log has been an important tool in my personal training, but has also been crucial in my coaching career. I ask my boys cross country team to log each and every one of their runs during their summer training. Sometimes they resist a bit at first, and some take longer to catch on than others. Once they start to see the benefits, they totally buy into it. This summer, with close to fifty kids on the boys cross country roster, the running logs are more important than ever for me to keep track of everyone.
Running logs are important for several reasons.
1. Running logs ensure we don’t bump up too quickly in mileage.
Traditionally, the guideline is to not go up more than 10% per week in mileage. This is good to follow, especially for new runners. If runners go up too quickly or are sporadic with mileage, they often put themselves at risk for injury; typically runners will suffer from shin splints, knee, or hip pain when they aren’t smart about mileage. With my experienced high school runners during the summer mileage phase, we usually do a 2-week cycles where they run about the same mileage for two weeks, run a 5k time trial, then bump up about 20% the next week. What this does is the body fatigues a bit the first week from the jump in mileage, starts to adapt more the second week, we test the improvement, then bump up again. This works better with experienced runners, but I don’t recommend with newer runners.
2. Running logs help us see trends in our training: good or bad.
I think it is important to not only take note of the mileage but also how we feel each day. Find a system that works for you, whether rating on an effort scale of 1-10, or use key words that describe how you felt, such as “sluggish,” heavy,” “fresh,” or “sharp.” Note the weather and the terrain, because these can both greatly effect performance. Also take note of acute pain you are having. If you look back you may find that you have shin pain each run that follows a road run. Or you might have hip pain each day that follows hill work. Or maybe you feel heavy two days after speed work. Seeing these trends can help you customize your training to ensure your success and prevent injury in the future.
3. Running logs are one of the best motivational tools.
As I mentioned earlier, I was feeling pretty bad about my 10-miler, until I looked back and saw how much I had improved with that distance. Life moves so quickly, and we often forget what we’ve already done. Running logs provide us that window of insight and the opportunity to feel good about our progress. Celebrate those little successes, even if you improved a few seconds on that same, boring loop in your neighborhood. Allow yourself to feel good about your improvement. When you see that your training is working, you are more likely to continue to work hard.
4. Running logs are a way to connect with others.
Share your running log with others. There are many online running logs where you can join groups or instantly share your runs on Twitter or Facebook. Getting that extra encouragement from your friends in the running community can often validate your hard work, especially when you need that extra encouragement. My cross country team uses the web site running2win.com. This is a helpful site because you can create teams and see what your teammates are running. I can monitor my team’s progress and comment on their individual running logs. This site also has an app so my runners can use GPS and upload the workouts directly to their logs.
Take the extra time to document your hard work. It has changed how I think about my training and been a critical coaching tool as well. We spend hours running each week. We put so much effort, time, and sweat into our training. Why not take a few extra minutes to document our hard work?