If you’re like me, you consider running a hobby, not just something you do to stay fit. As such, you probably are always looking to improve, whether that means running farther or running faster.
Whatever your goal, you need to study yourself. Think of yourself, your body, as your running textbook. It will tell you what works and what doesn’t, when to rest, when you’re overtrained, when you’re ready for a race and when you’re not.
On the most basic level, it will tell you when you’ve done something you shouldn’t have done, and when you didn’t do something you should have done.
It may tell you certain exercises not to do at the gym. There are some people who can’t – or shouldn’t – do lunges; if that's you and you listen, your body will tell you this. Sometimes you don’t even have to listen; you can feel it.
Record every day’s exercise, how long, what kind, running, walking, stretching and cross training. How much you slept and how well. Note anything peculiar about your diet. Note when you’re not feeling well and when you’re feeling on top of the world.
Of course, note number of miles you run, but also note the surface you ran on and what shoes you wore.
Make a note in your running log when you buy shoes. This will help by reminding you when you might need to buy more, but it might also help you when you have a new pain.
I once had a friend who started having pain in her foot. I asked the usual:
Did you just increase your mileage? Are you doing more speedwork? Do you need new shoes?
She said, “No, in fact I just got new shoes.”
“Are they just like the ones you were wearing?” I asked.
“No, I’m trying a new model.”
She was sure she had the pain before switching to the new shoes, but when she checked her journal, bingo. The pain and the new shoes occurred at the same time.
Well, I suggested she return to her other shoes for a bit to see if it helped; it did. Problem solved.
There are many reasons for keeping a running log, though.
For one thing, hopefully, you made a careful list of goals for this year, including average miles per week and per month and a total for the year.
As you write down your daily miles, you’ll be reminded that each day’s entry is part of a yearlong list you’ll be adding at the end of the year. You won’t have to guess whether you increased your mileage this year; you’ll know.
Another reason to keep a log is for motivation. You will want to have an acceptable number of miles to write down each night. If you have a carefully plotted training schedule, then you’ll be writing down the number you were supposed to do. So, knowing that you’re going to keep track gives you motivation.
It also gives you great satisfaction. You’ll love looking back over successful training periods, and that, too will motivate you to repeat that careful training because you’ll want to experience that satisfaction again.
A complete training record will also help with diagnosis. If you should get into a slump, you’ll be able to go back and review your training history. That may be a real eye-opener. It’s human nature that we rationalize that we’re doing a pretty good job of sticking to our schedule, but when you look at it in black and white, you may see that you haven’t really kept up with your schedule for several weeks, and that will explain less than stellar performance at race time.
Most of us will run better if we increase our mileage, as long as we do so carefully and logically. The training log becomes extremely important here as we can use it as a check to make sure we are increasing mileage at a rate no greater than 10% per week. And, personally, I don’t think it should be more than 10% added over a two-week period.
It doesn’t matter if you have a carefully planned training plan if you don’t carefully note what you actually DO and when you DON’T do what your plan says you are to do. This is critical because you mustn’t add the miles unless you added the miles the last time you were supposed to add miles, etc. Using your running log this way will help you avoid injury, and what’s more important than that?