This bit of motivational advice and the inspired running logs pictured are all courtesy of my creative mom! I noticed her updating her running log one morning when she was recently visiting me, and I was so taken by her brilliance and the simplicity of this idea, that I decided to use it for my blog (with her permission of course)!
Why is keeping a running log vital to keeping your training alive? Until about a year and a half ago, I had never worried about documenting my daily miles. Why bother? To me, as long as my feet hit the road once a day, the miles I decided to do were pretty arbitrary and based mostly on what my high school coach told me to do. When I started training for my first marathon and began to take speed and endurance more seriously, I would occasionally keep track of my weekly totals and made sure to include a long run and speed day each week. At the start of every new week, I would pretty much just do what I had done before. I got stuck in a rut!
Point #1: Running logs keep you from forgetting what you had done, and can keep you from getting ‘stuck’ if you can visually see that you do the same thing every week.
When I sought out my coach to take marathon training seriously last October, one of the first things he gave me was a Nathan running log. I just finished it a few months ago (in October) and immediately bought another one….though I wish I had seen my mom’s idea first! I am not really a fan of this log style. There’s a big box labeled course and four squares next to it: time, distance, pulse, and weight. In the lined area is room for notes. Underneath the week is an area for totals.
I don’t like this setup for several reasons: I don’t use “pulse” I enter my avg. pace per mile there instead, I don’t need a box for “weight” so I leave it blank, and the “course” rectangle is not large enough for me. I have to write itty-bitty. It serves it’s purpose as my log…but I have a better solution for you, detailed below!
BUT: no matter what type of log you use, it is imperative to your improvement as a runner to keep one!
Point #2: Seeing your weekly miles accumulate creates a desire to improve, or at least maintain your efforts! Logging the stats from each run should become as cathartic and ritualistic as lacing up your running shoes. It’s even better in my opinion because you are already done with the run and it’s fun to privately revel in the day’s accomplishments!
All serious runners and elites document the details of their training. In order to improve, you need to be able to see what you have been doing. If you run into an injury or have a bad race, detailed logs can provide reasons as to what might have happened. Perhaps you ramped up your mileage too quickly, maybe you did too many hard days back-to-back…whatever may have caused the problem, a detailed log will be helpful in identifying the culprit. Since this summer, I have been dealing with on and off hamstring pain and I always note which days my hamstrings are giving me trouble. Once a month I get a half hour massage for my hamstrings and low back (I would do this twice a month if I could afford it!) and I make a note of that in my log too.
Point #3: Reasons for bad races, injuries, or plateaus in running can be identified with a detailed training log. Conversely, training leading up to PR’s and amazing races can also be identified as what works, and duplicated!
In the end, no matter where your running takes you, a log will remind you how far you have come. It will become an object of sentimentalism and nostalgia to the future you, and will motivate you daily. No one likes to see empty boxes…so fill them with miles!
*Caution: There may come a time when you forget to listen to your body and start running solely for the mileage…do not let this happen! The running log is important, but don’t let it overrule what your body may be trying to tell you ❤ It is always better to be a little under-trained and fresh than over-trained and burnt out.
How can you find the right training log for you? Make one! This is my mom’s new log, after her old one (see above) was filled. It’s a lot more personal and inspirational than the standard Nathan log that I use every day…I won’t be buying a new one of those, when I fill it I will be copying my mom’s idea instead!
She buys a regular undated daily planner and decorates it with things to motivate her. It’s like a vision board, except on the planner itself! When you log your workout, you will be reminded everyday of what your vision is for your fitness.
My mom also does something else pretty cool, besides just documenting the standard run stats like distance, time, pace, etc., she also treats her log like a mini-diary. In the monthly calendar panel, she writes the quantitative details of each run, but in the corresponding daily panels she makes a mini-diary entry with all the qualitative details. This is brilliant! By documenting what happened that day: bad meeting at work, terrible weather, kid got sick, etc., she can take note of how the day’s events might have affected her workout. If she can’t remember why Tuesday’s mileage might have been lower than it should have been, she can read her journal entry from the day to find out. A day’s worth of good or bad events, and your mood/reaction to them will most definitely affect your run performance!
Tip: Keep your runs more consistent by always running at the same time each day. Personally, I like to run first thing, early in the morning. I’m fresh, rested, and ready to roll! Afterward, I feel positive from the endorphins and ready to tackle the day. I don’t have to worry about “fitting in” my run because I have already accomplished it 🙂