Besides giving you the ability to track things like mileage on shoes (see post Track Your Mileage), it allows you to keep track of what and how you are doing. Now, I’m a bit lazy and usually do not keep a full log of what I eat, but I note in my training log what in particular I might have had before a run (food and drink).
- how far I went (distance)
- where I went (location/route)
- how long it took (time)
- what gear I wore (shoes, vest, new socks?, etc)
- my average pace
- individual mile splits (for runs)
- how I felt – general and specific
- what I had before the workout (food & drink)
- what I did before & after (stretching)
That seems like a long list, but I can usually fit all of it onto one page of a medium sized journal.
Now, things like distance, route/location, time, average pace & mile splits are all useful for comparison. Looking at a page in my log from 6 months ago and then a page from last week, all these (mostly) numerical batches of information give me a clear comparison of then to now. It also lets you see when you have “off” days just as much as “great” days.
Have a great workout that day? The other information like gear, feeling, food/drink and warm-up/cool down routine (stretching) can help you have that same day again. Knowing what gear you used helps (did these shoes or those shoes give me blisters?) to not only track shoe mileage, but whether you’re having issues with anything that could be related to that shoe. For example, I cannot wear Brooks or New Balance shoes for running. At all. They don’t fit the mold of my foot well & I always end up with blisters from them.
Tracking what stretching & food/drink is probably pretty obvious, but it gives you an idea of what combinations help your exercise and which ones should be avoided. I can’t have more than half a bagle (without cream cheese) or half a granola bar before a long run. Any more & I’ll be nauseous the whole run. Likewise, while running I can’t drink anything except water (some people can guzzle Gatorade with no problem).
All these together give you an idea of how you feel. Was this a good, bad or mediocre day? If it was mediocre, how does it compare to the days that were good? Sometimes, there’s just things you can’t control that will affect a run. But keeping a log and at least a few of these details will help you watch out for problems that are avoidable.
An extremely current example: within the last week, I’ve had joint pains in my ankles and knees on certain runs. They started small and have slowly gotten worse, to the point that the most recent run I completed with the pain had me off my feet for the rest of the day. I double checked my log to confirm that I only had that pain when wearing my Asics Gel Kayano 17 shoes. Great shoes that I love (previously owned the 16s as well), but admittedly about 6 months old (that’s old for distance runners – I know individuals who swap their shoes every 3 months) and over 400 miles on them.
I purposely rotated with my other shoes to see if I had the same pain in them. I didn’t. Now I know for sure that the pain I’ve been having is because those shoes are past their prime for distance running & pushing me closer to injury. As of 10/4, they are retired as a pair of my running shoes. But the point I’m making is that by keeping track in my log the pains (track good things too!) I was feeling, I could go back to compare and decide that the shoes were the problem.
The point of all this? It behooves (smart kid word!) to keep a log of your exercise.