It can be fascinating, as well as very useful, to track your training over time to observe how you grow and develop as an athlete. With the constantly improving sophistication of sports watches, it has never been easier to analyse the interrelationships between your athletic performance and other aspects of your life, if you choose to keep a log or journal of your training.
What is a training log
If you're old-school or you like the immediacy of hand-written notes, you could choose a notebook or journal and note down all the important details of each session as you complete it. It's a good habit to add notes from your workouts onto your training plan, ticking off your sessions as you complete them, and making notes of how you felt and whether or not you achieved your goal for each workout.
Why should I keep a training log
If you don't have a training plan, it's still great to keep a simple training log or journal. This will help you to make sure you are doing enough strength training to support your running or cycling, and to avoid overtraining by bringing your attention to the fact that you might be increasing your volume or intensity too quickly.
Strava (or your watch app) sets out your data and gives you an overview of your progress, tracks your goals and lets you view outputs of your fitness levels, on your phone or device.
Most sports watches are able to report on time, distance, heart rate, pace, cadence and myriad other things during your session, and some also collect basic data, such as sleep and movement, if you wear the watch all the time. These data are analysed, together with personal information such as your age, weight, etc, to output results such as calories burned and VO2 max. Do be aware that these scores should be taken with a grain of salt as they can't account for all the person-specific factors that might affect the analysis.
Useful information in a training log
Here is some other useful information that you can keep track of, either entering it in your journal or on your app, that will help you see trends and developments in your training:
- Sleep - If you wear your watch to bed, you might be able to keep track of both the quality and the quantity of your sleep, and see how it affects your performance the next day. If not, just note down how tired or rested you felt or whether your sleep had been sound, and perhaps even what time you went to bed.
- Nutrition -If you're training for an endurance event, and you would like to test out different fueling strategies, a journal is ideal for recording what you ate, when, how much, and how your body tolerated it, so that you can think about either using or steering clear of that fuel during your event. Keep a record of which gels, drinks and foods you took in.
- Weather - If the weather was a factor in how well or poorly your session went, it's often good to make a note of it. For example, extremes of either hot or cold temperatures, humidity and high winds can often slow you down.
- Time of day - It's interesting to note how you feel when you exercise at different times of the day so that you can get a feel for your optimum time to get out there. Are you a lark or a night owl? Planning your training times around this can often make all the difference in your performance.
- Fatigue level - Keeping a simple log of how fatigued you are can often be very useful to avoid injury and burnout. If you have more than a few days where you report a high level of fatigue, you can decide whether to take an extra rest day or seek further attention. You can also look at the other information you have been collecting to see whether your increased fatigue corresponds with the time of day you are exercising, or the nutrition strategy you have chosen.
- Niggles - note down any minor aches and pains during or between your sessions as soon as you notice them. And - it goes without saying - make sure you obtain prompt advice from a health professional if they linger for more than a week or after resting, especially if the pain worsens.