How Running Logs Can Improve Your Race Times

Curious about how a training log can impact your running performance? Read the full article on running logs and how to use one!

It’s all too easy to hit save on your GPS watch and move on with your day after your run. However, then it is all too easy to forget the details of training with time. Workouts may blur together, you may accidentally exaggerate training volume or overestimate your paces, and you may forget important details on how you fueled or what you wore. A running log solves these problems: it allows you to record important details of your run, so that you can look back later. Because it allows you to analyze your training, a running log could be another tool for improving your running performance. 

How your running log can improve performance

A running log may not improve performance via physiological factors like threshold or endurance. However, a log can improve performance by building up your confidence in training – which improves your performance via mindset. A training log allows you to look back on all of your runs that went well before a race and feel more confident about your goal. 

A training log can help you be aware of your training. By journaling, you can keep track of trends in how you feel, how your workouts are going, and anything else important. You can easily track progress over time, even with subjective measures like how you feel on runs. You may be even able to discern weak points in that area, such as blocks of inconsistent training, too fast easy runs, etc.

A training log also helps you reach your goals. For example, if you have a mileage goal, you can easily track it in your log. You can track your paces in workouts and how they progress. As you see your progress, you can plan your training accordingly.

What to Include in your running log

You want to include both subjective and objective metrics in your training log. Numbers alone do not tell the full story. By recording both the objective data (how fast and how far, etc) and how you felt, you will be able to fully understand your training. 

Subjective metrics include:

  • How you physically felt (good, poor, normal, sore, strong, etc)
  • How you mentally felt (motivated, struggling, etc)
  • How you perceived the session (happy, disappointed, neutral, etc.)
  • Any mental wins or obstacles

Objective metrics include:

  • Pace
  • Distance
  • Elevation gain/loss
  • Heart rate or RPE
  • The weather
  • Where you ran 
  • How you fueled (how many gels, etc)
  • Where you are in your menstrual cycle

You can include any other things you want: what you listened to, the shoes you wore, who you ran with, etc. It is your log – anything you feel important should be included!

Different methods for keeping a running log

There are multiple ways to maintain a running log. Both manual logs and digital logs exist, and both have their pros and cons.

  • Digital running logs: Strava
  • Traditional paper logs
  • Special training journals: Believe Journal, Racin’ Grayson training log
  • Your GPS watch/app: Garmin Connect, Runkeeper, Coros, etc. 
  • Spreadsheet
  • Training log: Final Surge, Training Peaks, VDOT, etc

Many runners enjoy the simplicity of a paper training log or a spreadsheet. You can enter as much or as little information as you wish. Spreadsheets do have the advantage of being able to do basic math, such as calculating yearly mileage or tracking average pace over time. 

Special marathon training journals often feature journaling prompts and questions intended to help you think critically about your training. A running journal may include sections for writing about your goals and tracking your progress throughout the year. 

Apps such as Garmin Connect and Strava allow you to enter notes on your runs. However, if you have a public profile, you may be tempted to alter your notes based on the fact that other people read them. You can set your profile to be private if you notice that you are self-conscious about what you share. 

Ultimately, the best format for a training log is what you will consistently use. If you love spreadsheets or a fancy training log makes you excited, embrace that! 

Tips for maintaining consistency

Using a training log requires creating a habit of journaling. It can help to schedule 5-15 minutes after each run to sit and write in your running log book, when details from the run are still fresh. Over time, you will learn which details are best to include so that journaling is not too time-consuming. 

The bottom line on Running Journals

A running log certainly is not essential for improving your performance. However, many runners find it to be an invaluable tool for tracking their progress and analyzing their training. You can use as simple or as fancy of a training log as you want – what matters the most is consistent journaling. 

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