Running Log Discussion & Review of The Runner's Diary

For sure, many trail runners don’t keep a running log. Heck, some don’t even wear a watch. That’s all good, but for the rest of us, it’s that time of year we pull out our running logs, start tallying numbers, and comparing them to our goals for the year as well as past years. With the new year approaching, it’s also a good time to consider whether you like your current training log and whether you might use a different training log in the coming year. Below we’ll raise some discussion points about training logs and then review The Runner’s Diary. We’d love to know how you record your training!

Discussion of Training Logs
Let’s explore some training log options before delving into some more discussion-worthy questions.

Types of Logs
On the simple end of things, a training log can be little more than a number – be it miles, kilometers, minutes, or hours – recorded in a calendar or daily planner. This is a method I used in high school and for short periods after college. During college itself, I didn’t keep a log, but saw my coach’s brilliantly simple and wonderfully customizable bound-notebook logs.

Nowadays, there are a dizzying array of dedicated training logs. A quick search for “running log” on Amazon.com yields a slew of options, including The Runner’s Diary: A Daily Training Log (we’ll take a look at this log below), The Running Log, 2009 Training Log, The Complete Runner’s Day-By-Day Log, Runner’s World Training Journal, The Total Runner’s Log, The Quotable Runner Training Log, and The Ultimate Workout Log… and that’s just among the first page of results!

Those runners who like to spend quality time with their computers might just keep their training logs online or on their hard-drive. I’m not going to even try and put together a list of online training logs as there are dozens, if not 100s. At various times over the past few years I’ve used a custom log on a college alumni website, Merv based out of Stanford, and MotionBased.com, which became Garmin Connect. Attackpoint seems to be popular among the mountain-loving ultra crowd such as Goeff Roes, Andy Jones-Wilkins, and Matt Hart. It could be that AP tracks vertical climb well.

These days, I use a combination of logs, but have one master log. As I generally wear a Garmin Forerunner during training, I download the data to the Garmin Training Center application on my MacBook and upload it to Garmin Connect. I don’t really consider those my logs, just information repositories. My true training log is a custom created Excel file (pictured right – click to enlarge) that I’ve kept up to date since I started training for my first 100 miler in January 2004. The log is bare bones – weekly dates, a place for daily mileage, the weekly mileage, a running season total, days run in the week, 3 week moving average of weekly mileage, and year-to-date average weekly mileage. Very rarely, I make notes about a particular run in cells off to the right. I color code off-days (black), doubles (yellow), runs of 20 miles or more (pink), and have recently added days with cycling (blue). Every January, I create a new tab with the format. The only thing I need to do is change the dates for each week and start running. It works for me.

Discussion Questions
Please let other iRunFar readers know how you record your training. Feel free to include links to your online training logs. While you’re at it, take a stab at the following questions:

  • What’s a week? – Do you start your training week on Sunday or Monday? Why?
  • Why a week? – Why not train on a 5-day, 9-day, or 13-day schedule? As usual, Geoff Roes got me thinking with his post One Week? Screw That.
  • Miles or minutes? – I not sure if I should even touch this one, but do you more frequently record time or mileage in your training log. I’m a miles man myself.
  • Start and stop? – Until I started my current log almost 6 years ago, I must have used half a dozen others all of which quickly went by the wayside. Anyone else have or had this problem? Have you gotten over it? If so, how?

The Runner’s Diary: A Daily Training Log by Matt Fitzgerald
If I’ve ever used a published training log, I’ve long since forgotten about it. As such, I was skeptical about reviewing The Runner’s Diary. That skepticism immediately faded when I opened the log to Week 15 and was greeted at the top of the page by advice on rehabbing an Achilles tendon. It was the same routine as I was then using to rehab my Achilles. I thought to myself, “This log could be really useful!” Other such weekly advice ranges from useful reminders to insightful training tips.

The book uses the generous format of four pages per week: Mon-Tues, Wed-Thurs, Fri-Sat, and Sun-Weekly Summary. This setup provides space for a four-line Notes section each day in addition to five lines worth of prompts for other subjective and analytical user data.

From the top, the first line announces the day of the week before asking for the date (reasonable enough). Next comes a place for one’s rest heart rate. While this may seem silly, monitoring resting heart rate is an excellent way to detect fatigue and over training. As a general rule of thumb, a resting heart rate that is elevated 10% or more would call for a recovery day. Following the resting heart rate is a place to record weight. I would not want to record my weight on a daily basis, but it would be nice to record it on a regular basis so that one could see progress toward leanness as a focus race approaches or be reassured that you also put on a few extra pounds last Thanksgiving and that didn’t stop you from kicking butt the following June.

The next line captures some run basics, including distance, time, and pace/splits. There’s also a spot to record “intensity factor,” which the Diary’s intro defines as threshold pace divided by the average pace of the run. The intro goes on to explain that this can be used to track the relative effort of your runs.

After the “Notes” section is a spot to record aches and pains. Recording aches and pains as they develop can be useful in spotting trends or identifying workouts or training loads that may have initiated or reaggravated an existing an injury. Below “Aches and Pains” is a line with
check boxes to rate your run. They range from Great to Very Bad. Even though they are subjective, such ratings can help spot training fatigue and burnout. Backing off when on the brink of collapse is supremely important when increasing your training load or maintaining a high intensity training regimen.

Finally, there’s a nutrition log. It’s fairly simple – you just note the number of servings you have of various types of food ranging from veggies and fruits to sweets and fried foods.

The book has a few other features, as well. One of my favorites if the long-term planning calendar. In the span of four pages, you can plan out a part of your training year… or all of it! The compact scale allows one to easily see trends and patterns in upcoming training. The Runner’s Diary also includes a two-page, four-week planning calendar every four weeks to help you easily fine tune your upcoming training.

Has anyone used The Runner’s Diary? If so, how did you like it?

[Disclosure: VeloPress provided a free copy of The Runner’s Diary to review. The author of this review regularly writes for Competitor Running, which is published by VeloPress’s parent, the Competitor Group. Competitor Running’s Senior Editor is Matt Fitzgerald, the author of The Runner’s Diary. Also, links to Amazon in this post are part of an affiliate program that helps support iRunFar.com.]

There are 28 comments

  1. KMAX

    I've been using the Runner's World online training log for the past 2 years now; basically since I first started really logging my workouts before my first marathon. It tracks a number of different things, more then I really even use, though it lacks elevation. Basically it records everything mentioned in the training diary review and then some other things such as weather, for races it has placement, class, class size, etc. Then all of the different inputs can be used in sorting workouts for review and can be broken out by type to see improvements on say a given course. Also, I can track things other then running separately within the log and being just as much a cyclist as a runner I find this very important. While the log has some issues functionally, I can generally switch my main log focus between my different activities of running, biking or swimming depending on what I happen to be focusing on. My weekly, monthly, annual and total mileage is all calculated and it is very motivating to me to see these numbers grow over time.My week is M-Sun since I generally like to have the weekend to top off my weekly mileage though thats more of a mental motivational thing then anything else. I generally go by miles as well since I don't always wear a watch. A week is a week and thats the way I'm programmed. Simple as that.As for starting and stopping; I'd tried to start training logs numerous times in college and afterwards using spreadsheets or notebook logs but I never got into it to keep them continuously updated. For a hand written log I can see where I just wasn't motivated since I couldn't easily see my progress and total mileage gains. For my spreadsheets I don't really know. It may be simply that I never got one set up in a way that I really felt like I was getting something out of it.At this point, while I would like some different and better features then what the RW Log offers, I don't want to leave all my accumulated mileage and workouts behind. Though, I guess if there is a time to do it, that time would be as the new year begins…

  2. Johnny

    I use Attackpoint.org. I really like it, and find it very easy to use. I usually don't bother tracking my mileage (I hate wearing clunky GPS watches), so I mostly just record the amount of time. My week goes from Monday to Sunday, as I generally try to run longer on Sat and Sun and then take Monday off or easy.

  3. robert.blair

    Thanks so much for this post!This post has me looking forward to running in 2010, and setting some 2010 goals.This past year, I just tracked my miles and time on Livestrong.com. I was drawn to that site because of all the nutritional information on it, and in order to track my daily net calories and weight loss. Last January 2nd, I weighed 183 pounds. After a year of ultrarunning I am at 156, and for my 5'8" frame (well, now 5'7" after a year of vertabra crunching trail running) 156 lbs is a much healthier weight.Before this year, I always just marked the amount of miles I ran on a wall calendar, or one of those Sierra Club, 7 days a page, journal calendars. For 2010, I'll check out the Runner's Diary and Attackpoint. Thanks again.

  4. Anonymous

    The use the Running Ahead online running log. Tracks about everything I need including shoe mileage. The only thing missing is vertical. Great tool.Jeff

  5. Derrick

    I’ve kept a training log of every run since 1982. I was a total paper log/handwritten guy and didn’t think that I would ever give in to the online versions. I took a look at some of the online logs early on and wasn’t really too impressed. I finally did start to make the switch over to using my blog as a training log, but that didn’t really save much time or effort. I enjoy viewing others training and found it very motivational following on athleticore and eventually attackpoint. I did make the switch to attackpoint a couple of years ago after following Geoff Roes log and have liked the format, so have been using it since. Another training log that I find really impressive though is TrainingPeaks.com. There are so many tools including nutritional and device uploads. They offer a free log that has many basic features, but also have a premier version that I can link to with my coaching clients. Every time they complete a workout, an email is generated and I can see exactly how it went for them with all the details. It’s very cool and great for increasing communication. As for miles/km vs. minutes?…I started by logging miles in the early 1980’s, but have since switched to minutes as my philosophy is that it’s all about time on the legs. Miles/km’s are good for benchmark workouts and pace work, but especially on recovery days I just don’t see the point. Funny, people seem to be very passionate one way or the other on this debate though.

  6. The Dude

    I do not keep a diary or log, instead, I focus on my next goal, or challenge and use that to monitor my progress. I post on a blog occaisionally giving updates of my workouts, but no one reads that (which is a good thing).For instance, I began getting in shape for the first time at age 30 in 2008 in order to complete a half marathon (which I did slightly better than my goal pace). In 2009, I decided that I wanted to do a R2R2R in 2010, so to get ready I have run my first two marathons, both better than goal pace. I am now preparing for two 50Ks (January & February), also to prepare for the R2R2R that I am planning to do May 1, 2010.I workout 6 days each week and get in one short run and one long run. Other than that, I don't record much.To the questions:- My week begins on Monday.- Because I work Monday – Friday and it works well.- Minutes per mile, so pace is important to me.- I used to start and stop, but now I just don't keep track. I got over it kind of like I got over using a heart rate monitor. My HRM broke and during the 2-3 weeks it took me to fix the problem, I became used to not using it and listening to my body. Same with running logs, enough time away from a computer/book while still striving for my goal seems to have worked.- I have never used the running diary.

  7. Hank Dart

    I'm a big fan of Attackpoint as well. It's really fast. Really easy to use. And has just enough social networking for your training buddies to kick you in the pants when you're slacking off but not so much to be annoying.

  8. TrailClown

    I have run 1,275,348.117 miles in my life. Wait, make that 1,275,348.118–I just ran up the stairs to type this.Sorry TG, I couldn't resist… :)

  9. Joe Pope

    I'm a big fan of RunningAhead.com. It's free and it tracks pretty much everything all the other sites track. Plus, it does direct uploads from my Garmin Forerunner to the site via my web browser.

  10. Dylan Beadle

    I use Nike+ to log my miles, but use http://slowgeek.com for visualizing the data – cleaner than Nike's Flash-heavy site. And http://nikeplusedit.com if something needs adjustment.I find that the Nike+ provided schedules are acceptable for training towards goals and add my own tweaks on top of that. That means that my schedule usually spans several weeks and is on a rolling basis – no Sunday/Monday dilemma. (Long runs on Sunday).I like to measure my milestones in terms of miles, but also try to keep pace goals.I've experimented with other running logs, but end up finding the convenience of just attaching my iPhone (or iPod, in the past) to be the easiest/fastest experience.

  11. EricG

    I have started and stopped many different logs over the years. I can't say that any of them kept my inerest…I guess because I remember the runs that stand out for me and that's what matters most. Even if I went back and looked at all my runs I would'nt know what the data meant. When I got my first Garmin 2 years ago that did'nt help either and I can't imagine it being simpler than that. I do plan out my training schedules months in advance and write down my actual workout next to my plan on a calendar which sits on my desk at work (once the race is over that record either ends up in the bottom of my gear box or in the grabage). I also started a blog earlier this year and now I post my workouts each day and keep a running tally ytd of my mileage for runs and minutes for cross training.1. My week sarts on Monday. That is the way I looked at my first training schedule and it has never changed.2. I read "One Week? Screw That". I get it, but my life operates on a 7 day schedule so that's the way it goes.3. Miles for runs, minutes for cross training.4. I have started and stopped many times. Yes I got over it. I realized the log is not what's important to me. The memories are!!!Peace

  12. ultrastevep

    Bryon….For the past several years, I've been logging my mileage on Running Ahead, http://www.runningahead.combut recently Kelly Kevorec invited me over to try Daily Mile and to my surprise found several Ultrarunning friends over there.http://www.dailymile.com/I am usually a "just the facts" type of guy, wanting to know how much I've run in a week, month, year, but DM has added another flair to it with people posting challenges, etc to make things a little interesting. For instance, Phil Lowry posted <a href="http://www.dailymile.com/challenges/546-run-the-wasatch-100http://www.dailymile.com/challenges/546-run-the-w… />in which you run a virtual Wasatch. Of course Phil's winning it ;-)It is sortof like a social site for runners, I guess.Anyway getting back to your questions:I like my week from Sunday to Saturday, no real reason. I think I like RA better for tracking shoe mileage and it's GUI. Presently I'm tracking at both to make my final decision.I like a training week because in my 35 years of running that's how I've been doing it.Miles…On your last one, we'll see what happens. I like Daily Mile for one thing and RunningAhead for another, maybe I'll take a look at AttackPoint! ;-)Steve

  13. Will Thomas

    Great article that got me thinking about how I will log my training in 2010. In 2008 I kept a daily excel spreadsheet similar to "The runner's diary" with a column for every conceivable factor that could be logged. Being a numbers geek I loved it and it motivated me to get my runs in.In 2009 I decided to bag the spreadsheet and just run. I still wore my watch that gave miles, pace, vertical, HR, etc… but I didn't ever record that info. Just used it as an after run assessment of my workout. I've really enjoyed this method and have enjoyed my runs, the scenery, & the trails more fully.I was afraid this method might make my workouts more relaxed and that I wouldn't be as motivated, but that hasn't been the case. I've continued to set new PR's from 5k to 12 hour this past year.Speaking of PR's I do still keep a spreadsheet with all my PR's on my local trails and all my races. This is more for historical purposes not analysis.I do miss knowing how many miles I have on my shoes. It's more of a visual and how they feel on my feet decision.Training Week: 6 days: Monday – Saturday. Long run/races on Saturday. Never run on Sunday, so I don't consider it an option for a training day.I like miles/minutes/pace/elevation all equally. None get more attention then another.

  14. koop

    I've found that the best log and diagnostic tools are the ones Training Peaks makes. TrainingPeaks.com and WKO+. They are simple to use, all you need ot do is load device agent, a free piece of software, and it will automatically upload and fill in all of the time, distance, etc into your log. WKO+ is extremely powerful if you use a GPS consistanatly as you can track all of your time/mileage/HR etc. koop

  15. Running Brad

    I'm another SportTracks user. I love the elevation correction plug-in because the Forerunner isn't very accurate with elevation!I also record all my info into a notebook. I keep track of my time, calories, average heart rate, and mileage. I also keep a running tally on the mileage on each pair of my shoes. I have a name for each pair (just the model name and a date) and add the latest run to the total miles on the shoe. I get all this info on 4 lines of a notebook!!!!!What's a week? – I start my week on Monday? Why? Because that's how my first marathon plan worked it and I've kept it ever since!Why a week? – Um, I guess because it's a standard unit of measure.Miles or minutes? – yes. I record both!Start and stop? – The only log I started to use and dropped was logging my mileage on a calender.

  16. snikt

    Great post. Great comments too! Really got me thinking about what else I can log about my runs. I keep it simple just now (miles, time, pace, elevation) but I like the idea of keeping track shoe mileage, etc! What’s a week? – Personally, my training week ‘runs’ from Monday to Sunday. Sunday is the easiest day for me to get in a long run since i’m not at work. Also, any time I take part in a race it always seems to be on a Sunday, so it seems to make sense to plan long runs for the end of the training week.Why a Week? – if I’m honest, I’m not sure. I guess I’ve just been going along with the ‘norm’ these last few years.Miles or Minutes? – Miles! But, my log records total time run too. For me it’s just a stat to look at every few weeks. E.g. i finished training for a half marathon distance and thought it was kind of cool to know i’d spent nearly a full day running.Start and Stop? – I’ve only been running a few years but in that time i went from no log to using Nokia Sports Tracker, Buddy Runner, map my run and Sportypal. I’ve now realised it’s probably best to use your own training that’s independent of whichever software you use to track your runs. So back in September I set up a spreadsheet in google docs and started posting it on my blog on a weekly basis. I use the blog to make notes about how my training was the previous week, etc. <a href="http://www.snikt-running.com/search/label/Sunday%20Statshttp://www.snikt-running.com/search/label/Sunday%… />I’d recommend storing any training log in the cloud (e.g. using Google docs). Then that means you don’t have to worry about your hard drive breaking, backing up with USB drives, etc. Plus it means you can update or check your log from anywhere with a net connection.

  17. Chris

    For a software engineer, my running log is very luddite. I print out individual months from the Mac Calendar program and handwrite my notes. I record the route, distance, time, and shoes. I'll add a note if the run went really well or bad. That is it. I do not sum up the miles. Occasionally, I will regret the missing totals but meh. Too much work.Training week – Like other commenters, my first marathon training plan started on Monday and so do I. Miles vs Minutes – It depends on my goals. For road marathons, miles are most important. For mountain 50 miler, minutes and terrian win the game.Start/Stop – I started logging when training for my first marathon. I wrote my times on the plan schedule. After I completed the marathon, I moved to the calandar when I did not have a plan to edit.I used to run with a Forerunner 201. I would upload my data to SportTracks. Now I use a Nike+ and upload my data to the Nike website. I like the pretty bars. However, the hardcopy logs are my primary logs.

  18. Monica M.

    I'm pretty much a brand new runner, and had no idea there were so many options. As of now, I've been logging my runs in both a spreadsheet (date, distance, time)and online on logthatrun.com. I also sometimes use iMapMyRun on my iPhone, but it is terribly inconsistent, one day it works, and uploads fine, the next it gets no satellite signal. I started running in July with C25K, but just started logging my runs Thanksgiving week, after recovering from surgery in early November. As of today, I've run a marathon over eight days LOL.

  19. Justus

    What a great topic. When I started running a few years ago I used a paper logbook my wife bought for me. Then I migrated into a custom excel sheet and then finally to various online logs. I used to use buckeyeoutdoors.com, but now have switched to attackpoint. It is fast and has a little bit of a social network aspect. I like how you can put in you future events and it tracks how far away they are. The only thing it lacks is a planning capability. I use a google excel sheet to track and chart my weekly mileages for the last few years. Once I bought a garmin I stated to use sport tracks. This is not a log, but a knowledge base. I go through periods when I wear the GPS all the time and periods when I never wear it. My weeks always start on Monday. I think I could handle them starting on Saturday as well, but I can not handle splitting up the weekend days into separate weeks. This makes no sense to me. I run for time and distance, depending on the workout I am doing.

  20. last lap last chance

    For awhile I simply did what others do/have done and print a calendar sheet or training program (specific race prep) but last year I started running with a Garmin and use their program to log miles – it is a huge waste of time but accomplishes the goal to stop printing sheets and hand writing everything.My normal tranining sessions run Monday (rest day) to Sunday (long Mtn run day). I feel 4-5 running days a week works best for me.Lately I have started to concentrate on time more than mileage – as the races get longer I rather know I have out in the time.Keep it going. How can you progress without knowledge of what went well, bad or other.

  21. Stuart

    I use SportTracks, it links through to my Buckeye Outdoors/RedWagon account via a plug in, RedWagon links through to Twitter!ST is very solid BO/RW is mildly socialNothing's perfect (for free) but these are pretty close!

  22. Neil Culbertson

    I appreciate your article. I've been an avid mid-pac runner for 28 years now. I started with my own hand-made logs in Mead spiral notebooks. I've always found the commercial paper logs too scant of detail to really make for useful training. I finally published my own, which is half-way between too little and too much, but giving ample space for making comments. I dedicate a page for each week with an additional template for tracking interval workouts (2x's weekly), whether hills or track. The Great Northwest Runner's Training Log© is its colorful title.

    I track my running weeks from Sunday to Saturday. I can't really see why it matters one way or the other; you can pencil in the same plan on a Mon thru Sun as for a Sun thru Sat. My long runs tend to fall on Saturday or Monday depending on whether I race on Saturday.

    I find the use of a log most necessary when I'm training for a specific race of 10K thru marathon. The greater the distance the more necessary it is. Increase too fast and not factor in recovery for the longer distances and injuries just come out and bite you.

  23. AndyMOntevideo

    Actually I cannot even commit to write in a paper log, and the web based offers may work better to me, as I make my first effort to finally commit to a half marathon and do it for year end.

    I would love to have it fed by my Nike chip that I will place in my shoes… but I will research further and make my choice. I am much of an Excel fan so RunningAhead may work just for that…

    Running will go MOn-SAT.

    Any advice on what to use? I read all above and only read one on Nike… will explore further.

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