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.]