November 22, 2015
On the Run
By Clint Cherepa
Photo at right: Marathon runner and Seattle resident, Leigh Kopicki, uses the Nike+ Running app to log her runs. Photo by Kris Parfitt
Having a well maintained log book is essential for runners who want to improve and train more efficiently.
Successful road and trail runners thrive on progress and every run is usually grounded in improvement. The strength and endurance a runner gains develops over time with each step and mile. To track performance over the months and years, it’s crucial to keep a journal or a log.
Kelly Woznicki, a marathoner from Seattle, is also an avid trail runner who recently finished the Cascade Crest 100-mile ultramarathon. Woznicki says her logbook helps keep her accountable according to her goals.
“I think it helps me stay consistent.” She says. “Without having a log, I tend to just not run or do anything. The logbook helps me stay accountable for what I set out to do.”
Ana Hinz, also from Seattle, started running in high school and has raced everything from cross-country to ultramarathons. She tracks her routes, mileage, run times, how she is feeling, any injuries or breakthroughs and if it’s a race, she writes a detailed race report.
Hinz says, “my logbook is an Excel spreadsheet. I have a tab that totals the mileage every week and shows it on a graph … because I’m a nerd like that.”
The benefits of a well-documented running log is that a runner can relive races and adventurous trail runs then compare the times of today with 10 or 15 years ago. Serious and newbie runners alike all want to avoid repeating mistakes.
“It reinforces how I’ve grown in developing my base and my recovery for more events,” says Hinz of her log book. “I used to only do one marathon a year, and this year I’ve run multiple 50 milers, 50Ks, and countless training marathons.
“I’m not always the most reflective and I have a tendency to only look forward. Having a logbook allows me to have the data handy if I’d like to look back and really analyze my year.”
Having a detailed log book to revisit and study can also help prevent injury.
“It’s also helpful for remembering what worked well nutrition-wise, and for tracking injuries,” Woznicki says. “I always forget what injuries I’ve had in the past, but noting them makes it clear that I have the same issues over and over again. It helps prevent me from doing too much.”
Looking back at your training can help you see how long you’ve been dealing with different aches or pains. You can also study your running history to evaluate what kind of training and signs lead up to any previous injuries.
“I think following a training plan has definitely helped me avoid injury or at least manage injury,” says Woznicki. ”I don’t know how much of that is the log book itself, but the logs definitely help me see patterns in injuries,”
When keeping track of trail runs there are differences in how best to record distances. Many trail runners lean toward recording time over miles.
“Time distortion is the biggest difference for me,” says Hinz. “For anyone who runs both road and trail, they understand that doing 20 miles on the road versus 20 on the trail is quite different. It helps to note which you ran so you don’t look back and wonder why you were so slow (if you were running trail).”
Another added dimension is perceived effort, which is defined differently by everyone. It’s inevitable that on the trail you will meet up with many variables that affect your run: rocks, rivers, hills, water, mud, sand, snow and inclines and declines. Because of these variables, perceived exertion, or effort, is especially important to track in the trail runner’s log.
Revisit for Improvement
Part of making a running log work for you is revisiting your log. It’s a good habit to review your log weekly, monthly and yearly. When deciding on your next goal, the running log can serve as a reminder of what you want to accomplish. It can be enjoyable to go back and read how hard a route was a year ago and how you zoomed through it yesterday.
Woznicki enjoys revisiting her past training accomplishments.
“I can see where my attitude toward running has shifted,” she says. “It’s also a reminder of how much work it took to get up to the 100-mile distance. Over time, it’s easy to forget all the work that I put into training for something.”
First steps to logging runs
Follow these tips on getting started logging the details of your run.
Before investing in a tracking process, consider what kind of tracking works best for you. Prefer pen to paper, or the ability to enter data online or with a mobile app? There are plenty of options to choose from.
For those who prefer journaling, there is the Runner’s World Training Journal, for example. Running Ahead and Google Docs offer online running logs that can be easily customized.
Mobile apps are plenty such as Training Peaks, Strava and Dailymile.
What data to track?
Time and distance are the two most important data points to track. Many runners also log their pace, the type of course (road or trail, flat, hilly or mountainous), the weather, and physical experiences such as muscle spasms, tendon tightness, pain or inflammation.
More specific details could include body weight, nutrition consumed, pulse rate, mental state, running shoes and clothing worn.
Clint Cherepa is the Running Columnist for OutdoorsNW. He is currently in Nicaragua, where he is training for ultra-marathons. Read more about Clint here: www.strongerrunners.com