Journaling the Journey: Keeping a training log

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“Why am I not reaching my training goals?”. “How did I achieve that world-class performance?”. “Could I be overtraining and need to back off?”. 

Few athletes pay as much attention to their mental training, as they do their physical training. A clearly defined athletic goal set at the start of the season may be pursued mindlessly with no reflection or adaptation to keep the results coming.  A business would never set their budget at the start of the year and wait to see what happens in 12 months’ time. They do their accounts regularly, adjust expenses, and adapt their goals in relation to the financial climate. And just like a business, regular reflection enables athletes to evaluate their training, identify what works and what does not, and make changes to enhance performance.

Keeping a training and nutrition log or diary unlocks knowledge and energy that can help athletes to break plateaus, and get faster, stronger, and more technically adept. Journaling helps athletes review past experiences with honesty and precision. This not only helps athletes to learn more about effective training and nutrition strategies, but also to learn more about themselves.

Benefits of keeping a training log

  • Identifies patterns in training and performance. For example, best time of the day to train, optimal pre-workout meal. 
  • Boosts motivation. Knowing that a training log must be completed helps athletes to maintain momentum.
  • Increases confidence. Come competition time, athletes can look back at their training log and have faith that they have trained hard enough.
  • Improves focus. It can be easy to forget what the point of training is, so a training log will prevent athletes getting side-tracked and help them to see the big picture.
  • Helps to prevent overtraining. By spending time noticing their thoughts and feelings, athletes will become more self-aware of when they need to back off from training.
  • Increases self-monitoring and self-regulation, helping to manage goal-directed behaviours. Athletes often postpone short term enjoyment, for long term achievement, therefore self-regulation is essential for staying motivated.
  • Tool of reference. A training log shows athletes what they have achieved and how far they have come, what worked for a competition, and what may have contributed to an injury so as to avoid those methods in the future.
  • Improves training adherence and punctuality by making athletes accountable through their training log.
  • Helps athletes to gain perspective. Athletes often feel that a bad training session makes them a bad athletes, so a training log helps them to identify the up and down cycles of training and see overall progress.
  • Provides an opportunity for venting. Family and friends may find it difficult to understand the pressures of being an athlete, which makes a training log an ideal place to express frustrations and achievements.

Personal experience – www.LiftLikeaYogi.blogspot.com  

As a national level Olympic Weightlifter, I have experienced the benefits of keeping a training log for myself. I am currently English Champion, and my training log has been crucial in my performance as a weightlifter, and also in managing a performance lifestyle, and juggling multiple commitments as an athlete, Trainee Sport Psychologist, and Yoga Teacher.

My ‘Training (b)log’ – www.LiftLikeAYogi.blogspot.com, is a record of my training intensity and frequency, nutrition strategies, competition performance, and general self-reflection. This reflexivity has prompted improvements in my training and diet as a result of noticing patterns of energy and fatigue, it has boosted my motivation, confidence and commitment by allowing me to see my achievements, and it has encouraged others to take up the sport, by showing them the enjoyment that lifting and competing brings. I have also implemented several sport psychology techniques such as cue words, relaxation, and positive affirmations, as a result of realising the power or journaling my journey, and becoming fully aware of how training your mind, is just as important as training your body.

 

Key research

Swimming and training behaviour.

Young, Medic and Starkes (2009) studied the effects of keeping different types of athletic training logs on the behaviours and beliefs of swimmers. Participants were divided into two groups, with half the swimmers keeping a training log that focused on self-monitoring targeted training behaviours, while the second group kept a training log focusing on aspects of recovery and overtraining. Swimmers kept the training logs for one month, completing them following each training session. After keeping a training log for one month, swimmers from both groups showed significant improvements in adherence, punctuality, intention to self-monitor, and self-regulatory confidence.

Marathon running and nutrition.

Stellingwerff (2012) aimed to develop training and nutrition approaches, leading to individualised race-day fluid and fuelling plans for elite marathon runners. Marathoners undertook a 16 week training programme, periodizing  training load and nutritional approach across three mesocycles. Runners kept s training log throughout this period in order to characterise training. Data from the training logs was used to develop individualised nutrition and training plans based on information such as rate of perceived exertion, and marathoners’ comments on the effect of current nutritional approaches on performance. The runners who took part in the study completed a marathon following the 16 week programme in times ranging from two hours and 11 minutes, to two hours and sixteen minutes. The author concluded that a training log, along with a periodized and individualised nutrition and training approach, facilitates the quest for marathon success.

Developing your own training log

Training logs, diaries, and blogs come in various formats. It is a good idea to include:

  • Time of training
  • Place of training
  • Details of training (e.g. distance, reps, sets)
  • Comments on how training went
  • Rate of effort during training
  • Highlight of training session
  • Muscle soreness
  • Nutrition pre/post workout
  • Quality of sleep the night before training
  • Energy level before/after training
  • Level of stress
  • Level of confidence
  • Level of motivation
  • Identification of any self-handicapping thoughts
  • Feelings before/after training