There are very few benchmarks that most people have in their lives to determine the “best shape of their life”. It may be a 5 k race they did, or when their team won a varsity championship. Very few people have hard facts to back this up their grandeur from their college days when perhaps they were training on a scholarship and it was a significant part of their life.
I guess for some it really doesn’t matter, but I’d like to think more objectively about my athletic prowess (or lack thereof), and in the future I’d like to gauge my performance as it relates to different sports.
A simple little notebook and a pen can be all you need to keep accurate real numbers on how you are performing. Here are my tips and hints on how to keep a good training log, one that will stand the test of time and you can throw at your snot headed little grand kids when you are old and feeble.
Coming from a policing background keeping a notebook was a way of life, no detail was too insignificant and in it I could find details on bad guys tattoos and scars, the car I drove that day, the weather and road conditions, and everything else in between. When a police officer has a conversation with you when he pulls you over for speeding, it is probably in his little book. The point I am trying to make is that we can learn something from focusing on the details of our training logs.
THINGS I WRITE IN MY TRAINING LOG
Date – Just the date in the same spot in the top right hand corner. It will be an accurate record to keep you from overtraining and to be a painful reminder of how long it’s been since you “hit it hard.” You will quickly find that this little tidbit can help you keep your perception v.s. reality teeter totter in check.
Workout – If my workout has a name a la’ CrossFit then I write that down, for example Jackie today was 1000 m row, 50 Thrusters at 45 lbs and 30 pullups. This also can apply to runs that you may do, as I’m sure you have nicknames like I do, the mailbox run, the hilly out and back 5 k, the hungry hollow. Remember the training log is for you, so feel free to use short forms.
Heart rate – I have in the past trained with a heart rate monitor. It doesn’t lie, but it also doesn’t tell the truth. I normally would write down my average heart rate and my max heart rate and my zones if I have them. Peoples hearts and heart rates vary greatly and you cannot say ride at 160 bpm as this may kill some people and for others it is a very comfortable place for them. The other problem with heart rate training, is that when you become a more efficient machine your heart rate may not reflect your work capacity. For example if I did a 5 k run with an average heart rate of 151 early in the season I could run that same run in the same time with an average heart rate of 140 later in the summer. I prefer to write times related to my efforts down because the effort can be quantified and will never change, one benefit of this is to challenge yourself to complete the same effort in a shorter amount of time, or to send your buddy to try to beat your scorching time.
Training Tips – In every workout I tend to learn something new about myself. These notes may be as insignificant as my hand positions on the weight bar on doing overhead presses, or a better pacing strategy on my last workout before I corkscrewed into the ground and lost my lunch. Keep it real by writing how you felt, how those last reps went up and how your forum was, these will keep you motivated when you think you aren’t making any progress.
Miscellaneous other tidbits – I try to write down the variables of the workout, things that would affect my performance. If I am riding I may write down what tires I had on my bike, running, I’d write down shoes, trail and weather conditions. Write down where you are doing the workout and with who. Is somebody leading the effort or coaching? Write this down too! You may find that some patterns establish themselves, and this is offers some insight as to how you train or are motivated.
Food – If you look at marathoners or tri-geeks (and I use that term with the utmost affection), they are very calculated with how they train. Food is the fuel for the human gas tank, and can be the difference between getting through your workout or completely bonking. Ask me how I know Cajun chicken wings aren’t the best pre workout meal. These meals may be hours before your workout, but once again we are looking for patterns and everyone has their pre race, pre workout favourite snack. Mine still is a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast.
Here is an Example Log from 2009/03/06
“Jackie” CrossFit workout
1000 metre row
50 thrusters with olympic bar 45 lbs
30 pull ups
warmup was going through previous lifting class, did some thrusters, some pullups and rowed 500 meters easy to get ready for all out effort.
workout with the G man, no music only the hum of the rowers at Firepower
Row : 3:32
Thrusters : 3:33
Pull ups: 2:33
Total time : 9:08
Rowed pace of 1:45 per 500 effort felt sustainable
Thrusters did 16 straight, then broke into 5’s after that. Let bar hand or rested in rack position up on chest. Harder than I thought it would be as legs were cooked from rower.
Pull ups on high bar – narrow one did reps 7,7,5,5,3,3
grip and forearms were shot from the rower.
Meal- leftover deluxe Pizza at 7 a.m. half banana and apple sauce at 8:15 workout at 10 a.m.
Felt I could make time on pull ups and thrusters. *Keep the elbows high on thrusters. First time doing this workout.
END OF LOG This is probably more than I would normally write, but maybe you can find something you like to put in yours!
What happens if you lose your book? Well then you are screwed, that is unless you jot it down electronically. There are a few websites where you can log your training. Crossfit.com has the comments section where you can write down what you did, the nice part of this is that when that workout comes up again on the site, then it has a link to compare to the last time that you did the same workout. There is Logsitall.com which allows you to record, track, share, compare and rank your CrossFit and other fitness workouts online. There is Attackpoint which is very popular in the multi-sport world and was designed for orienteerers, but has found use with a large majority of adventure racers.
Keep track of your workouts, so that you don’t cheat yourself, and so that you can look back and really determine if you are in fact “the best shape of your life”. By keeping a log you may find some things out about yourself and how much you are improving!