Ah it’s that time of year again.
Actually it’s not that time of year again — yet. It’s actually, somehow, still race season.
But it never hurts to let the planning/training/preparation process begin. Still have this annoying back injury that I need to sort out before I can begin any real “training” and I definitely need a few weeks of hiatus before I want to get back into things, for mental health reasons, but I’ve always loved the planning/preparation part of things so I decided I’d start getting myself into some good habits now.
And one of the best habits an athlete can have is a Training Diary. A personal Training Diary will not only provide an athlete with some accountability to their goals, but also a personal and more thorough reference of what they’ve done and how it felt to always have on hand and refer back to. It’s a great way to garner a broad picture of where you’re at mentally and physically in those moments where you start to feel lost. It also gives great insight into the mental aspect of training – It’s sometimes very hard for athletes to put themselves outside of the room and see when they’re starting to burn out or adopt negative feedback systems in regard to their performance, but with a training diary it becomes evident through reading back your own words. A Training Diary is an invaluable therapeutic tool that also helps keep you organized and dedicated while logging all of your physical and performance statistics in one easy to access place. 10 out of 10 recommend this for athletes of all experience levels.
SO, with all of that in mind, here’s how I plan to set up my own:
AM Entry: mood // pre-ride physical // goal(s) for the day
PM Entry: mood // post-ride physical // training notes // nutrition notes
For my own purposes, I want to keep my diary rather simple and succinct, I can add as much or as little as I like each day. I aim for simplicity because it makes the daily task of logging more likely to actually get done. Here’s the reasoning behind each field:
AM/PM entries. I want to log twice a day because I find that I (and many people) am a completely different person in the morning than I am in the evening and by logging stats for both I get a more unbiased and thorough version of myself – ie: morning Laura is tired and unmotivated and sore and doesn’t want to do anything while evening Laura is stoked on the ride she had that day and feels very good about things. And that’s simply the mental aspect of training. Logging AM/PM cuts the day into two and allows for a more complete picture.
Pre & Post Ride Physical. Logging AM/PM physical stats also has huge benefits. What kind of physical stats would I log? Weight, body fatigue and/or soreness, resting HR. These are important metrics for measuring how the body is reacting to training and whether you need to increase or decrease your training load. I have a coach who sorts the training load out for me, but as an athlete I find that it’s a good idea to keep track of these important metrics myself as well and be as personally accountable to my success as my coach is. Furthermore, by tracking these statistics myself, I am in the habit of making these measurements to begin with, which means that I am more likely to be giving this information to my coach — and a coach is only as good as the information you give him. A coach can’t weigh you pre and post workout and suggest that you hydrate extra that day because you’ve clearly lost quite a bit of water weight during your workout, yet these are nuances that can make a ton of difference in an athlete’s success. You are a scientist, think of your training as a scientific experiment.
Mood. I already covered this a bit in the first paragraph, but to further convey the importance of logging mood, consider the massive effects that training has on one’s state of mind. Usually the effect of working out is very positive but with training there is always a danger of over-training and that’s when the mood plummets and gets dark. It’s sometimes very hard to see this while it’s happening to you, and in our busy day to day lives sometimes we do not have the cognizance to stop and take a real, raw look at how we actually feel. Logging it day to day puts that burden into easily accomplished micro-steps and keeps us aware of our mental state rather than ignoring it until it reaches critical mass. Mental fatigue is just as relevant as physical fatigue and it’s important to recognize it as soon as possible to avoid total fall out.
Goals for the Day (AM entry). Every day should have some kind of goal, even if it’s just to rest and rehydrate. Writing these goals down keeps the athlete accountable to them, provides the motivation to do so, and helps the athlete succeed each day. Keep them simple and concise.
Training Notes (PM entry). Perhaps one of the most important fields, documenting the actual workout. Write down how difficult the workout felt, if you were able to hit target wattages and/or heartrate, mental and/or physical exertion you may have felt. Sometimes this field is a simple as “workout went very well, hit all targets, legs felt great!” or “this was a recovery ride, kept it nice and easy, started workout with heavy legs that felt better at the end of this ride.” It can also be more telling: “was mentally dreading having to hit target wattages, started intervals too hot and had trouble keeping power steady, felt very tired” You get the point. 🙂 Logging these details gives both athlete and coach a better idea of where the work needs to be done and what the athlete’s strengths and weakness are from both a physical and mental standpoint. It also can create awareness into how the mental is affecting the physical performance so that steps can be taken, if necessary, to remedy inconsistencies. Please note that it’s important to identify both the strengths and weaknesses one notices during training. If you’re constantly only logging weaknesses, you might start to get down on yourself for not performing as well as you’d like to. Try and consciously look for strengths during your rides as well, not only for the mental boost but to give yourself a better idea of what you may not need to work on as much. Being aware of where we need work and where we don’t is one of the most important parts of successful training.
Nutrition Notes (PM entry). This can get extremely in-depth depending on how serious you want to get with logging nutritional intake and quite honestly warrants a blog of its own. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll keep it simply to “it’s important to track your diet” and why it’s important. Often, we are not even aware that we are eating poorly until we actually begin to track the things we’re putting into our bodies. This is why calorie-counting apps like My Fitness Pal are so successful to people who are trying to lose weight. For the athlete who is usually not trying to lose weight but is more interested in making sure their body is getting all the nutrition it needs for training load and recovery, those apps can also be a helpful tool. For me, I just want to relay an overall account of the day’s nutrition so that I can easily spotlight any weak points and keep myself accountable to eating healthy, very simple and streamlined and easy to accomplish.
A further consideration: if you’re a woman, you will want to track your cycle along with your training as the two will always be intrinsically connected. Athlete performance is directly related to a woman’s cycle and it can be very useful to track cycle in relation to athletic performance and mood so that you can plan ahead and mitigate any adverse side effects as best as possible.
So I’m sure by now anyone who’s reading this is completely overwhelmed and has already dismissed the idea of keeping a Training Diary as “too time consuming” or “too complex” for their personal training needs. I get that, if you’re not an “ultra-serious” athlete maybe you don’t think that the benefits of doing all this logging are worth the time you’d have to spend to do it. But before you toss away the idea completely, look how completely simple and not time consuming it is via my Training Diary for today. Once you set up the template, you just fill in the info —
OCTOBER 6th 2019
Mood: sorta unmotivated (grey weather outside makes me unmotivated)
Pre-ride physical stats: legs a bit sore from hiking yesterday, groggy on waking up/better after coffee, 110.8lbs, did not measure HR
Goal(s) for the day: bike park runs, 1/2 rocks 1/2 gravity
Mood: Energetic, positive.
Post-ride physical stats: body feels OK, back is a little tight which is usual (injury). Legs weren’t noticeably weak during ride. 108.8lbs post-ride and re-hydrating.
Training Notes: Forgot elbow pads at home so instead of doing rocks decided to do freeride/park features. Very windy. Had a bunch of good runs, sessioned a bit, worked on whips.Productive day. Strengths: was able to move big bike around well, whips are getting better. Weaknesses: still have some PTSD on features that I crashed on earlier this year.
Nutritional Notes: Intermittent fasting from coffee at 11am to 8:30ish. Had 2 zero calorie/zero sugar seltzers with KK post-ride. Hemp pasta with veggies for dinner. Lots of water. BCAAs & vitamins. Might have eaten some pumpkin pie and might have done it annoyingly late at night.
That entry took me less than 10 minutes and will provide an awesome reference when I need one later on in the year, it also already illuminates some important things that I could work on (like not eating pumpkin pie at 11pm). Training Diary for success!
Good luck, and happy pedaling! 🙂