Annual Mileage ChartTraining logs are great, especially modern training logs that let you graph workouts and see trends and get the big picture. The single largest benefit for keeping a training log, though, isn’t dependent upon fancy graphs or a searchable database of workouts. You can take advantage of this feature even if you just use pen and a calendar or notebook for tracking your workouts.

Last week, we got a pretty good sized snowstorm to come through our area and leave behind about 15 inches of wet, heavy snow. It was perfect for making snowmen, but not so good when you needed to get your car out to go to work. It was a beautiful and warm day, too, so the longer you waited to shovel the heavier the snow was going to get.

I figured that I had 3 options:

  1. Shovel enough to get my car out, and let my wife do the rest of the driveway.
  2. Shovel enough to get my car out, probably be late to work, leave early, and then spend all night shoveling the now heavier snow that’s beginning to freeze.
  3. Call in to work, take a personal day, spend the morning shoveling and the afternoon running.

A Lot of SnowTough decision, right?

My wife is in her last semester of law school and doesn’t have time to spend all day out shoveling with 2 papers and an exam coming up.

I hate shoveling in the dark, especially now that the snowbanks are higher than my outdoor lights and I have to use a headlamp to see by.

So, I called in.

Erin and I spent about 3½ hours shoveling snow, and a few hours later I got out for a quick hour on foot after the plows had pushed the snowbanks back. All in all, it was a great day.

At least, it was a great day until I went to bed. I was laying in bed, turned my head to look towards the door, and managed to pull a muscle in my neck.

Crick in the Neck (Martin Kingsley)It wasn’t as bad as my birthday back in 2006, when I sat up and heard a loud crack only to find myself on my back staring at the ceiling and having a few moments to think, “This can’t be good…” before the pain set in. That took me out for months; this time it was only a few days.

Now, back to the training logs.

This was the third time that this has happened to me, the second time being last Summer. I remember that first time pretty vividly, as I was pretty naive and thought that I’d broken my neck. (Erin had heard the crack my neck made from the next room.) I couldn’t quite remember when the second time was, but my training log came the rescue.

Because I record all of my workouts and the conditions I run in, and I track how often (well, how seldom) I get injured, I can usually go back over my log and see exactly what it was that led to my getting hurt. This lets me see the similarities and avoid repeating any stupid things that I might be doing so that I don’t get hurt again.

For example, it snowed again yesterday. I didn’t have to spend as much time shoveling, but since the first and third times I hurt myself I had spent a lot of time doing a shoulder workout and then ran out in the cold, I decided that a few hours of shoveling could substitute as my workout for the day.
Calendar (Running Ahead)

Another nice thing about being able to look at the training log is to see exactly how long I was out.

Last week, my neck wasn’t hurting nearly as much as the first time I hurt myself, and the second time I only missed 2 days of running.

It was nice to be able to look at my history and know definitively that I could bounce back pretty quickly without being much the worse for wear.

Looking at graphs of your training volume and being able to search for specific workouts are great. The single largest benefit of keeping a training log, though, is to track how your training affects you and to look at your historical data so that you can learn from your mistakes. You can also learn from your successes; repeat what works and stop doing the things that hurt you.

The log won’t lie, and it’s memory will be much better than yours.

Do you have any stories about how you’ve looked back over a training log and learned something useful? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

(Image & Photo Sources » Running Ahead – Blaine Moore – Martin Kingsley)