What on earth IS a running journal?
I’m so glad you asked. I go into much more detail in The Running Journal: What is it and What Should it Include? but for now, I’ll just say this: A running log or journal is a tool to keep track of various aspects of your training. It can be super simple (think: a basic spreadsheet with daily/weekly distances filled in) to more complex (think: journaling specifics surrounding your run, including what you ate, how you felt, etc.).
No matter your experience or level – whether you’re just getting started with a Couch to 5K program, or you’ve been running for 20 years – you can reap the benefits of keeping a running log (also sometimes called a running journal, training log, or training journal).
In this post, I’m going to outline six advantages of starting and maintaining a running journal or log.
OK, here we go.
Benefit #1: A running journal enables you to keep track of your progress.
As you progress through your training plan, it’s a wonderful thing to see improvement over time. Keeping track of increases in mileage, improvements in pace, as well as notes about how you feel during each workout can give you a bird’s eye view of your progress.
Benefit #2: A running journal helps you stay on top of potential injuries.
This is probably my #1 personal reason for keeping a training journal. When I first started out, it seemed like I was injured all the time. From ITBS to Plantar Fasciitis (and everything in between), I am no stranger to injury.
But it wasn’t until I started keeping track of my training (and taking note of any pains that crept up afterward) that I was able to detect patterns with regard to when I would get injured.
Too much mileage too soon? Injury.
Too much speed too soon? Injury.
Little to no strength training coupled with lack of mobility work? Perfect recipe for injury.
While you may not be as injury-prone as I am, jotting down notes about any aches and pains you feel during or after a run can still be beneficial. Being aware of persistent issues can cause you to scale back your training when necessary. This can often mean the difference between missing a few workouts or being sidelined for several weeks (or more) with a full-blown injury.
Additionally, if you know you’re dealing with something that could potentially turn into an overuse injury, you can be proactive. Adding in regular core-strengthening exercises (hips, glutes, abs, back) can help to deal with muscular weakness or imbalances that could be at the root of your pain.
Benefit #3: A running journal allows you to observe what helped (and what didn’t) in your training.
Keeping track of small details such as what you ate before a run, what the weather was like, or what shoes you wore, can go a long way in providing you with better insight into your training. Maybe you find that every time you eat a banana before your run, you end up with GI issues. Or perhaps you develop blisters when you wear a certain pair of shoes.
On the flip side, maybe you observe that you have a really “feel good” run when the outside temperature is 60 degrees. Now, you obviously can’t control the weather, but it’s good to be aware of. If I’m running in 95 degree Florida humidity, I know not to expect to feel fantastic, based on my past data.
Looking back at your detailed notes can help you to make tweaks when necessary in future workouts.
I’ve found that using a notebook or book-style journal gives me the most room to write out the specifics about my runs. I’m currently using a printable Weekly Running Log sheet that I designed on my computer. For now, I just print copies and stick them in a binder.
But I’ve also used some other great journals that you can purchase online.
One of my favorites is the Believe Training Journal, created by pro athletes Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas. It’s chock-full of useful information, tips, workout suggestions, and more.
Lauren and Ro also created the Compete Training Journal. This is another great resource but is geared towards (as the title alludes to) more competitive runners.
Benefit #4: A running journal is a tool for reaching your goals.
In an introductory running journal post, I mentioned that people who write down their goals are, statistically, 42% more likely to achieve them. To add to that, in a meta-analysis of studies on goal setting in sports, done in 2008, 79% of 56 studies found that setting goals was effective in improving performance.
Now before you go open up Strava to add some goals, you should keep in mind that studies have also demonstrated the power of actually writing things down. Yes, the old-fashioned way. The very act of handwriting has been shown to have cognitive benefits – from recall to comprehension and beyond.
A physical running journal allows you space to not only write down your goals, but also specific actions around them, all of which make you more likely to actually achieve them.
When writing out your running goals, think about what you’d like to achieve in both the short and long term. You can use the acronym SMART to further increase the likelihood of reaching said goals.
- S: Specific – Be as specific with your goals as you can. Answer questions like, “What do I want to accomplish? When do I want to achieve this? Where will my goal take place? Why am I setting this goal?”
- M: Measurable – Distance and time goals are very measurable.
- A: Attainable – Goals should challenge you, but they also need to be achievable. Aim to set goals that you can achieve in the time frame you set for yourself.
- R: Realistic – Is this goal realistic for where you are on your running/fitness journey right now? Be honest with yourself. If you’re struggling to even complete a 5k today, you probably won’t have an easy time finishing your first half-marathon under 2 hours in the next 6 weeks.
- T: Time-Bound – Smart goals shouldn’t be open-ended. They should have a deadline, or they’ll just be out there in space and you likely won’t do what’s needed to achieve them.
Benefit # 5: A running journal gives you a way to keep track of your mileage.
This speaks for itself. As runners, most of us enjoy adding up our miles at the end of the week. And, while I think it’s important not to get too caught up in the numbers game, I will admit that it’s rewarding to see that number increase as we progress through a training plan.
Tracking your mileage is, essentially, just another way to measure your progress. Depending on your goals during a given season, that weekly number is going to fluctuate (and most certainly will if you’re following a periodized method of training). Be OK with that.
Benefit # 6: A running journal helps you hold yourself accountable.
Kind of like list-making can keep you accountable for accomplishing your daily tasks, writing down your workouts can have the same effect. When we use a running log or journal to write out planned runs (along with what you actually did), we give ourselves less room for making excuses and skipping workouts.
Well, there you have it.
I hope, after reading this, you’ll see that there are multiple benefits to be had from keeping a running journal or log. For further reading, you can check out this related post that reviews some of the different types of training journals that are available.
And in case you haven’t downloaded it yet, get your very own Weekly Running Log here. 👇🏻
Let me know – which one of these benefits most motivates you to start keeping track of your workouts?