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What is a running journal or log?

Are you looking for a way to boost your running routine?  Then I’ve got just the thing for you: a running log or running journal.

I’ve personally noticed many benefits to consistently keeping track of my workouts with a running journal, and I think you will, too.

Now, before you can see how a running journal can give a boost to your routine, I’ve got to answer two important questions for you:

  1. What is a running journal?
  2. What should a running journal include?

If you’re at all curious, keep reading and find out!

A quick note: For the purpose of this post, I’m going to use “log” and “journal” interchangeably, but keep in mind that a log is usually a more basic form of a running journal (think: logging miles and time, versus writing down how you felt, what you ate, etc.).

So, what is a running journal or log?

In its simplest form, a running log is a place to write down your weekly runs and mileage.  This can be done using a variety of mediums, from an Excel spreadsheet to a pre-printed running journal notebook.  You can even use a mobile-based digital option, like Strava or Garmin to keep track of your workouts. For more ideas on how you can start your own running journal, check out this post: 5 Different Ways to Keep a Running Log or Journal.

A way to plan out your running schedule

Whether you prefer to create your own training schedule or follow a specific plan from a coach (or even a generic plan you found online), it’s helpful to have a special spot to keep this very important info where you can also keep track of what workout you actually did on any given day during your training cycle.

I’ve tried a few different running journals, but I’ve yet to find one with a calendar that has big enough blank spots to write in my planned workouts.  So what I’ll usually do is print out some blank calendar pages from the internet and pencil in my planned workouts for a particular training cycle.  Other times, I’ll create a calendar spreadsheet on my computer. You could use any type of calendar to do this.

I can then take these scheduled workouts and plug them into my training log in the “Planned” section of each day.

I love that I’ve got a spot right below the planned workout where I can record what I actually did that day.  Sometimes, it ends up being a bit different than what I had planned, based on how I feel (I’ll cut back if I’m sick or if I feel an injury creeping up) or if I’ve had to switch things around because of personal or family schedule changes. 

A method for keeping yourself accountable

Even though I just told you that I sometimes change up the workout I had planned (oftentimes doing less), I still think a running log is a great way to keep yourself accountable to actually do what you set out to do.

If you’re working towards a specific goal race, you’ve got to have a plan.  Well, technically, I guess you could willy-nilly it.  But if you’re trying to achieve a certain time or simply finish a certain distance, then you’ve got to have a plan.

When you write that plan down, you’ll be much more likely to follow it.

I’m one of those people who like to make lists so I can feel the satisfaction of checking things off of said lists.  Sometimes, I’ll even write down something I’ve already completed that day – just so I can check it off.  Oh, you do that too?!  Let’s be friends! 😉

Running log or journal using a computer-created spreadsheet

Anyhow, my point with mentioning that, is to say that there’s great satisfaction that can be found in checking off those planned workouts (or writing down the actual workout).  By doing this, you’re holding yourself accountable for doing what it’ll take to make it successfully to your goal race.

A place to keep tabs on your mileage

With so much technology at our fingertips these days, tracking weekly mileage couldn’t be easier.  If you wear a Garmin or some other type of wearable fitness tracker, this kind of data recording is pretty much effortless.  Apps like Strava and MapMyRun make it easy to see your monthly or weekly mileage totals.

While I have a Strava account, I prefer to use the Garmin Connect app because it gives me access not only to my mileage, but also to many other stats and insights without any added cost.  I know many runners who love Strava, but I’m not ready to justify spending extra money (although it isn’t much) when I have something that’s working just fine for me.

Using Garmin Connect app to track monthly mileage - a digital, mobile running log
It’s easy to view monthly totals using the Garmin Connect app.
Using Garmin Connect app to keep track of weekly stats - a digital, mobile running journal
You can take a glance at your stats from the last 7 days.
Using Garmin Connect app to keep track of recent workouts - a digital, mobile running log
The app gives you a quick overview of each of your recent workouts.

Since I’m a little old school, I also like to keep track of my mileage the “pen & paper” way.  This is where a great physical (as opposed to digital) running journal comes in.  There’s just something gratifying about totaling up the week’s miles and writing the number down (kind of like writing lists just to check things off 🤣).

Whether digital or physical, a running log or journal is an easy way to follow your mileage over time.

A spot to track your goals

Goals.  Such a small word but oh, such a powerful one!

There’s so much info out there on goal setting, but that’s too much of a sidetrack for this article.  At least one thing you should know: studies have shown that people who actually write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them.  Forty-two percent.  That’s a lot!  I don’t know about you, but I’ll take those odds.

A running log or journal (especially a physical one, in this case) is a perfect place to write down your running goals.  Whether they be weekly, seasonal, or based around a specific measurement (such as weight-loss), you can include them in your journal.

Physical or digital

As I mentioned earlier, a running journal or log can be physical or digital.  I like to use both.  The digital version tracks various statistics for me automatically, while the pen & paper version gives my brain the ability to better process and review what I’m writing.

Running with Roots Weekly Running Log - Download your own copy for free!

This is the physical version of the running log I’m currently using.  You can download your very own copy here! 

What should a running journal or log include?

Now that we’ve talked about what a running journal is and what it can be used for, let’s go over some of the things you can include in yours.

Top goal (or goals) for the week

We kinda already talked about this a tad – that’s because it’s important.  Give yourself some space in your journal to write down one to three goals for the week.

Planned workout

How many miles do you have planned for the day?  Is it a speed workout?  Are there any other specifics to take note of?  Hilly route?  Strides or other drills?  Briefly write down those basics.

Actual workout

Did you find yourself veering off the planned workout or did you stick to it?  Include those details here.

When and where the workout took place

Include things such as:

  • Date and time
  • Location
  • Terrain

How long the workout took

What was your total elapsed time for this workout?

Average pace

If your watch or phone app doesn’t automatically calculate this for you, you can plug your total time and total distance into a pace calculator to quickly figure out your average pace for the workout.

How the run/workout felt (your perceived effort)

Did it feel easy? Hard? Somewhere in the middle?  Did you feel weak or strong today?  Note those details here.

Extra info that may be pertinent

Give yourself some extra blank space to jot down any other details that seem valuable to include.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Splits (especially useful for speed workouts)
  • Aches/pains
  • What you ate before or during the run
  • Any other specific details about how you felt

I hope this helped to give you a better understanding of what a running journal or log is, and the purpose behind keeping one. The suggestions for what to include in your own journal are just that – suggestions.

Remember, it’s your journal, so make room for the things you think will help you the most.

If you’ve thought of some other metrics or important tidbits of information that others may want to include in their journals, let us know in the comments below!

And, in case you missed it, here’s a reminder to download your own copy of Running with Roots’ FREE Weekly Training Log, so you can get started keeping track of all the things we talked about.

Disclaimer: You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in exercise or training I recommend, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Running With Roots from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of Running With Roots. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. The views expressed are based on my own experiences, and should not be taken as medical, nutrition or training advice.

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