A study in the August '08 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports that keeping tabs on what you eat with a food diary can double your weight loss. Study co-author Dr. Victor J. Stevens, a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, in Portland, Oregon noted that, "the more food records [study participants] kept, the more they lost."
Log books, or diaries, can go much further than just tracking calories. It is a personal record. Simple as that. With today's tools a training log can also help you track mileage and/or hours, map routes, metrics like body weight and stress, heart rate and power data, and even share these things on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
"You dont know where you are going, until you
learn where you came from" - Matt Goforth
Why should I bother logging my workouts?
There are many reason to keep a training log outside of establishing benchmarks. Ever have a breakthrough performance? What was your weight at that point? Did that BT follow a hard workout or an easy one? Did you taper? How long? Being able to identify what it takes to be at your peak performance is a very important piece of information for a competitive athlete.
Often athletes will experience a training slump. I see it all the time with my athletes. Looking back into our log books will help us identify what triggered the slump. Too little sleep, malnutrition, too much intensity, or over-cooking the mileage can all be positive id's for slumps. These trends allow you, or your coach, to make subtle tweaks to your training plan and rectify the mistake. For example, I have an athlete that knows she will be tired the wednesday of a peak week. She can adjust accordingly, and be nice and rested for race day.
For some, having a personal record will re-affirm that they have put in the time and are ready for an event. Which can be a tremendous boost of confidence, and an excellent motivator when you need it.
Accountability is often an overlooked benefit of a training log and the athlete-coach relationship. If my training program calls for me to workout today, its alot tougher to blow it off knowing I need to log it. Further, if my coach is expecting to read about my workout, i'm less prone to skip it.
Putting your emotions into a diary can bring things into perspective, especially after mulling them over for a number of days following a poor performance. Lets face it, nobody cares if you DNF'd your last race, and your friends are most likely tired of hearing about it. A training log can be an excellent emotional outlet.
Whats the best way to log my workouts?
Still today, hand written training logs are the most popular. Just get a piece of paper and write them down. As a coach, one of my biggest challenges is getting my athletes to log workouts so whatever is the easiest way. Today there are many online tools, spreadsheets, and templates. Personally, I prefer online tools as they are more easily shared. Bottom line, whatever works, just start logging.