Looking at old training logs is exciting – I can almost feel how each workout felt. Just like looking at old race photos:
Running my steeplechase PR at the 2006 New England DIII Championships
Keeping a training journal, log, or diary is a powerful way to measure the stats of your running. Whether that’s a digital log or an old-fashioned notebook, either option works great.
This is what I’ve always tracked:
- Daily, weekly, monthly, and annual mileage. Total volume is a powerful predictor of success.
- Total time of a run, splits of workouts, and important paces
- How I felt on a daily basis
- What shoes I wore and the mileage of each pair
- Drills, strength exercises, strides, warm-up movements, and other ancillary work
- Total amount of cross-training and general effort of each session
- Where I ran (for fun!)
I’ve always kept my logs in paper format. For me, it’s more gratifying to hold my training journal and see it in real life.
With platforms like Strava, Daily Mile, and Garmin Connect there’s opportunity to track a lot of other fancy metrics like:
- Ground contact time (how much time your foot spends on the ground during one stride)
- Vertical oscillation (how much you bounce up and down)
- Elevation gain/loss
- Cadence (steps per minute)
Some of these can be quite valuable (cadence and elevation metrics, for example) while others aren’t very actionable.
In other words, if you know your ground contact time… then what? How is that information used? Is it a “nice to know” or “need to know” metric?
In most cases, you don’t need the fancy data. The simple metrics are often the most helpful – they’re foundational.
Today I want to give you another snapshot of an old training log. This time, it’s during indoor track leading up to my 3,000m personal best.
Training for Speed: Inside my 3k Training
During my senior year of college, I set PR’s in nearly every event:
- 800m (2:05)
- Mile (4:35 – though I ran 4:33 post-collegiately)
- 3,000m (9:04)
- 3,000m Steeplechase (9:57)
- 5,000m (16:02)
- 8,000m XC (26:19)
Despite a few injury problems, this was a breakout year for me. And I want to share some of the training that led to these results.
Check it out:
There’s a lot going on during this week. First, some basics:
- “SC drills” = “steeplechase drills.” I was doing a lot of hurdle mobility and dynamic exercises to prepare for the outdoor season.
- Like my training plans, the ‘ symbol represents minutes and the ” symbol represents seconds
- Speedstars, Marathoners, Vents, Miler XC’s, and Lanangs are shoes (the Nike Ventulus, Lanang, and Miler XC are racing spikes).
- In college, nobody had GPS watches. So we ran based on time and estimated mileage based on a 7:00/mile average.
- “… @ T” stands for “@ threshold pace.” It’s how tempo workouts were written.
- Total mileage for the week was 67 with the monthly total being 233 through 26 days of February.
In case you can’t read some of the splits:
Workout: 1,000m @ Tempo + 3x800m @ 5k -30″ pace + 4x200m @ 800m pace. Splits: 3:25, 2:28, 2:26, 2:26, 31, 30, 30, 30.
Race: Indoor 3,000m in 9:04. Splits: 71 @ 400m. 2:23 @ 800m. 4:50 @ mile. 6:04 @ 2,000m. Ran the last 400m in 67 (36, 31 200m splits).
Now, let’s break out some big lessons:
I ran fast almost every day
If you want to race fast, you have to train fast.
While this week only had one workout (we usually ran two), there was a race and I ran strides on three other days. That leaves only two days of only easy running.
Most runners confuse fast running with hard running. You can run fast frequently – but you can’t run hard nearly as frequently.
There’s not enough strength training
This era of my running career was before my big focus on strength work (and my injury rate proved that!). You’ll see I did this core routine and random ab exercises but that’s clearly not substantial enough.
Instead, I should have followed every run with a 10-20 minute strength routine. There’s no doubt that would have reduced my injuries in college.
Most easy runs were on trails
Trails boost general athleticism, help prevent injuries, can be more effective for recovery, and are simply more fun.
Thankfully we had a large network of trails near campus and our coach encouraged us to get in as much mileage as possible on softer surfaces.
If you can enjoy some off-road running, take advantage of it! You’ll be a better runner for running more trails.
Long runs still happened!
Even though I was only training for the 3,000m (slightly less than two miles), I was still running 14 miles nearly every weekend.
It’s instructive that the best middle-distance runners in the world run significant long runs even though their goal race is only 1500m – 5k.
Don’t discount the importance of long runs – even if your goal race is very short.
“Cautious Minimalism” was applied
Too many runners think they have to choose between being a barefoot runner and running in clunky motion-control shoes.
But that’s a false choice: you can get the best of both worlds with a mixed approach.
You’ll see that I wore three different pairs of racing spikes for the workout, strides, and race but more traditional neutral shoes for the remainder of the mileage.
A small amount of minimalism and barefoot running (I’m sure that if it were warmer, most of those strides would have been barefoot) can help improve lower leg strength and reinforce more efficient running form.
How to Think About All of This
I’m not posting this to brag (I placed 26th out of 29 runners in that race!) but rather to show you the principles behind sound training.
If you want to see how fast you can potentially run, it’s helpful to:
- Run fast frequently (strides or hill sprints are great “easy” speed sessions)
- Complete sufficient strength workouts (This is a tough one)
- Run more trails
- Run a consistent long run
- Wear minimalist shoes for a small amount of training (how to transition to minimalist shoes)
These are the basic building blocks of running-specific fitness. Every runner needs them, no matter your ability level or race goal.
If you need help building your own training plan and putting these lessons into practice, we have a lot of resources to help you succeed.
Check out our training programs, books, free resources, and coaching services here.
My questions for you:
- Is there anything from this training log excerpt that I can clarify or explain further?
- What other big-picture lessons can you draw from my training journal?
- Are these types of posts helpful? Should I do more?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to reading them!