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Should you record your runs? In years gone by runners would come back from a run and religiously record their run in a diary and compare performance over time. These days it's much different. Press a button at the start of a run and another at the end and you have everything recorded for posterity? But is it a good thing? Does it put pressure on you and affect your performance or is it all positive?

Many runners just run to keep fit and to enjoy the outdoors. They might not have a more specific goal than simply being healthy. Those runners probably don't need to worry too much about recording their runs. They might use a running app and that does it for them anyway if they use the tracking facility. So job done.

If however you're a runner with a goal then it's very different. It then becomes important to record your runs. Why?

You'll be using a training plan to help you achieve your goal and recording your runs is key to making sure it's working.

  • To monitor progress

If you don't record your runs, how will you know if you're making progress? Yes, you'll be feeling better, but you won't know if you are at the right level for any given point. How will you know what you've done so far and therefore what you need to do next. Progression is one of the four training principles and if you don't record your runs you won't know what you're progressing from and what you should be doing next.

  • To make sure you're hitting targets

Your training plan is made up of many interim goals. It isn't all about the end goal. You could record every single run as a goal and by recording it, you know if you're on track. Review your weekly mileage or time on feet numbers and you'll know instantly how you're progressing. No records mean you really are in the dark. You have no idea where you are in terms of the plan.

  • Make adjustments to training

One of the most important aspects of a training plan to remember is that it is flexible. It can be adjusted if something within it is clearly not working. After a few weeks of recording your runs you'll know if there is a problem. You may have an issue with recovery from a long run and need an extra day of rest before running again, or there may be a specific day of the week where your runs are proving more difficult than others, or the hill run scheduled on a particular day is taking more out of you than it should. Use the information and make changes from your plan. That's why you record your runs.

  • To maintain motivation

There's nothing more motivating for runners than seeing days and days of running recorded. This is especially true when there are lots of positives in the performances. Hopefully you can see progress and this in itself makes you want to keep going and keep making more. Scrolling through weeks of runs is a real source of encouragement.

What should you record?

  • Mileage

It's a given that you need to record your mileage. This is at the heart of your training plan. Your weekly mileage is the real indicator of how you're progressing and all the other metrics that you record are important, but this is the most important. Without gradual increases in your weekly mileage you are unlikely to meet your goals, but if you don't record the miles you'll never know. To run a half or full marathon you need to run a lot and you need to gradually increase that mileage. Being able to review your mileage easily is really important, because you must be able to see improvements over time.

  • How you feel on your runs

It's important that we add some personality into the data that's recorded from our training runs. You can't argue with the hard and cold facts of how long you've run for and how far you've gone, but that only tells part of the story. This is where notes come in. Apps will allow you to add notes and they are really important. How did the run feel, what type of run was it, what was the weather like and how much effort did it take. This effort, known as the Rate of Perceived Exhaustion, is very personal, and it's a really important metric, both short and long term. Normally it's a rate of 1 to 10, with 10 being a full on sprint and 0 being a walk. This rate lets you know if you're training at the right intensity. if you're at either extreme on a regular basis, then things aren't right.

  • Resting heart rate

It's also really important to keep a record of your resting heart rate (RHR). This is one of the best ways of monitoring your fitness level and seeing the changes over time. It should get lower as your training progresses. You can measure it manually or if you have a wearable with a built-in heart rate monitor then this will do it for you and record it automatically. Any sudden changes mean you need to make changes to your short term training schedule. An increase might mean you have an illness of some sort or recovery from a recent run hasn't been as expected. It might be sleep or stress related, so you need to either have additional rest or run less for the next few days. Forearmed is forewarned.

  • How well you sleep

Without the right amount of sleep, achieving your running goal becomes much tougher. So we need to record that as well. We need to let our bodies heal during the sleep cycle and if we don't get enough we won't give our bodies enough time to heal. How will we know we're having it if we don't record it? Are you getting your 8 hours a night? Missing that target once in a while is fine, but not consistently. Your wearable, or tracker, will measure it for you (just make sure it's charged sufficiently), but if you don't wear one at night then go on to your app or diary as soon as you get up and add it to your records.

  • Running shoes

Most apps (especially those owned by running shoes brands) enable you to track how many miles you've run in a particular pair of running shoes. This is really important because you don't want to be running in shoes that have too many miles in them and sometimes you can't tell if that's the case just by looking at them. Without this kind of monitoring it can be challenging to know the status of your shoes.

Types of Running Logs

There are many ways that you can record your runs, some very old school and some that are very much tech driven. The approach you choose will to an extent depend on how long you want the data for. For some runners they'll be pounding the miles for years and others will just have a single goal and won't do much afterwards. For those that have been doing it for years and plan to continue for years their data is absolutely invaluable. If they are using an online tool they will make sure it's backed up and they'll probably have a manual version. Their data is part of their history and they look back over years and see where they were at points of their life. Others might just want to do a half marathon and aren't really concerned about the longevity of the data. There are three general approaches; the app that you are using to record daily runs, a digital running log or pen and paper.

  • Mobile Apps

There are so many options now and they are getting better all the time. Most of them offer free plans, which are perfectly ok for recording the basics and giving you stats to review as you go. If you go for the premium plan you'll have access to training plans and much more. Most will sync to your watch so you won't need to take a phone with you on your run. You can add notes against each run.

  • Digital Running Logs

Digital logs allow you to record your runs online in a variety of formats. There are specific plans available where you simply add your data and it's presented in a variety of formats or you can simply use an Excel doc or Google sheet and you manipulate as you need to. Many runners who use this approach enter their training plan first and update with performance against each daily target. This approach is good for adding detailed notes. Just make sure you back it up and download on a regular basis. Imagine using the same software for years and then without warning it becomes unavailable and all your data disappears.

  • Paper logs

This can mean many different things. From random notes scribbled on a piece of paper and then misplaced to a book that's been designed for the purpose. Many runners swear by this approach and they have good reason. The actual process of recording the run becomes part of the routine and is almost a 'reward' for getting out there and making it happen. This is missed when using an app. It's the 'pat on the back', the 'well done' message that can make it all feel worthwhile. The information recorded can be as much or as little as you want, but it's the process that becomes important. The notes are your diary, they are your thoughts about the experiences you're going through.

It might sound very old school, but there is a lot to be said for spending a few minutes recording your thoughts. It is really important though to do this after every run. If you miss a few days its value is reduced significantly. That's where the app is so good. You don't have to record data, it does it for you. With this you have to make more effort, but it will be worth it.

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