5 Benefits Of Keeping A Training Diary
One of the most valuable tools for any fitness training is your training diary. Stick it on your fridge, or pull it up on your laptop, your training diary is both a cheap and super effective way to monitor and progress your training. Below are some of the benefits of keeping a training diary, as well as some helpful advice on how to get started, and stick to it!
1. Map towards your goal
Map out your training diary in 6-8week blocks. This is a fantastic time frame to allow for tissue adaptation and strengthening before you become ready to progress load and modify your program. It’s also a great time frame to reach short term goals and keep you motivated.
Aiming to revisit your plan and revise or set new goals at the end of each block will ensure your routine doesn’t become stale, and that you are continuing to progress.
Pigott et al. (2008) supported that implementation of a planned and periodized training program that is monitored accurately can keep injuries and illnesses of athletes to a minimum.
2. Variety & cross training
Measurements: activity/exercise type completed (eg. upper body strength, run, kayak, circuit HITT), length of time spent on activity
An ideal training schedule consists of a variety of exercise types/muscle groups spread out to allow for recovery and cross training. Pre-planning a training diary gives you the opportunity to ensure that you are hitting both the strength and cardio aspects of your training, along with allowing enough recovery before repeating similar workouts. An example of this could be, scheduling two short runs during the week, and a longer run on the weekend, broken up with strength sessions in the gym and one rest day.
This allows you to eliminate the stress of having to create an exercise plan on the fly, along with avoiding the burnout of going too hard at the start of the week and then having no reserve by then end. Also remember to be open to modifications if you begin to find that your plan isn’t working once you get started, it’s all about finding what works best for you!
3. Load monitoring
Measurements: weekly tracking of km’s covered in run/bike/swim/walk etc and time spent on each type of exercise. Changes in footwear, surface or hills vs flat etc.
Keeping track of how much training load (kms and time) you are exposed to can be an ideal tool for planning progressions, along with reducing risk of injury. Often it is spikes in load that lead to injury in the first place. For example, you are at a higher risk of injury if you return to the same training load you were doing before taking a two week holiday of lying on the beach.
This is further demonstrated in a study conducted by Piggot et al. (2008) where increases in load by more than 10% per week resulted in a significantly increased risk of injury of 21-49%. They recommended keeping increases in load between 5-10% which kept injury risk below 10%. Your training diary is a great way to monitor and modify your routine to minimise this risk.
Not to be overlooked is the change in load that occurs to your tissues and joints from variations of training surface, footwear, equipment or environment. For example, going from gravel running trails to road running will exert more resistance to landing, and may initially require a decrease in km’s to allow the body to acclimatise.
4. Pain monitoring
Measurements: area/s of pain, pain before/during/after exercise, description of symptoms felt, time of onset of symptoms and time taken for symptom resolution
This one applies most to those returning after injury. As previously discussed, the biggest predictor of injury risk is a change in load, and as the aim of our training is to increase both load and fitness, we need to ensure that we can build load safely. By monitoring the above pain symptoms you will be able to identify your body’s ability to handle training loads, and hence make a more educated decision as to whether you are ok to progress, or modifications need to be made.
If you are regularly experiencing pain at more than what you perceive to be a “manageable” level (more than 3-4/10), or pain that does not settle or is worsening, then this is a signal of overload. Be sure to follow up with the appropriate health professional.
5. Manage & limit fatigue
Measurements: fatigue on a scale of 1-10 recorded daily or prior exercise
Fatigue can be a huge obstacle for anyone trying to improve their fitness or building towards race day. Managing the work/life/training balance is an ongoing battle that everyone struggles with at some point. Keeping a training diary gives you a clear picture of how much time you are investing in physical activity, but can also be used to log the ever-important measure of fatigue!
The build up of fatigue can be slow and subtle. By recording your fatigue levels week to week and before training sessions, you are more likely to pick up on any downward trends and thus be able to modify training loads or give yourself extra recovery as needed.
I hope that this info and the above tips can help you in planning your own training diary and reaching your fitness goals!
Piggott, B. (2008). The relationship between training load and incidence of injury and illness over a pre-season at an Australian Football League Club. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/
Kristina is a Melbourne based physiotherapist who completed her training at Monash University in 2012 obtaining her Bachelor in Physiotherapy degree.
Since this time Kristina has worked in a variety of settings, initially working across private and public hospitals, before transitioning to private practice and sports physio. Kristina then took her physiotherapy work overseas where she worked at a number of physio clinics in ski resorts based in Japan and Austria, specialising in winter snow-sports injuries. Upon return to Australia she has also worked with Australian winter sports athletes at Mt Hotham ski resort.