I’m an optimist. I’ll turn 73 this year so I just ordered 17 more blank training journals – enough to last until I’m 90. I don’t know how many miles I rode last year. Or any year in the last decade. I use a training journal rather than an on-line program or a spreadsheet. The most relevant data for me aren’t numbers.
We’re each an experiment of one and a different way of recording your exercise may work better for you. Here are 8 benefits of recording your training in some fashion.
The great Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t set goals, you’ll never reach them. Or like they say in golf, if you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Your goal(s) don’t have to be big stretch goals. A journal or log is an effective tool to help you to reach your goals.
I wrote this column on Setting Goals as You Grow Older
My goals are simple:
- Be active at least 10 hours a week, which includes cycling, hiking, kayaking, skiing, general strength training, tai chi, core strength and stretching as well as vigorous activities of daily living like shoveling snow and chopping wood.
- Do aerobic exercise most days of the week.
- Practice tai chi most days of the week, which is great for balance.
- Stretch at least four days a week.
- Do core strength exercises at least four days a week.
- Doing general strength training at least once a week. The number of days a week depends on the season.
- Do some form of weight-bearing activity most days of the week, which includes hiking, skiing and general strength training as well as carrying firewood.
These simple goals help me to meet the Exercise Recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine.
I wrote this column on Anti-Aging: The Full Body Workout
Your goals could be as simple as mine, which will help you to stay healthy, fit and active for many years. My eBooks Healthy Cycling Past 50 and Cycling Past 60 part 1: For Health provide more information.
2. Exercise properly to reach your goals.
Most of my new clients have either exercised too much or done the wrong kinds of exercise to meet their goals. Your optimal training is the exercises that will help you most effectively reach your goals, not just more miles. Analyze your goal(s) to identify all the factors that will lead to success. Not only logging miles but also including the right kinds(s) of intensity, appropriate strength training to complement the riding, dialing in your nutrition, increasing your sleep because it’s so important for recovery, etc. This column on Riding Smarter as You Age goes into detail on how to figure out and implement all the components that will help you improve.
Break down your goal(s) into the different success factors and smaller objectives. Write down the specific success factors and objectives. Then each week record how you did on all the different elements.
My eBook Your Best Season Ever, Part 1: How to Plan and Get the Most out of Your Traininghas examples of six different training plans to reach six different goals. You can use these examples to develop your own plan to reach your specific goal(s).
3. Track performance to learn what training is working
Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has plans until they get hit for the first time.” To train effectively you need feedback on what’s working and what isn’t working. To support your goals decide on a couple of benchmarks. Perhaps improving your time on a specific ride. Or improving your flexibility so you can sit on the floor and reach your toes. Or lose five pounds. As you record your activities ask yourself if you’re improving. Look at your prior workouts to learn what’s contributing to the improvement. Could you do more of this? If you’re not improving, should you do more? Do less? Do something different?
4. Assess need for recovery
Look at your weekly exercise pattern. How many days a week are you exercising? How many hard days a week? How many recovery days? If you aren’t improving you may need more recovery not more miles or other exercise(s).
I wrote this column on Importance of Recovery in your 50s, 60s and Beyond: 9 Tips on Cycling Recovery.
My eBook Optimal Recovery for Improved Performance explains in detail the different kinds of recovery that are important and gives you 10 different recovery techniques including how to give yourself a massage.
5. Look out for potential overtraining
In addition to the hard data, most days note how you feel. Declining performance and mood changes are the two key indicators of overtraining. We all have off days, but if you consistently aren’t riding as well or don’t want to riding for multiple days look back in your training log. Are you getting enough recovery? Are you doing too much of a specific type of training?
I wrote this column on 12 Tips to Avoid Overtraining
6. Appropriate ramping up.
Doing too much too fast is one of the most common mistakes, which may result in injury or overtraining. Three rules of thumb:
- Week to week increase weekly volume by 5-15%.
- Month to month increase monthly volume by 10-25%.
- Year to year increase annual volume by 10-25%
By recording your information in your log you can determine how much you should do this week, this month and this year.
I wrote these columns on
- 12 Mistakes Endurance Riders Make
- 10 Common Cycling Mistakes to Avoid
- Anti-Aging: 8 Exercise Mistakes Older Riders Make
- More on 8 Exercise Mistakes Older Riders Make
About 40% of my coaching is providing the daily and weekly structure of workouts, about 40% is accountability and only 20% is the content of the specific workouts. I hold my clients accountable to follow the structure of workouts I give them. Your training log can help motivate you. You’re more likely to follow your planned program if you create a plan each week and then have to record what you actually did each week.
I wrote this column on Anti-Aging: How to Get and Stay Motivated
Last spring friends and I were planning a camping trip near the Colorado National Monument. I thought about taking my friends on the classic ride through the monument looking at rock formations, flora and fauna. I remembered doing the ride in 2014 for my 65th birthday. I opened my journal for that year and found the entry on the Colorado National Monument. I rode 40.6 miles with 3,420 ft. of climbing in 3:41. I’d noted, “2,000 ft. climb to rim was tough.” And “great ride but I was beat.” This year I hadn’t done any riding nearly as challenging yet and my friends weren’t quite as fit as me. From my historical info I decided to find a different ride.
Coach Hughes training journals
I have training journals starting in 1975.
In 1978 I settled on a standing format: a ruled book with two pages for each week. I changed the information I logged and then referred to changed as my goals changed. In 1979 I recorded my training for Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP), my first 1200K. In 1987 I decided to train for PBP again. I looked at my 1979 log, continued what had worked and changed what hadn’t worked.
In 1989 I set a course record on the Furnace Creek 508 riding 508 miles with 30,000 feet of climbing in 30 hours 54 minutes.
In 1992 I decided to try to finish first in the 1200 km (750 miles) Boston-Montreal-Boston (BMB). I had my data from the two PBPs so I knew how to train to finish a 1200K. I had my data from the 508 so I knew how to train to win. I set a course record for BMB. I covered the course with 35,000 feet of climbing in 52 hours 35 minutes. BMB was close to the perfect ride and for subsequent events I looked back at how I trained and how I recovered.
My goal now is lifelong fitness and I record the relevant information related to my seven goals at the beginning of this column. The photo shows my log for the week of December 13 – 19.
Each day I wrote down what I did and then totaled up the week:
- 1:05 riding (1day)
- 5:20 skiing (4 days)
- 1:30 of heavy chores (1d)
- 0:25 tai chi (2d)
- 0:30 core and stretching (2d)
- 1:00 upper body strength training (2d)
- 9:50 total
I use hours as the metric so I can total all the different activities I do.
I basically met my goals of 10 hours of exercise, aerobic exercise most days and a couple of days of upper body strength training. But I’d skied five days, ridden one day and needed a day off to recover. Great fun but I didn’t have any energy to do leg strength one day, I’d only practiced tai chi two days, only stretched two days and only done my core exercises two days. I knew what to change when I resumed exercising after the holidays. When I do core, I log the number of reps for each exercise. Improvement results from doing a little more every week or so and the core information shows me what I need to do to improve.
I also log my strength training exercises in my journal so I know what to do to improve. This is my strength training log for three days.
This year I want to become a better cross-country skier. This November I reviewed the 2020-21 season. Last year I skied 90 days, mostly 60 – 90 minute endurance skis. I was coming back from foot surgery and the number of days was a way of showing I’d recovered.
This year instead of trying for as many days as possible I’ll train more specifically. This fall I did leg strength exercises. After I’ve built my skiing-specific endurance base, once or twice a week I’ll do a power workout on a hilly course. I’ll include days focusing on technique. I’ll enjoy progressively longer skis. Because of the added intensity and increased volume I’ll take more days off. I’ll keep reviewing my journal for signs that I’m overdoing it.
Make it useful
As I wrote at the beginning we’re each an experiment of one. With the start of the year think about your goals, what kinds of information you need to help you reach those goals and how to record that information. Keep it simple. You’re more likely to record the information if you only try to log what’s relevant.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.