Keep a Journal

You put in lots of hours on your bike, travel hours to races, spend tons of money on equipment, but you don't know how to get better. There are lots of things that you could try, but how do you know what you should do?

First, do you know what you have done with your training and racing? Can you recall your workouts from last week? What about last month...or even last year? What!? You have no clue what you did last month? Every cyclist should have a training log.

If you are serious at all about bicycle racing, a big part of improving is being able to measure what you have done, review your progress and efforts, and use that information to plan your future training. There is only one way to do this, and that is to use some sort of training log.

They go by lots of names—log, diary, journal—and they can contain a wide variety of information. Some are electronic and provide totals, averages, graphs, charts, and more. Others are simple paper templates and you just fill in the blanks. The format is really not important—filling it out consistently is and making sure you capture some of the day-to-day notes that will make it useful to you in the future. Even if you have a cycling computer that allows you to download your data to your computer, you need to make some notes on each session so it makes sense when you look back it in the future (race or training; feeling good or bad; hilly or flat; fatigued or fresh; hot or cold; etc.).

Pick the format you like: paper or electronic. Then be honest with yourself about how up-tight, detailed, and regimented you are: lots of detail or just the basics. Do you need to be able to share it easily with a coach? Using format, level of detail, and whether you need to share it easily, you will be able to easily evaluate the options.

Next find some various logs and check out their features. Here are a few to get you started:
At a minimum, a log should have space for daily entries including time/distance of exercise and some notes, plus an area to indicate your goals, results, or notes for long-term reference.

A comprehensive log (for those of you interested in lots of detail), may include space for
  • Hours of sleep
  • Resting/waking heart rate
  • Weight
  • Stress score (training and/or general)
  • Food/diet
  • Time
  • Distance
  • Average/max speed
  • Average/max watts
  • Average/max heart rate
  • Kilojoules/Calories
  • Weather conditions
  • Route
  • Clothing worn
  • Equipment used
  • Time in training zones
  • Perceived effort score
  • Sickness/injury score
  • Daily rating (feeling of how workout went)
  • Notes
  • Goals (season, monthly, weekly, race)
  • Race results
  • Fitness assessments
  • Equipment history
  • Bike & position measurements (including date)
Whether your log is simple or extensive, be consistent and descriptive with your entries. Make sure to note race results, how you felt on each day, any changes you made from your routine or new things you tried. These are all helpful details weeks, months, and years later when you go back in your log to identify a pattern, recall specific information, or to share with a coach.

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