Has your child ever had a great result in a race, whether it be cross-country, swimming, or cycling, and then wondered, specifically, what he had done to turn in such a good time because he wanted to replicate his performance in the future? Or conversely, has he had an awful performance and then desperately tried to retrace his steps to figure out why? Keeping a training journal can help answer both questions.
A training journal in which an athlete keeps a running log of training activities doesn't have to be fancy: a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, computer calendar, or spiral notebook (my personal favorite) will work just fine.
What to include
Considering how much I love to write, one would think that I would have made elaborate journal entries, but I kept mine pretty simple. Every time I tried to make more detailed entries, it only lasted a few days and then I was back to simple notes.
Your child doesn't need to write in complete sentences, but he will want to write enough so that it makes sense when he reads entries a few months later. I found it helpful to always enter the information in the same order; that way when I went back and looked at my training it was easy to scan through and find the information I needed.
At my absolute laziest, I just printed off a calendar and wrote down what I did on each day of the calendar. I failed to capture a lot of important information, but at least I knew what workouts I had done and when.
At a minimum I recommend that journal entries include:
- The date
- The time of day the workout was done (i.e. morning, afternoon or evening)
- The type of workout, including specifics on length, intensity, and specific exercises done or skills practiced.
Other things your child could include:
- amount of sleep
- other daily activities
- food and supplement intake
- general health
- mental state
- weather and
- workout specifics, such as lap times (I found it extremely helpful to record my lap times from my track workouts. It helped me monitor my progress).
Your child will get out of his journal what he puts into it. I was
always amazed how quickly I forgot what day I did which workout and how I
felt. Getting in the habit of recording his training every day will
help him get an accurate picture of the work he did and when he did it.
If he waits and tries to write down the whole week at once he is likely
to miss some important details.
Sample journal entry for a cyclist
a.m. Track workout on the velodrome.
15 minute warm up. 5 x 2 kilometer efforts.
Practiced 3 standing starts.
Really, really windy. Felt okay.
(List of lap times for all 5 efforts.)
p.m. 2 hour road ride, easy.
Cold and rainy.
Tired, only got 6 hours of sleep last night.
Legs achy. Stressed out - big test tomorrow in English.
Breakfast: eggs, toast and banana. Snack: energy bar Lunch: meat sandwich, yogurt and orange Snack: Protein drink Dinner: Chicken and pasta. Steamed broccoli and cauliflower.
Vitamins-multi, C, D, fish oil
a.m. 1 hour easy road ride.
1/2 hour nap.
Good mood. Test went well.
Breakfast: yogurt and waffles Snack: apple. Lunch: PB&J, chips Snack: Protein drink. Dinner: tacos and refried beans, milk
Vitamins- multi, C, D, fish oil
The biggest benefit of a training journal is that it allows an athlete to identify patterns in his successes and failures. He will be able to go back and determine which training and habits give him the best results. His journal can help him look back at the volume and intensity of his workouts and determine, in hindsight, if he trained too much or too little. He can also learn how much rest is best for him. For example, did he benefit more from three hard training followed by a rest day, or four hard days before he rested? He may notice he feels best with a certain amount of sleep, or after following a particular stretching and massage ritual.
After looking back at my journal entries my coach and I realized that I raced best in my events on the velodrome when I put in a really hard, long road racing block just a few weeks prior to my track event. By the end of my career we had dialed in exactly how much time I needed back on the velodrome after my road racing to be at my best for a race.
Another benefit of keeping a training journal is that your child will have a record of what he has done before to show a new coach. The coach can use the journal as a starting point for developing a new training program.
Lastly, it's a huge confidence boost for your child when he looks back over months and months of training and sees how hard he has worked. He will be able to see his progress and growth, but, more importantly, see all the hours he's banked that he can now cash in for his competition.
Encourage your child to start a training journal so that he can learn more about his ideal training and maybe even a little something new about himself.
Erin Mirabella is a two-time Olympic track cyclist, mother, and children's book author. The first two books in her series, Barnsville Sports Squad, Shawn Sheep The Soccer Star and Gracie Goat's Big Bike Raceare available online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com, velogear.com, at the Olympic Training Centers and select stores. For more information visit www.erinmirabella.com.