Why Beginning Marathoners Should Use Training Logs

Track to Maintain Your Running Health 

Overuse injuries are one of the biggest issues that runners face, especially beginning runners. The problem is that most of us don't know there's an issue until it's too late. 

A training log can show you just how much running you've really done, and that objective mindset will help you make the right decision about logging those extra miles. Or, if you have been the unfortunate recipient of an injury in the past, you can review the log to see exactly what you did up to that point, and avoid it in the future.

Track For Learning 

One of the worst things a runner can do is make up their training plan. First-timers can be forgiven, as they have minimal experience, but there are free training plans out there. 

More experienced runners should base their next training cycle on what they've previously done in training, not on their race performance. It's relatively easy to say, after running a 4:15 marathon, that you want to break four hours next time. But while running more or running harder is an easy promise to make, your training log will show you just how hard your real training was—that is the data you want to make decisions from. 

Your Tracking Options 

Convinced yet? I hope you are. If so, here are a few different options for you, depending on your budget and technology preferences. If you have other suggestions, please put them in the comments below.

Hard Copy Version: The Journal

The best option of all, the hardcopy version of a training log will allow you to capture a lot of extra details. You can insert pictures and notes, use color, and much more. This is a great option for the first-timer, as so much of your early running is full of "firsts" and unique experiences that you'll want to capture for posterity.

The Pros: Super detailed and infinitely customizable.

The Cons: Won't do the math on your time and miles for you; not accessible unless you carry it around.

More: Defining Your Goal 

Digital Version: The Spreadsheet 

The first step up from a hard copy log is something very simple—a spreadsheet. I use a very basic template created in Microsoft Excel, where I can upload my data daily—you can download your personal copy of this same spreadsheet. 

I do this daily and then review the work either in weekly blocks (see the second tab in that spreadsheet) or by doing some more advanced chart views. You can learn more by registering to download this basic template and watching the instructional video.

The Pros: Easy number comparison and compilation, can be accessible if on the Web.

The Cons: Not visually exciting or dynamic, could be deleted or lost in computer crash.

Online Easy: Simple Websites 

If managing your own digital log doesn't sound that easy to you, then one of these online solutions might be the answer. They are simple and, more importantly, social. Tracking your data is easy and connects you with other folks who are doing the same thing.

Daily Mile: You can enter data, follow the math easily and share your progress with others.
Strava: Upload your training data to track performance, and compete with others in your area for top times in GPS-identified segments.

The Pros: Fun and easy to use.

The Cons: Lacks detailed log option for more notes.

Online Detailed: Extensive Websites 

If you are really into the data thing—you enjoy tracking everything, you read stock tickers for fun and count math as one of your favorite subjects—you might want to check into a more robust tracking option. There are a few offerings out there, but few compare with the industry leader, Training Peaks. Not only can you track workouts, but you can also view them via playback (GPS files), track food, and even purchase training plans.

The Pros: Online and very robust.

The Cons: Can scare the technophobe, does cost a monthly fee.

More: Active.com Trainer Beginning Marathon Training Plan

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