Write in Your GoalsSet an intention for the week, the month and the season. Then tell a friend.
In an argument for the analog log, physically writing actively engages your brain, signaling "this is important." Putting into words exactly what you hope to achieve provides focus and accountability. People who write down goals accomplish significantly more than those who think of goals but don't write them down, according to a 2015 study by Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University of California. Bonus: Those in the study who told someone else about their goals and checked in for a weekly progress report boosted goal achievement from 43 percent to 76 percent. Go for ambitious goals but with a dose of realism: You'll set yourself up for failure if it's wildly out of reach (like qualifying for the Olympics if you're a 4-hour marathoner).
Read More: How to Set Running Goals This Year
Pay AttentionAs you write your story, keep reading it for the message.
The key to running well is consistency, and one of the best ways to ensure consistency is to track your progress. A tangible training log (or app) provides instant motivation--no one likes to see a bunch of zeroes piling up. Recording your mileage--or becoming, say, King of the Mountain on Strava--is a satisfying reward for your hard work, a mini dopamine hit of pride.
As the weeks and months pile up, review your notes to identify trends: Your log offers clues on how long it takes you to recover, what preceded aches or injuries, which workouts were hardest and which you enjoyed the most. You'll notice patterns: Spikes in your resting heart rate may indicate overtraining or an incipient cold. If you're working with a coach, an online training journal lets you and your coach consider intel together in real time.
Nail Your Race Goals
Boost your confidence with realistic expectations.
Second to actually doing your training, a running log is the most valuable tool on the way to nailing a race goal. With or without a coach or formal training plan, you can map out the weeks and months of sensibly ramping up distance and intensity, notice hiccups and manage your workouts as you go. As your race nears, you can identify peaks and valleys in your training and adjust your expectations accordingly.
Olympian Kara Goucher reviews her training log to boost pre-race positivity. "I get confidence from my workouts," she told Active.com. "I like to see a progression; I like to look back in my log book and see big workouts that I accomplished. I get confidence from my training more than anything else."
Read your log with clear eyes, and be honest with yourself. If you've nailed every workout, go for your goal. Bring the confidence of your hardest workout to the starting line. If life intervened and you missed the mark on a few intervals or weeks of peak training, use your notes to set a goal more in line with your current fitness. And keep the logs for reminders of what worked (and didn't), so you'll have a record of your running, as Jeff Galloway does, 40 years from now!