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The importance of training diaries


In the first instalment of his regular training column, Alex Wise goes back to basics and looks at the importance of training diaries. Training is scientific, at least it should be. Building towards goals, recovering from illness or injury should be worked out in a logical and methodical way. One of the key parts of science is the ability for things to be repeatable. This is where your training diary comes in handy and why every rider should have a diary.

We are not talking about a pink fluffy diary with which you share your deepest secrets you can keep that one separate. This diary is where you note significant details of your training. So what do you put into a training diary? My current training diary is on an Excel spreadsheet, but you don’t have to use a computer as long as you log some important factors:

  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR): As long as you take your resting heart rate in the same way every day it doesn’t matter what tool you use. The importance here is on repeatable and comparable data.
  • Stress levels: It is funny that I should add something that is so subjective; stress is not easy to scientifically verify, but if you use a scale time after time, your score will become an accurate representation of you. That is all that matters; what your stress level 4 is compared to John Smith’s from number 92’s stress level 4, is quite irrelevant.
  • Your rate of perceived exertion (RPE): Again the scale you use can be personal to you and your coach, but noting down how hard you felt a session was is important. Straight away as you walk through your front door after your session pick a number for that session (normally between 6 and 20) and use that number. As you do more sessions and use RPE more the number will become more and more accurate.
  • Your sleep level: Again just as above, subjective to you. But you want to log your actual sleep level, deep sleep, restless, no sleep at all.

All four of these are important because they can indicate your fitness levels, your body might not show outward signs of a cold or overtraining but these four will show it up first. They will also help to show you when you can return to full training after injury or illness.

This next one might seem obvious but when I look back at my old training diaries of 2005 and 2004 it clearly can be missed off:

  • You need to note down the training set. What did you or your coach give you to do? Then what did you actually do? For instance due to inclement weather you may have had to cut your 4-hour ride in half.
  • Lastly how you felt on your training and any bits that need noting down: I used to note down things like: Life events, weather, gearing for track races, how things felt and points that I need to learn from.

By writing or typing this down in a diary you can see how your body is reacting and adapting to your training. If you have a particularly good part of your season, you can look at how your training built up to that point and visa versa, if you find yourself in a slump you and your coach can look back and try and unpick what might be going wrong.

By writing down learning points from your races or training sessions you are re-enforcing your learning. This gives you the opportunity to then improve not just physically from your training but also mentally.

I will expand on what you can learn from RHR, stress levels, sleep and RPE in later blogs. Until next time, start logging your data, and if you already do keep up the great work. 


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