'Training diary', to some young athletes those two words are worse than the worst teenage swear words you can think of. Who wants to write everything down, what is the point? Training is going well, you are doing ok in competition, what difference will it make to go all touchy feely and write a diary? Waste of time.....right?
Wrong! Your training diary is a vital piece of kit. It is an essential weapon in the armoury of that rare creature – the high performance athlete.
So, what is all the fuss about? How can it help an athlete to improve performance – go faster, get stronger, become more skilful and be the best they can be?
It doesn't matter how talented you are as an athlete, if you can't maintain good health, you are not going to get very far on a performance pathway. Keeping track of your health by noting down a few key markers each day can teach you:-
a) What shape you are in today
b) How you react in certain situations
c) How to avoid illness
d) Patterns that link to performance levels
So what sort of things should you be monitoring? A few simple basics will give you a good idea of your wellbeing, and help you to stay in good shape and avoid illness.
Weight – fluctuations in weight of more than 1kg can be an indication of something awry. Unplanned weight loss can be linked to illness or stress or just not eating enough!
Resting Heart Rate – a stable resting heart rate is a good indicator of well being. If your resting heart rate jumps by more than 10 beats, you may well be coming down with something. It will gradually decline as you get fitter through training, but only by a few beats over a year.
Hydration – download a pee chart off the internet and monitor your morning pee colour. Poor hydration will put your body under stress and make you more susceptible to illness.
Readiness to Train – Are you ready to go? Do you feel pumped and excited about the day ahead, or tired and reluctant to get up and go? All teenagers will have difficulty getting out of bed, but is it harder than usual? Then it may be a sign of coming down with something. Record your score as a percentage or out of 10.
You could record all this important data each day by writing down 6 digits – that's all. Here's an example:-
Cycle of Competition
In order to use your well-being data effectively, you need to note in your diary what is going on in your life. We don't have to get into a 'Dear Diary' scenario here, but just a record of what happened that day - Did you have something important on at school? Were you travelling to a competition? Was there a family crisis? A couple of words will do it, just to get a picture of how the cycle of your month/ term/ year/ olympiad went.
And it doesn't even have to be in a physical diary, it can be recorded on a smart phone or on your laptop. That way you can also build graphs of your wellbeing over months and years which will show you a pattern of how you have reacted to the variables of your competition and school schedule. Such as:-
Heavy training load
If you understand how you react to things, you can put in place strategies to cope with the things that stress you as an individual and affect your well being. If you know that you often get ill in exams, you can plan ahead and make sure you look after yourself really carefully, eat well, stay hydrated and get enough sleep. Once you have a bit more control over staying in good shape, you become a better athlete.
Writing a sentence or two about what you did in training, or what you worked on, or what worked really well today is a useful tool in monitoring what it was that made you go faster/slower or play better/worse.
Making gains as an athlete doesn't happen overnight, it's a long process. But if you suddenly find that your performance has moved on, it's important to be able to look back and identify what has caused that improvement. You can look back at the training programme, but much better to jot down what YOU actually did, rather than checking what you were supposed to do – as a coach I know all to well that those two things are not always the same.
So, if someone told you that you could significantly improve your sporting performance, without doing any more training, wouldn't you jump at the chance?
Well you can, keep a training diary.