Write It Down – Why You Should Keep a Health Calendar

DailyMile, and yet I don’t use it. I know there are apps for tracking everything from calories to steps; but I’m not a fan of measuring every gram of fat, protein and carbs I eat. And I’m too lazy and/or forgetful to write down all the miles. The background…. Recently, in the middle of another dreaded speed workout, my friend Jen asked me if my speed had improved over time. I had to admit I didn’t really know; because depending on the type of workout, I might not even run with my Garmin. For example, if I run 60s on/off or even hill workouts, I only measure time, not distance. But she got me thinking. My average pace on longer runs is clearly (and sadly!) not improving, but am I actually getting faster on shorter runs? The motivation…. I was curious (and no man with a yellow hat is watching over me). To get motivated, I didn’t use my iPhone or even a spreadsheet on my PC. Instead, I opted for good ‘ole pen and paper. I figured compliance would likely be higher if I kept it simple. I also wrote down my workouts immediately after I got home, or else I would forget my times on the various splits (e.g., 800s). The results (thus far)…. What I’m finding, by tracking all these speed workouts, is that I actually am improving. And while this is rewarding, it’s the motivation factor that is more noteworthy. By trying to “beat out” last week’s performance, I’m forcing myself to improve. Time for tracking…. When I interviewed Mike Shuman a while back about marathon training, he recommended recording details like how I felt, what I’d eaten and even how many hours I’d slept. All these play into performance and recovery. And by capturing all these details over a specified time period, it may be possible to detect correlations, like why I felt good when. Sure, it’s gratifying to improve and perform better, but wouldn’t it be monumental if we felt better while we were doing it?  Life is too short to be miserable while we’re running, biking or climbing that elliptical machine. Not to mention, feeling good helps develop a healthy routine that lasts. The challenge…. So my challenge is for you to track these details for a month. I’ve even created a Weekly Health Calendar for you to print out and use. (Of course you are welcome to use something more technologically advanced if you prefer). This is not meant to be an exercise in counting calories and losing weight. (See below for instructions). But instead, it’s meant to gauge how you feel.  And how diet, exercise and even sleep play into your overall physical, emotional and mental health. Let me know how it goes. I’m taking the challenge, too, and excited to see what I learn. Directions for Calendar: When tracking meals and snacks, it’s not necessary to include cups and pounds and/or grams of carbs, protein and fat. Rather, keep the description simple. For example, stir-fried beef with asparagus and rice. Or salmon filet with potatoes and broccoli. Descriptors might be: ate out, meal was rich, I ate too much, etc. Make sure you pick the appropriate face that says how you feel. Under “Other factors” in your workouts, it might be nice to include the weather, what time of day you ran, etc. Lastly, Misc. Comments for the day might be things like stressful day at the office, stuck on a plane all day, the sunshine brightened my mood.

Melinda Hinson