Write Things Down To Improve Running Performance

In the past, I have blogged before about the importance of writing things down.

While training for the Boston Marathon this winter, however, this exercise has proved especially beneficial.


I have been training for a while for Boston for a while. After completing the City of Trees marathon last fall, I maintained a consistent fitness level of 13-milers every other week. In December, I started picking up my mileage and officially training for the marathon. I am posting my training schedule each week as I train, in case you are interested.

The first setback:

I experienced my first setback in February, when I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my left foot, likely caused from tennis. Using orthotics, cutting back on tennis and integrating cross-training, the doctors recommended I keep running. Fortunately, this strategy has worked.

I was consistently carrying out my long and shorter ones in the Boise hills, often climbing as much as 1600 vertical feet in a single outing. I noticed, by writing down my distances and times, that by my first 18-miler, I was exhausted. Immediately after clocking some of my fastest (:800) interval workouts and tempo runs, suddenly, I was posting my slowest times to date – and feeling really horrible while doing it.

Rather than plowing through the pain, I decided to let up on the mileage for a couple of weeks. I skipped a speed workout and even avoided the hills (as much as possible, anyway). Then 1½ weeks ago, I ran my 20-miler and felt great. Or at least as great as a 20-mile run can feel. I am convinced that scaling back made a big difference in my overall energy level. And this all came about by tracking mileage, times and other factors.

The advantages of writing things down:

After you have completed your workout, write down the details. Though distance and pace are a good place to start, it’s also beneficial to include how you felt, what you ate, how much you slept the night before and any other factors which might have influenced your overall performance. Details like these are immensely helpful in determining what it takes to feel good while you’re running. The better you feel, the easier it is to run a marathon or even a mile. You can use a blank spiral notebook, create worksheets to print out, or track via websites like the Daily Mile. Whatever works best and easiest for your habits and lifestyle is the way to go. Below details the key advantages in writing it down:

1. Find your energy food. By writing down what you eat the day or morning before a run, you can track what foods give you the most energy. And then eat more of the same! Another benefit of writing down what you eat and drink is to think twice about your diet. Why waste unnecessary calories when you could be filling the tank with fuel to boost your runs?

2. Track your progress. Tracking your progress in speed or mileage is tremendous inspiration to keep at it! As you note improvements in your pace for long runs or speed workouts, you’ll get well-needed encouragement to keep logging those miles.

3. Take note of the little things. By tracking miscellaneous factors like water consumption, sleep, alcohol and stress, you’ll see how little things can make a difference when it comes to running performance and recovery. Not to mention, these same factors may be advantageous to track when you’re not training for a marathon. Why not feel better all the time?

4. Stay alert to fatigue. As I described above, if you start to notice unexpected and unexplained declines in performance, such as slower speed workouts or a decreasing average pace/mile on longer runs, you may be overtraining. Try taking a few days off, cutting back on the miles or flattening out the runs, as a little rest now may have major dividends down the road. And it may reduce your risk of injury as well.

Click here for a Weekly Health Calendar that I created.

Melinda Hinson