On training logs, and a 2010 retrospective

by Evan Morrison. 16 February 2011.

Among swimmers, runners, cyclists, weightlifters - really, any athlete in a quantifiable sport - it’s common practice to keep a training log. In high school and college, I kept a log only sporadically - and I really regret it now. I’d love to look back on some of the sets I did in those days.

Since I got back into swimming a year and a half ago, I’ve been much more conscientious about keeping a log, and I think it’s really helped - motivating me to get to practice, and helping me gauge progress. I split my training log between two documents: a text file where I write what I did in each workout (sets, intervals, times, etc.), and a spreadsheet where I log the total distance I swim each day. In two adjacent columns of the spreadsheet, I also keep a 7-day running total (how much I’ve swum in the past week), and an average of the previous four 7-day totals (i.e., 4-week moving average).

I like the 7-day running total for its straightforwardness - “What have I done in the past week?” But I think the 4-week average is actually a better indicator of my fitness level at any given point.

Out of idle curiosity, I decided to revisit last year’s log. Here’s a chart showing the running 7-day totals (blue line) and the 4-week moving average (red line) between mid-August 2009 and late-October 2010 (from the end of the 2009 O.W. season to the end of the 2010 O.W. season). The Y-axis is in meters, and I added some annotations to show the timing of various races and other life milestones. (Click the chart to enlarge.)

I’m actually surprised how well I ended up doing last year, given that I averaged only 19,000 meters/week. Obviously, at some point increased training has diminishing returns. But I have a feeling I’m still on the “steep” part of that slope.

Moreover, I never actually did a “real” taper last year. The most I gave myself was a 5-day “drop rest” for Big Shoulders - but even that barely shows up on the 4-week average. A “real” taper would show up clearly on the red line.

Related Articles

Posted in: training Tags: data


On 2011-02-17 09:00:21, Sully said:
It's a little scary to think what a healthy, tapered Evan could do on 35K/week. Just out of curiosity, do you have a benchmark set you do weekly/monthly. It would be interesting to see a monthly 500 Free TT (or the like), plotted on the same graph.

On 2011-02-17 09:10:25, Evan said:
I don't have a baseline set or regular TT, but I probably should. One interesting data point, however, is that great set I had in late September (before the Tennessee swim) when I averaged ~5:00 on a set of 400's LCM. That set was within 3 days of that spike up to 40K on the blue line.

On 2011-02-17 09:41:11, Katie said:
What do you use for keeping your log? I scribble notes on a calendar in the car and then type my yardage into a spreadsheet at the end of the month. I'd be happy for suggestions on a better way to do it.

On 2011-02-17 09:58:31, Evan said:
Katie, thanks for your comment! I use Google Docs for both the text file and spreadsheet because I can access them from any computer. I try to at least type up the workout (along with my times on any fast stuff) as soon as I can get to computer, because it doesn't stay in my memory for more than a few hours. Both groups I work out with provide a paper copy of the workout for each lane, so sometimes I'll take that home. Then I update the spreadsheet on the weekend. Another good option is the USMS Go the Distance program, which has the advantage of being able to compare yourself with other people (almost 2,000 right now).

On 2011-02-18 08:03:50, Sully said:
Nice. This is a great idea. I know you suggested this to me before, but seeing the output puts it in great perspective. I went back and started my own spreadsheets.

On 2011-02-18 12:09:38, Evan said:
I think you'll be glad you did. There's an interesting psychological component to it, too. With one row for every day, regardless of whether you swim, you're motivated to go do something, if only to avoid having to put down a "zero."