A Basic Training Log

posted Dec 26, 2011, 4:55 PM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Dec 30, 2011, 10:10 AM ]
There is a lot of software and publications that enable athletes to track their training information.  Over the years, I found that:
  1. Many athletes initially are too ambitious and attempt to capture a significant amount of data for each training session, only to have their logs fall out of date because they are too complex or time intensive to maintain on a regular basis.

  2. Even when data is collected, it seldom is reviewed with any regularity or consistency in approach; while there may be a lot of valuable information recorded, it is not used to assess performance and evaluate future schedules.
What I've suggested to many athletes over the years is that it's better to keep a simple, consistent record of their training in a format that is not burdensome to use.  What follows is a checklist of items that one might want to include in a simple daily training log.

Data Collection

Collect the following information in your training diary.  Use a spreadsheet’s graphing function to make it easier to see emerging patterns.  Items with an asterisk are optional.

1.    *Hours of Sleep

2.    *Waking Pulse

3.    *Body Weight (nb, record once per week, same day, same time)

4.    Type of workout session (eg, 5 minute big gear intervals; hill repeats, etc.)

5.    Time of session in minutes

6.    Average heart rate for session

7.    Training Stress Score: product of time of session and average heart rate (tss=time * avg hr)

8.    Perceived Effort (see graphic below)

9.    Brief notes/comments

10. *Advanced Training Stress Score: (for those looking for more granularity in their data)

atss=(time*avg hr*perceived exertion)/100

Perceived Exertion

Probably one of the most useful ways to gauge the intensity associated with a training session or race is to record one's perceived exertion, which is a relatively subjective assessment of how one felt during exercise.  Use the following modified Gunnar Borg Scale to record the intensity levels of your training sessions and races.  Over time, variances in evaluation will normalize to a personal standard that will remain consistent throughout the season, and from year-to-year.

10Maximal:  Almost impossible to continue; completely out of breath; unable to talk
8-9Extremely Strong: Very difficult to maintain exercise intensity; can barely breath and speak a single word
6-7Very Strong: On the verge of becoming uncomfortable; short of breath; can speak a sentence
5Strong: Heavy breathing; conversation punctuated by gasps
3-4Moderate: Moderately heavy breathing; can hold short conversation
2Light: Can exercise for hours; relatively easy to breath, can hold a conversation
1Very Light: Basic movement and activity

A Sample Log Entry (click image to enlarge)

What Do The Data Mean?

On December 15, I slept a total of 6.5 hours and my waking pulse was 36 BPM.  I monitor my waking pulse for variations--if there is a significant spike in my waking pulse, I assess whether I am on the onset of an illness or whether I might be fatigued.  If the spike continues for more than a couple of days, I may consider adjusting my training sessions, either decreasing their intensity or their overall duration to assist in recovery.  Similarly, I track body weight on a weekly basis to see if there are any emerging patterns that might necessitate attention.  Rapid weight loss is a potential flag for over-training, among other possible issues.

My Workout Session column contains my planned workouts.  In this example, my planned workout is to do three big gear, low cadence (~50-60 rpm) intervals, each of which is nine minutes in duration.  The Comments field confirms whether I completed my workout as planned, along with any additional notes.

The data fields contains the duration of my workout session in minutes (I generally round to the nearest five minute interval), my average heart rate for the session, and my perceived exertion.  TSS refers to the stress, or intensity of the session.  The simplest way to obtain this value is to multiple session time by average heart rate, which will provide a basic measure of exercise intensity over time.  I like a little more granularity in my training data, so I record an advanced training stress score (see item ten, above).  Advanced training stress is the product of session time, average heart rate, and perceived exertion.  In order to make this number more manageable, I divided this product by 100.

Acute and Chronic Training Stress
While factoring in perceived exertion into TRIMP calculations (whether the TRIMP calculations are based on HR values or wattage values) does a pretty good job in getting an accurate sense of the intensity of a specific training session, it only provides insight into a specific point in time.  Athletes tend to forget that the effect of training is cumulative, which can lead to exhaustion and over-training. 

There are two different types of training stresses that we need to consider: acute and chronic.  Think of acute training stress as the short-term impact of a training session.  For instance, we know from practical experience that we will be tired the day after an interval session, so we try to build in easier workouts between intense workouts to facilitate recovery.  Similarly, chronic training stress should be regarded as the cumulative effect that training has on use over an extended period of time.  For instance, most good training programs will be based on a pattern of relatively intense of training cycles that might extend over a period of a month or two, followed by one to two weeks of light activity, again to facilitate recovery.


Putting It All Together
Successful coaches and athletes consider the following variables when developing and updating weekly, monthly, and annual training plans:

  • The duration of training sessions
  • The physiological stresses of training sessions
  • The short-term (seven day rolling average) acute physiological stresses of a training program
  • The long-term (say, forty day rolling average) chronic physiological stresses of a training program


For multisport athletes, it is critical that metrics are used to do like-kind assessment within specific sport sessions, as well as metrics that can assess the overall impact of multiple sport training session.  What is important to keep in mind is that whatever method being used to calculate session stress  should be considered over short and long-term horizons and that individual session scores have value only when taken in aggregate.   The easiest way to see emerging patterns is to graph acute and chronic training stress over time:

The chart above tracks both my acute (blue) and chronic (red) training stress for the months of November and December, 2011  Note the significant variations in intensity as signified by the peaks and valleys described by the blue line; this line is marking a pattern of intense workouts, followed by recovery sessions, on a weekly basis. 

What is more informative is the pattern described by the red—the chronic—line in that accumulated training stress has been gradually increasing since the beginning of November.  Based on my annual plan, I would anticipate that the red/chronic line will continue to rise for the months of January and February, after which I have scheduled two weeks of easy to moderate training to prepare for my next macrocycle.  As I accumulate more data as the season progresses, the peaks and valleys of these initial curves will flatten, making it even easier to track long-term trends.


A good coach will help you collect and interpret data associated with your training sessions.  It is not enough to gather lots of information; it is important to both collect data that will be useful, and carefully analyze the data on a regular basis within the context of your short and long-term goals.