I love the Yogi Berra quote, "You can observe a lot just by watching." Although humorous, there’s a lot of truth to Yogi’s statement. Problem with running is that it’s hard to watch yourself. Which reminds me of something Thoreau said, “It is as hard to see one’s self as to look backward without turning around.” You can learn from watching others, but it’s pretty dang hard to watch yourself without tripping and causing bodily harm. And that ain’t good. So, if you’re having some issues with your running, what are you to do?
Well, you can read lots of books and there are a ton out there, many with great information (just check out the Book Review section of the blog). But, while all that info is great, it still may not apply to you and your specific issues. You can visit a running coach like me and he/she can give you great info, but unless I’m with you running every day, I’m still only able to speak to you in generalities which reminds me of something Mark Twain said, “All generalization are false, including this one.” (I love that.)
So, read the books and check in with your running coach or sports doc. All that info will make you more informed and a better runner, but then take it a step further. You need to analyze yourself. Keeping a running journal is a great way to record your running habits. For years (before the dawn of laptops, PDAs, tablets, iPhones and apps) I religiously kept a running journal. I’d record my weekly mileage and jot down information about the weather, my mood, and so on. This was a great way for me to mentally reflect on my runs. The problem was that it was hard to track any trends in my running. Good or bad.
Fortunately, today there are tons of apps and websites out there that let your track all kinds of information about your daily running. I use many of them myself. The only thing I’ve found lacking in them is they’re still not catered to me. Any running is all about me, right? LOL! Well, when it comes to figuring out why I’m having this ache or pain or that, it’s definitely all about me.
I’ve found that tracking my runs on a spreadsheet can be very helpful. Someone once said, “Half of analysis is anal.” There are no words more true. So, I’m not recommending that your speed hours tracking minute details of every run (unless you just like doing that), but if you’re having some issues and can’t seem to find the answers to resolve them, then sometimes taking a closer look at your running habits over a short period of time can really be enlightening.
Customize your spreadsheet by creating column headers for each type of run you do (trail, road, sidewalk, etc) as well as type of workout (easy, long, tempo, intervals, hillwork) and distance. Then add weather conditions, your various shoes, time of day (morning, midday, afternoon). Next, add more columns for other factors such as if you fueled pre- and post-run, stretched pre- and post-run. Then add columns for aches and pains (sore knees, sore ankles, sore hips, sore whatevers.) Finally add columns that rate the run (Jubilant, Great, Mediocre, Horrible, etc.). The rows down the first column (on the far left of your grid) are where you’ll record the date of each run.
Now you're ready to start recording your data. For a month, after each run scan across the columns and put a check mark in each column that applies to that specific run.
Here comes the fun part. The thrill of the sort! Spreadsheets are so wonderful because you can sort the data. Sort by the various column headers and see what trends appear. For example if you’re having issues with your knees, then do a sort by the “Sore Knee” column and only the runs in which you’ve checked “Sore Knees” will appear. Now you can scan the data and see what other data surfaces. You may see that every time you have sore knees, you’re also wearing that older pair of running shoes. Or, maybe it’s only on the days that you’re running on the sidewalk. Or maybe it’s the days you’re wearing the older shoes and running on the sidewalk. In either case, you can start to see certain trends and now you have something tangible to help you make modifications. This will quickly help you see patterns in your running that you can avoid or try to repeat.