Training: Dear Diary ...

Keep a cycling log to chart your progress

No matter what your cycling objectives, keeping a diary of all of your riding data and your thoughts and experiences will always enhance your riding.

But if your cycling goals are new personal bests – be they faster time trials, quicker sportives or club races, then a training diary is what you need.

According to Joe Friel, author of The Cyclist’s Training Bible and The Cyclist’s Training Diary (VeloPress), “If you’re serious about performance you need a diary to give your training direction and purpose.”

Keeping such a record doesn’t have to be an onerous task, as there are really only two important elements to consider for any training diary: the log, which is a record of basic data, usually numbers such as distance, time, heart rate, calories eaten; and the journal, which is a subjective record of your thoughts and experiences from day-to-day riding.

“But the bare essentials are what you did and what it felt like,” Friel explains, re-emphasising the importance of recording your thoughts. “So often people downplay or dismiss the importance of how they actually feel, relying too much on feedback from gadgets.”

And remember not to lose sight of why you are recording all these thoughts and data: as a way of monitoring your progress towards your goals, and as a reference that can be checked back on in the future when trying to make sense of changes to how you feel or perform.

Day-to-day data

Vital stats: This section will help you monitor your body’s daily response to training loads. These scores should be filled in as soon as you wake up. Score each one on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being the best and 7 the worst. A sleepless night will score a 7, but even a wakeful 4 should be taken heed of. Several consecutive days scoring 4 or more may mean that you are overtraining and need to back off a bit.

Resting heart rate: Record this in bpm as ‘+’ or ‘-’ beats over or below your normal rate – worked out as your average over a well-rested week. Fluctuations in the short term are another warning sign that your body isn’t coping with the training load.

Weight: Again record this every morning as soon as you get out of bed. A 2lb loss or gain in less than two days is a sign that something is wrong.

Planned workout: Fill this out for each day at the beginning of each week so you can have a plan to stick to. According to Friel this can be as simple as endurance, hills, speed or power.

Weather, route, distance and time: The cold hard facts of how far you rode and how long it took are so much more useful when combined with the conditions on the day and the route you took. It’s good to have several set loops so that you can look for patterns.

HRM workout rating: If you’re training with a heart rate monitor you should set it up to record how long you spend in each of your five heart rate intensity zones for each workout.

Heart rate and power: If you’ve got the technology, recording your average heart rate and average power for each of your rides will show how you are getting on over time.

Rate yourself: Score your freshly finished ride on any scale that you fancy – be it marks out of 10, A to D or even gold stars.

Notes: This is the subjective part of your diary, and just as important as the cold hard data. How did you feel after? Are you sore? Who did you ride with, and did you manage to drop them this week? Also add any external factors that might influence your riding or mood, and log any changes here in bike setup or kit.

Nutrition: You can simply grade your day’s eating, or log your calorie intake if you’re counting, or even make note of whether you’ve managed your five a day.

Top Tips

  • Set your goals for the season. Whether it’s 100 miles in a day, losing a stone or a sub-20min 10-mile time trial, commit to it.
  • Work out your training objectives. How are you going to achieve your goals? For example a quick time trial needs more power – so can you climb your local big hill in a big gear? 
  • How many hours can you realistically fit into your life in a week, month and year? Work it out and record it.
  • Write your key dates into a calendar and prioritise them. That way you can periodise your season. It’s unrealistic and even unhealthy to try to maintain peak fitness all year long. Instead, according to Friel, identify either clumps of races or single events for which you want to peak.

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