Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Wed, 21 Jun 2000 10:00:20 -0400

Personal Records

On tax day I made a happier filing. An article went into the mail to a magazine called Personal Journaling, where I'd been asked to write about why and how to keep an "exercise journal." That piece grew from a shorter one in my next book, Running 101. Here's the condensed version from one who has written even more days than he has run:

You can be your own biographer. You don't need to be a talented writer to profit from a diary, don't need to spend more than a minute a day writing in it and don't even have to write many, if any, words.

Numbers alone tell stories as they recall old training sessions and suggest new possibilities. That process begins with three guidelines.


1. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Limit the amount of information to a few essentials that can be listed briefly, quickly, and in accessible form for review. The harder it is to keep a diary, the less likely you are to use it.

You don't need a preprinted training diary. A calendar with large blocks of space will do nicely as long as it is tacked to your bedroom or office wall, but it won't travel or store well.

A notebook works best for this purpose. Fill it at the rate of one or two or a few lines a day.


2. KEEP IT UP. Analyze the accumulating data over extended periods of time to judge your results. Review at the end of each week, month and year. The longer you maintain the diary, the clearer become your patterns of response to the running -- and the clearer your thinking about it.

Days of training leave behind what appear to be random footsteps in the diary, and you can't take much direction from them at first. But the weeks, months and years form a trail that points two ways. It shows where you have been and where you might go next.


3. KEEP IT. Store your records in a safe place, treating them as the precious volumes they will become in time. Their value grows along with their age and bulk.

The ultimate value of a diary is as a personal library of dreams and memories. You can open it to any old page and bring a day back to life.

You can call up a mental videotape and, from a few statistics on the page, recreate all you did and felt that day. These recordings give substance and permanence to efforts that otherwise would be as temporary as the moment and to experiences that would be as invisible as footprints on the pavement.

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