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Your 2011 Training Log in Review

by Meghan G. Loftus

Whether you run to stay fit or to compete for age-group laurels, you have a training tool you can use right now to improve next year: your log. Analyzing information you recorded—such as time, distance, weather, terrain, perceived effort, nutrition, results—can help you discover patterns in your running and racing. And if you don't take notes on your training, resolve to change that. "People who don't keep a log run the risk of making the same mistakes over and over," says Greg McMillan, M.S., an exercise physiologist and running coach in Flagstaff, Arizona. Here's how to interpret what you did—or didn't do—in 2011, to prepare for a fitter, faster New Year.

"Any time you're looking at mileage, you're just trying to see, did it affect my performance positively, and did it run any injury risk?" McMillan says. Compare your average mileage in 2011 to your average mileage in 2010, and how successful you were in each year relative to your goals. Did you run consistently throughout the year? Race well? Stay injury-free? Achieve what you wanted?

If you increased your mileage in 2011 and your performance dwindled, scale back in 2012, McMillan says. If you increased mileage in 2011 and had a successful year, you can continue at the same level or build on it. Lower-mileage runners can increase their yearly average by a greater percentage than higher-mileage runners.

To evaluate your performance in a race, look not only at how well you nailed (or missed) your time goals but also at the key workouts (speedwork, tempo runs, and long runs) you did during the six weeks leading up to the event, McMillan says. Variables like sleep, life stress, and nutrition also affect race success. Before you judge your training, however, you need to ask yourself whether your goals were realistic, says Janet Hamilton, M.S., an exercise physiologist and running coach in Atlanta. A three-percent improvement is about the maximum an experienced runner can expect from race to race under ideal conditions.

If you hit your 2011 goal times in key events, repeat the workouts that led you to success. If you failed to meet your goals, look closely at key workouts. "Some people may see those stressful days are too close together, or some people may say, 'I don't have enough of them,'" says McMillan.

If you raced in 2011, your log should reveal strategically placed high-and low-mileage weeks indicating a proper race build-up and recovery period relative to the events you competed in. Marathoners and half-marathoners should have built up as their target event drew near, while 5-K runners may have done their highest mileage in the base-building phase, McMillan says. Fitness runners, however, might not see any peaks and valleys.

If you're new to running or running simply to maintain fitness, it's fine to hit the same totals week after week, says Hamilton. Marathoners and half-marathoners should build mileage over 10 to 20 weeks to their target event. Injury-prone runners should schedule a step-back week every two to four weeks. All runners should dial down for two to six weeks between key events.

Look back eight to 10 weeks before the injury struck, and focus on changes in your training volume and intensity. "The two issues I usually see are ramping up mileage too quickly or not allowing enough time to recover from hard workouts," says John Martinez, M.D., a Kaiser Permanente sports-medicine physician in San Diego. Also look at your nonrunning activity. For example, did you jump into a new fitness class? "Runners want to be at the front of the pack," Hamilton says. "The fact that we've never done yoga before doesn't seem to enter our minds."

Even if you can't pinpoint the precise reason for your injury, says McMillan, "At least you know, 'I can't replicate what I did here.'" Avoid reinjury by scheduling a step-back week every three to six weeks in which you decrease mileage by 10 to 20 percent.

Year in Review

Never regret what you have done this year in terms of running. Take it as lesson learned. Strive to do better in 2012. Whatever happens, the bottomline of running must be FUN all the years ahead! Happy 2012, runners!

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