When keeping a running log, a good old-fashioned paper journal is just fine for some people. You can also turn to the Internet to find information from other runners about their logs. This can give you ideas about how to arrange and track your own progress. If you want to keep a digital log, a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel can be useful. You can even purchase running software to use on your desktop, and many Web sites have online tools to help you track your data.
One detail that's important to log is how far you've run. Many runners make total distance the first entry in a running log. If you decide to become more competitive, even if it's just with yourself, you'll also want to track how much time you take to run that distance. Keep up with the date and time of day, so you can track where your fastest times fall. You may find that you're performing better in your morning runs than the evening ones.
Eventually, you'll probably mix up your routes, so it's smart to keep track of the terrain. This helps you put your running times in perspective, as it would take longer to run a hilly trail than a flat, paved road. Weather can also be a big performance factor, so note things like humidity and temperature, or if the day was particularly windy or rainy. Recording any pain that you feel can help you learn to identify symptoms and patterns during runs that may help you prevent injuries. If you find that you hit the wall at a certain point or that hills can aggravate your shins, it's good to document that, as well. General comments about how you felt that day -- physically or emotionally -- are good to log, too. For example, if you had a cold and that affected your performance, write it down.
Over time, your running log will help you see patterns in your training progress, and you'll be able to analyze these to improve your performance. You should always try to look at the big picture rather than obsessing about individual runs. You may find that certain routes and weather conditions help you run farther and faster, while others increase your effort or add time to your run. These details will help you tweak your workouts, so you can get to work on the areas that need it.
Check out the next page for lots more information about keeping a running log.