The Importance of Keeping a Training Journal

My stepson looked at me the other day with his wide eyes and big smile and told me that he had a crazy scary thought run through his head. “What’s that?” I inquired.

“In three months we will be swimming the San Francisco Bay, and that, that is crazy!  We need to start training.”  I assured him that it is farther away then three months; the swim is still 20 weeks away. But yes, he is right about the need to get more serious. It is time to start journaling our training.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend on the how he has completely changed his physique and overall fitness level.  He attributes his metamorphosis to the fact that he has always kept a training journal. He told me that he has a stack of seven notebooks at home, one for each year of his journey to better fitness.  His notebooks contain all of his training information and comments regarding his workouts.  He loves looking back and marveling at how far he has come. I told him how I use TrainingPeaks.com.  I love this online program!  When I am in training mode, I enter all of my workouts and food intake.  The program then charts and graphs my progress.  I love numbers and the visual representations that Training Peaks puts to my progress keeps me going.  I do admit that I can get a little obsessive at times with it. There is a mobile app as well, so all of my information is easily accessible on my phone. Dangerous.

One day I was gushing to my daughter, Nicole, all about the my graphs on Training Peaks and how it is so cool to watch the bars get higher each week as I either traveled farther or put in more time.  She was surprised that I was using Training Peaks.  She knew the program because her triathlon coach in Boulder Colorado was one of the principles of this company.  That was one of those small world moments 🙂

I also love to use my Strave app for when I am riding my bike. This neat little app on my phone measures my distance, speed, and elevation climbed over the course of my bike ride. And again, this makes it easy to chart my progress. On one hand all of this data keeps me honest. The weeks were I put less time into my training stay forever visually on my charts. On the other hand, for me right now – coming off a long term injury, I can look at my past progress and know that if I did it then, I can get back to that now.

For me, keeping track of my progress is motivating. Looking back over the years I have come a long way. When I first started adding physical activity  into my life, I could not run to the end of my street corner. Last summer I completed my second half-iron man.  And looking forward, next September I am swimming Alcatraz.

My first ever open water swim practice on a very cold winter day at Redwood Shores.

As I have said, my stepson, Dominick, and my husband, Gavin and I are all signed up to swim the San Francisco Bay next September. With just under 20 weeks until swim day, it is time to make sure we have a solid base. I have been able to get to the pool on a semi-erratic schedule.  I can easily swim 1800 meters in the pool.  One night I happily swam 2000 meters, but it aggravated my injury, so I scaled back.
Last night was an easy and quick 1250. 1650 meters is considered a “mile” to swimmers.

However with swimming Alcatraz, it is not so much the distance (roughly 1.5 miles) as it is the current. To swim from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore you are swimming across the current. The direction is determined by the tide tables, on whether the tide is coming into the bay or flowing out. Either way, the swim is across the current – this makes it challenging. That and the cold temperature.

To train for this swim I will be adapting my swim and strength training portions of my training program that used for Barb’s Race two years ago. I need to be more attentive to the strength portion than I have been in the past.  I will need the added strength to help me with the current.  I have also added hot yoga to my routine.  I am really new to this, but I have enjoyed it so far.  Sort of. I plan on continuing with this because it seems to be helping with the stretching that I need to keep my injury at bay.

This week it is all about getting back into a solid routine.  Then the next two weeks swim will be more structured with drills. It will look like this:

Monday Swim:
WU= 400 swim, 400 w/drills, 4 x 25 build
Main Set= 3 x 200 mod @ :15 rest; 2 x 250 mod @ :20 rest;  4 x 100 mod @ :15 rest
WD= 6 x25 drill EZ

Tuesday Hot Yoga (90 minutes)

Wednesday Swim:
WU = 300 swim, 300 w/drills. 4 x50 build to fast
Main Set: 500 mod; 2 x (20 build x 50s) 500 mod
WD = 200 easy choice

Thursday Hot Yoga (90 minutes)

Friday Strength Training

Saturday Swim
WU = 8×50 drill and swim
Main Set: 15 x 100 @ mod @ :10 rest
WD = 6 x 50 drill or EZ

Now as I said, this is the plan. With my life so many things do get in the way.  And that is OK – I try to adjust as needed and try to move workouts around – hoping to get in as much as possible.  In my book, if I get 85% of my weekly program complete – I am OK.  I know I need to add more strength into the routine, but this is the plan for the next two weeks.

To get this week’s Wednesday swim in, Dominick and I hit the swimming pool this morning at 5 a.m. I was surprised when I got to the pool and saw the long course set up. Pleasantly surprised – the long course is great for training distance.

So for today, I get to enter my swim distance into my Training Peaks account and note that we swam the long course today.  Time to start building those graphs and charts. Time to get serious about training for Alcatraz.

“Open water” pool swim

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