Crush Your Swim Practices: How to Master Your Training Journal

Michael Butler
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The Training Journal: What Not to Do

While writing all the thoughts, emotions and feelings you feel while writing or in the days around training can certainly be a therapeutic tool, it’s probably not a good idea to keep a journal that says “swim practice sucked” on day one and “I felt so good during practice” on day two and then nothing for three weeks. Of course we’re not all going to write down “I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt,” but establishing a habit of regularly writing down your thoughts…good and bad…will do wonders for your training.

What will do wonders for your training, however, is a more careful approach of what you write down day by day. Training for a big event can be stressful, and writing about the stress of it can often just make the stress worse. That means you’re actually talking yourself out of the goals you set for yourself. And setting goals is the first thing you need to do if you’re going to focus in on your big day!

So here’s what you should be writing about:

Your day-by-day plan

How to Master the Log Book

Swimmers are pretty intense when it comes to training. If you want to get the most out of your workouts, make sure you’re writing them down in a training log. I know, it’s never been your strongest subject.

But in order to take your swimming to the next level, you’ll need to pay attention to it. You need to take stock of what you’re doing well, what you aren’t doing well, and what changes can lead to a more productive swim workout.

It’s not enough to get in the pool and do a few laps. Go in with a plan, and track your goals and efforts in your training log. Review it regularly to make sure you’re maximizing your impact, and never stop looking for ways to improve.

A quick tip: Use your training log to evaluate your various goals. For example, if your goal is to break a certain time in your next 100 freestyle, write it down in your log. Your training log will be your unofficial timekeeper for the next few weeks, whether you’re swimming in a pool or the open water.

Write out your workouts promptly.

Don’t wait until after practice.

If you write it down immediately, it stays in your brain longer. It’s just another way to make sure you do what you committed to doing.

Tablet computers and smartphones are ideal for this purpose because they allow you to access your daily schedule and to jot down reminders and notes.

I’ve got a whiteboard in my garage so I can mix up the workouts. You can find premade workout sheets at the instructional sheets section of your LMS. You can also download workout logs for free here. I’d recommend using what’s available to you.

Track the big three out of the pool.

The most important thing to track is the training you are doing above the water. By knowing what yardage you have done in the pool, you can accurately track your overall progression. You can also tell which parts of your workout are the weakest.

Write down the main parts of your workout such as warmup, distance, main set, and cooldown. This should provide you with the big picture of your swim workout.

Use it for setting goals.

Using your training journal to set goals could be the smartest thing you do to dramatically improve your swim. I learned this lesson the hard way. Back in my college swim career, I focused solely on my stroke (hand placement, body roll, patterning, etc.). I practiced swim drills and swam butterfly exclusively and didn’t take much time to set goals. In the 5 years from my first record setting performance to going pro, I missed a lot of opportunities to set goals for short-term and long-term.

If you’re not using your training journal for setting goals, you’re missing out. You can make dozens of small goals (eat more vegetables, get more sleep, learn a new stroke, etc.) and four to five big goals (lose five pounds, conquer a fear, etc.) for the year. What’s great about setting goals is that once you reach one, you’ll write a new goal to reach for next month.

Just having 20 minutes to think about your goals is a huge boost in motivation. When I’m stuck in a rut, I’ll pull out my training journal and make checkpoints to get me out.

Progression, progression, progression .

It takes hard work and dedication, and it’s what separates recreational swimmers from serious swimmers.

Recreational swimmers swim because it’s fun and they enjoy it. Serious swimmers swim because they want to get better. They’re invested in their success. They’re willing to dedicate the time and energy it takes to improve.

A common trait in all of the serious swimmers I’ve coached is that they keep a training journal. There is no substitute for the power of tracking your workouts.

Keeping a training journal will give you a multitude of benefits, but most importantly, it will help you focus on progress, not effort. You can’t control your effort, but you can control your progression.

So let’s talk about how to keep a swim training journal so that you can fuel your progression.

The Takeaway