It can often feel fairly easy to maintain motivation for training in the first few weeks of a new year, as there is that tangible feeling of fresh opportunity and optimism with all the prospects a new calendar year offers. That positivity and those good intentions unfortunately have a tendency though to wain a little as our schedules again start to fill up, and work commitments begin to take over again. It can be difficult sometimes to keep sight of your training targets as January turns to February, and Spring inches it way in behind Winter. One great way to maintain that crucial structure and motivation within your training and overcome these challenges however, is through the use of a training diary.
If you speak to most top athletes in any sport, you’ll find that they (or their coaches) will keep a record of all of their training sessions they’ve completed, as well as a schedule for their workouts planned days, weeks, and even months in advance. While it may be difficult to be that detailed and specific with your records as an amateur player, getting into the habit of keeping a simple training diary can be a great way to provide some clarity to your programme and keep you engaged. It can also give you a useful mental advantage in regards to your preparation for matches, when you reflect back on the work you’ve put in as we’ll discuss below.
The main immediate simple benefit in starting to keep a training diary though, is in your ability to just more effectively plan your week. Sitting down on a Sunday and looking at the week ahead, and marking out when you have time available to train, when you have matches, and what other commitments you have to work around, allows you to really maximise your time and schedule your sessions accordingly. If you’re working on some particular physical attribute for example, you can plan and slot your sessions in in advance, so you know exactly what you’re doing and when, as opposed to just rolling up to hit a few balls or do a few court sprints on an ad-hoc basis.
Of course unforeseen family/work commitments may come up, but if you set out in your training diary at the beginning of each week what sessions you’re going to do and when, you can then start to see them more as ‘appointments’, in the same way you would see a work meeting, an MOT for your car, or any other appointment – you wouldn’t skip a trip to the dentist because there was something good on TV, or because your friends called and asked if you fancy going for a beer, and in the same way setting your sessions in a training diary helps turn them more into actual responsibilities that you get into the habit of committing to.
Keeping a diary is also a great motivational tool, and can offer a corresponding confidence boost when preparing for a match. When you look back on your diary – the sessions you’ve completed, the improvements you’ve made, the targets you’ve beaten, the court time you’ve logged – it can really enhance your mind-set in the build up to a big game, when you can see there in writing all the work you’ve put in. Has your opponent trained as hard as you, logged the hours you have, been as meticulous in his planning as you have? He may have, but it’s unlikely – either way, you can at least be secure in the knowledge that you’ve done all you can to train and prepare yourself properly.
As you get more used to scheduling and logging your sessions, you can start adding a little more detail to your training diary – how much sleep did you have the night before, what did you eat during the afternoon before the game, what sessions did you do in the days leading up? You can then start to build and identify patterns of what circumstances produce your finest performances, allowing you to start putting yourself in the most advantageous possible position to achieve your very best. ‘Random training leads to random results’ remember, and keeping up your training diary is one simple way to maintain an element of sound structure and consistency in your training.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
Squashskills Fitness & Performance Director
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