The Cyclist's Training Diary
Last year, I decided to bite the bullet and jump feet-first into 'cross racing. I think I was dead last in my first race, but I finished. A lot of guys didn't, so that was pretty good -- but I suspect if I'd laid hands on Friel's excellent training diary last spring, I would've done even better.
Organization: I really like the way this training diary is organized. I'm organizationally-challenged at my best, so it really helps to have everything laid out for me. The diary pages are laid out two days to a page, with some check boxes to help you record how you were feeling and sections for planned workout, weather, route, distance, time, zone, average heartrate and power, a workout rating, notes, and nutrition. The lion's share of space is divided between planned workout, route, notes, and nutrition -- so even when you're riding without a heartrate monitor or power meter, you can still collect useful data. Moreover, the layout makes it really easy to glance back at earlier days or weeks and compare how you're doing now to how you were doing then.
Introduction: Joe Friel has written an excellent introduction to his very-useful diary. I'm not great at setting goals -- mine tend to be either too vague or difficult to achieve within a reasonable timeframe: with the guidance of Friel's introduction, I was able to set some very concrete season- and training goals that I feel pretty confident about meeting over the course of the next year. Just as importantly, Mr. Friel devotes a segment of his introduction to avoiding the curse that plagues so many of us -- the tendency to obsess. He reminds us that the diary is just a tool, and that it's better to enjoy riding the bike than to get hung up on 'the numbers' in the diary.
Content: I think there are a few points that could be explained a bit better in the introduction, and which could be a bit mystifying if you're new to bike racing (or whatever your chosen discipline may be) and -The Cyclist's Training Diary- is the only resource you're using in planning the year's training and goals.
That said, it's hard to count this as a weakness -- the book in question isn't designed to function as a cycling manual. Harness it to a couple of other good books (for example, Bike Racing 101 (Paperback Book)) and some good advice from seasoned riders, and you've got a solid foundation to build on.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about Friel's diary is that reading through the introduction and using it leaves me feeling optimistic and inspired. I have concrete goals to work towards, a plan for how many training hours I'll be putting in over the year (and during each week) and what kinds of workouts I'll employ, and a good plan to make all these things happen.
I'm looking forward to seeing the results of this slightly-more-formal approach to training during 2011's 'cross season and especially next spring, when I plan to hit some road races. Like Mr. Friel says in his intro, 'using a training diary ... won't guarantee your success as a cyclist. It will, however, increase the likelihood.'