Journaling For Busy Endurance Athletes
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
What do Albert Einstein, Serena Williams, Lady Gaga, Michael Phelps, and Sam Morse (ski racer) all have in common? Aside from being famous, they all keep journals! In fact, many influential people throughout history have kept journals of some kind.
Journaling can be a powerful tool for athletes at every level of sport! Some people use journaling to review their day. Others find the practice stress-relieving. Many use journaling to organize their thoughts, plan their lives, and keep themselves accountable to goals and values.
There are many reasons for journaling, but almost everyone who commits to the practice says that it brings them value.
6 Ways Athletes Can Benefit From Keeping A Journal
1. Improve mindfulness.
Mindfulness isn’t just a buzz word or fad (though some of the ways people try to become more mindful are probably fads). For centuries, people have understood the connection between happiness, contentedness, and mindfulness.
Journaling helps bring your mind to attention so you can actively engage your thoughts, process past frustrations, and address anxieties about the present or future. The practice of journaling helps many people become more focused on the present.
2. Increase self-confidence.
Did you know that people who keep reflective journals tend to have more self-confidence and greater belief in their own abilities? More confident athletes are more likely to complete tasks (like your training plan).
Keeping a journal that includes positive affirmations helps you recognize small successes. Over time, those little victories boost your confidence. In other words, journaling enables you to identify and celebrate little achievements so you can become more confident as you work toward bigger goals and dreams.
When you’re ready for a race, you’ll be able to look back at all the work you put in. This helps you feel confident in your training and preparations.
3. Put ideas and goals into your own words.
Keeping a journal gives you space to write down dreams and goals in your own words. Think of journaling as creating a blueprint for your goals. Writing down your goals tells your brain, “this is important.”
As you clarify your goals (when, where, how much, etc.), you’re creating a blueprint to accomplish them. The more detailed you are, the more likely you are to accomplish them. (Your coach can be of great help!)
4. Become a better learner.
The best learners know how to ask questions, identify problems, and reflect on what they already know. Great learners can also identify what they need to learn to move forward. The same is true for athletes. The best athletes are almost always great learners who became students of their sport and of themselves.
Journaling provides an opportunity to process what you are learning about yourself, your life, the world, and your sport. The process of writing down questions, problems, successes, and other things can identify areas of confusion, reinforce new information or positive growth, and clarify what you’re learning.
5. Improve emotional intelligence and the ability to cope.
Dr. Richard Kent wrote, “...athletes who journal become more engaged, self-aware, and mentally sharp, less stressed, and better able to cope both on the mat and off.”
Emotional intelligence is your ability to identify, understand, and manage your own emotions and those around you. Journaling is an excellent way to process your own feelings and improve your self-awareness (which are beneficial in all areas of life).
Overall, writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you gain control of your emotions, reduce stress, and improve your overall mental health. The process can also help you identify thought patterns so you can change them.
6. Identify patterns in training and life.
Most athletes keep some kind of training journal. Elite athletes eat, sleep, and breathe their sport. The rest of us are balancing sport with everyday life, family, career, and everything else. Most elite athletes meticulously journal about workouts, injuries, how they feel, what they eat, and other specifics. We amateur athletes should add in details about the rest of our lives.
The more specific you are about your training and life, the more patterns will emerge. Over time you’ll be able to more accurately identify what works and what doesn’t, avoid over-training, and ward off injuries.
How To Start Journaling
It can feel very daunting to develop a new habit or introduce something new into your already-full routine. But, there are so many benefits of journaling (for every area of your life). And, since most of us had our early and mid-season races canceled or postponed, now is the perfect time to add journaling to our daily rhythms!
Journaling doesn’t need to be complicated or a long, drawn-out process. You don’t have to write a whole memoir! It can be as simple as answering a few questions at the beginning and end of each day.
Here’s an example of morning and evening questions that many athletes and business leaders use (of course most people have their own variations):
List three things you’re grateful for.
List three things (you can control) that will make today a good day (or move you toward your goals).
Write three affirmations of yourself.
Name your biggest challenge today and something you learned from it.
Name three things you did well today (or three good things that happened).
Name one thing (that you can control) that would have made today better.
Name one thing you want to accomplish tomorrow.
Beginning each day with gratitude puts you in a positive mindset. A more positive attitude shapes your self-talk and improves your overall motivation.
Football hall of famer, Ray Lewis once said, “Greatness is a lot of small things done well. Day after day, workout after workout, obedience after obedience.”
Setting small daily actions that help you move toward your long-term goals ensures steady progress.
Ending the day with a time of reflection allows you to learn from the day, then put it to rest. It’s important to re-frame your experiences and choices into lessons. This practice can even help you find meaning and purpose in hard experiences.
Most people just celebrate their victories and try to forget the hard days. It’s human nature to avoid (and try to forget) pain. But this way of thinking makes it hard to learn from the hard workouts or tough days.
By identifying what went well each day (and each workout), the challenges, and planning how you will improve tomorrow, you are using the past to improve your future.
So, if you don’t already journal, now is a great time to start! Go to the store and buy a notebook or fancy journal. There are also plenty of journaling apps if you’re so inclined! Then, decide what questions you’ll answer each day. You might even consider writing the questions in the front of your journal or on a bookmark for easy reference.
Now, decide when you’re going to journal. Is it early in the morning before the kids wake up? Right after your morning workout? Be specific. Set a reminder on your phone if you think that will help.
Tell your coach about your new journaling goals! If you and your coach already have questions you answer after each workout, consider incorporating those into your journaling rhythm.