Among swimmers, runners, cyclists, weightlifters - really, any athlete in a quantifiable sport - it’s common practice to keep a training log. In high school and college, I kept a log only sporadically - and I really regret it now. I’d love to look back on some of the sets I did in those days.
Since I got back into swimming a year and a half ago, I’ve been much more conscientious about keeping a log, and I think it’s really helped - motivating me to get to practice, and helping me gauge progress. I split my training log between two documents: a text file where I write what I did in each workout (sets, intervals, times, etc.), and a spreadsheet where I log the total distance I swim each day. In two adjacent columns of the spreadsheet, I also keep a 7-day running total (how much I’ve swum in the past week), and an average of the previous four 7-day totals (i.e., 4-week moving average).
I like the 7-day running total for its straightforwardness - “What have I done in the past week?” But I think the 4-week average is actually a better indicator of my fitness level at any given point.
Out of idle curiosity, I decided to revisit last year’s log. Here’s a chart showing the running 7-day totals (blue line) and the 4-week moving average (red line) between mid-August 2009 and late-October 2010 (from the end of the 2009 O.W. season to the end of the 2010 O.W. season). The Y-axis is in meters, and I added some annotations to show the timing of various races and other life milestones. (Click the chart to enlarge.)
I’m actually surprised how well I ended up doing last year, given that I averaged only 19,000 meters/week. Obviously, at some point increased training has diminishing returns. But I have a feeling I’m still on the “steep” part of that slope.
Moreover, I never actually did a “real” taper last year. The most I gave myself was a 5-day “drop rest” for Big Shoulders - but even that barely shows up on the 4-week average. A “real” taper would show up clearly on the red line.