Fitness: Keeping Track of It All

Training logs aren’t just for running fanatics anymore.

Photo via iStockphoto.

Between the advent of the GPS running watch (now complete with heart rate monitor, altimeter, pedometer, and touch screen) and the popularity of online social networking, tracking your exercise has never been easier or more fun.

Running/exercise logs have always been useful, even when just made out of pen and paper. They can help with maintaining motivation, understanding the onset of injuries, and determining training that leads to new personal bests. With the electronic logs, you can do all that and more with easily summarized information like total miles per week/month/year, hours of exercise of all types, best times for set loops, average pace, average heart rate, max heart rate, etc. You can also share your training with friends on social networks or even join running networks through the training log community — an extra boon for motivation, as long as you don’t get caught up with what everyone else is doing.

That said, there is huge variability in online training logs. Some are simple, efficient, and streamlined, while others are clunky and slow. Some are associated with specific watches and allow you to directly download data, others allow you to import watch data from a variety of manufacturers, and some have no support for new, fancy watches. Most are free but there are some pay services with additional options and less advertising. If you choose to use an online log, be sure you learn how to back up the information from the site. It would be terrible to lose years of data because it was never backed up.

If you’re game to start tracking yourself, I’ve assembled a handy guide listing the key features of some of the more popular online training logs that I’m familiar with. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it might get you started. You can find me online on Garmin Connect (djhocking).

NameEase of UseSpeedTrack ShoesWatch DataTeamAestheticsOverall Options
Garmin ConnectEasy4NoYesNo53
Training Peaks Personal BasicModerate4YesYesNo35
Training Peaks Personal PremiumModerate4YesYesNo35
Training Peaks ProfessionalModerate4YesYesYes35
Runner’s WorldEasy3YesNoNo44


Rankings are on a scale from 1-5 with 5 being the best. The Track Shoes column indicates whether the site can add up the number of miles on each pair of shoes in your closet. Most running shoes last 300 – 600 miles. Watch data refers to the ability to import data from a watch, such as a GPS watch or heart rate monitor. Team refers to the ability to create teams or custom community groups to share training calendars with friends and training partners. All these online training programs are free with the exception of the Premium and Professional versions of Training Peaks.