Monday, February 7, 2011

The Runner's Journal--Tapping Inspiration and Motivation Through Reflection, Creativity, and Personal Expression

I've always been a journal, writer's notebook, travel notes, running log kind of girl.  I love the "coming home" feeling I get when I return to my own special place for writing down my dreams, my worries, thoughts, reflections and goals.  A place just for me.  I have at least 12 to 15 journals filling my bedroom shelf.  Travel journals, writer's notebooks where I've practiced the craft of writing and written with more intention, running logs, journals I've written to and for my children, marriage journals between my husband and I over the years, and the many journals from my life through college and on.  I even have my very first diary from third grade.  I use this one to show my students when I am having them start their writer's notebooks at the start of the year.  
Oh, and I also have my journal from high school.  It is taped up tight.  In fact, I really should burn it.  God forbid anyone  ever read that thing.  My parents did once actually.  Wasn't a pretty story.  For any of us.  My step dad took a break from his studies to "have a chat with me".  This was serious if he was interrupting his 10th time reading the same book (I think he was reading some Freud book at the time).  He never interrupted his studies or art time. I knew I was in trouble. I thought it was for all the bad stuff I had written in my journal.  All the secrets I trusted my journal with.  I've learned since then.  But, no, I wasn't in trouble for anything that was written in my journal.  I was getting a talk about the way I wrote.  Yes, being the literary genius he was, my dad calmly said something like "Amanda, if you are going to write something in a book that will someday be seen by others, at least make it well written".   

I do believe that most of my writing in my journals recently has been more of lists of happiness, goals for my life, things I don't ever want to forget.  When I'm feeling angry or sad, I try to use my journals to write down things in my life that I'm thankful for and positive goals that will help me make good of the situation.  I try to keep from including my dirty laundry or bad feelings about people.  If I need a vent or a rant I can write it down and throw it away.  

Keeping a Running Log is also something I've done several times with my training.  I had a really great one going before I was injured last August.  This time around I've tried Daily Mile and Recording my workouts on my blog.  Nothing has felt right.  In fact, I've just felt a sort of magic missing with my training.  A missing puzzle piece.  Tonight I realized that I was missing out on my Running Journal!  I was forgetting the most important piece for me as a reflective person who loves writing and seeing the whole picture come together.  I was missing the most personal and private and wonderful way for me to express myself and see my accomplishments.  My running blog has served this purpose somewhat but there is something big to be said about being able to go grab my journals off the shelves in my house that hold my most precious books and just read and remember.  

My Running Log/Journal might have these things:
*  writing down my plan and then reflecting on how it went.  
*  I make little notes in there about how I'm feeling, what I'm eating, new goals as they change based on my workouts, etc. 
*  I include big dreams that seem impossible and that I'm not ready to share with the world
*  I even take time for the occasional cut a paste craft project where I cut out phrases and pictures that are inspirational to me and make what I call vision collages that get me pumped up.  
*  Inspirational quotes or stickers
*  Motivational letters or pep talks to myself
*  Writing entries as if my race is happening and telling my story the way I want it to be.  

So, I'm so excited to say that tonight I got a much needed break after 4 or 5 days with sick kids and a husband out of town.  My husband sent me to the coffee shop for some ME time and he has called once to model just how being a "cool" partner is done.  Gosh I love this man. Even when I'm an awful wife and completely fail on the "cool wife" level, he always shows me generosity and love.  

So I took about 3 minutes to consider taking advantage of this offer to get away to be by my sick self and reflect on my running, life, and start a much needed running journal.  I found this pretty little notebook that my good friend Jen gave me.  I hadn't decided what to use it for but tonight I knew it would be the perfect book!

On the cover it has a quote that says:  "She decided to free herself, dance into the wind, create a new language.  And birds fluttered around her, writing "Yes" in the sky!" Not so sure that has anything to do with why it makes a good running journal but I like it.  

I spread out my running magazines and books and loaded the Nora Jones station on Pandora and I was good to go!

I even took the time to flip through my old Marathon record books for some reminiscing and inspiration.

I finally found the perfect place for my SUAR Sticker. Much better than the toilet.  The top sticker is from Lindsay at Chasing the Kenyans.  Super motivational to me. Thanks for sending me one Lindsay!  If you can't see, it says :  " make yourself hurt and then push harder"

My weekly plan.  I left space after each workout so I can go back with different colored pens and write my reflections and how the workout actually went.  I included the shoes on the left page because one of my goals this month is to find some new light shoes.  I'm thinking Brooks Launch and Nike Frees are on my list. 

Oh, and speaking of creative journaling, I was desperate for nap today and in lieu of letting my three year old watch t.v, I was a bad mom and asked her to draw a picture on my back with gel pens.  Although I probably set an awful example and will have to reteach her to NOT write on her body with pen, IT. FELT. HEAVENLY!  It was worth every second of "What not to teach your child to do with gel pens" moment.  

Thank you for all the awesome comments on my last blog The Mind of a Runner!  I have some really great things to think about thanks to you.  My favorites were:

From Briana.  She included a quote that gets her going:  "Pain is only temporary.  It may last an hour, a day, or a year but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place.  If I quit, however, it lasts forever."  Lance Armstrong.  I included this in my running journal.  

From Jenn.  She included a mantra from a running prayer.  Love it.  In fact, I'm off to write this one down in my running journal now! 
"Oh Lord,
One more breath, 
One more step,
One more mile,

I can do ALL things through YOU who strengthens me!"

Do you keep a runner's log or journal?  

How do you keep record of your runs or workouts?  

If you're not a runner, do you keep a journal or write down your goals?



  1. I'm glad you got a break... I love that book and the quote on the front. I've started many journals but have yet to fill any of them. I think a running journal might be the way to go for me. I love how you cut and paste in it... very fun!

  2. My favorite part of this post is that picture and the fact that you let her draw on your back... and LIKED IT!

    My husband is a journal-keeper... I am not. I have always kept a training log, though. I love keeping a training log... even when my training is not very rigorous... like now ;-)

    Right now my training log is online as part of my Automated Training Program. lol

    And I do write down goals... since I started reading AM's GFTW!

  3. Nope no journal, never have. But gosh you so inspired me. I used to be an art student in college and doing a journal would have been right up my alley. Having kids etc all that part of me has been lost. THanks for the reminder!!

  4. I really love this post and the previous one! You are very inspiring and have given me some new ways of thinking going into marathon #2.
    I got a runner's journal for my birthday actually (last month) and I recorded a few workouts in it but haven't kept it up. I really want to tho and am going to make it a goal to keep it up. I use dailymile to keep track of my runs but I think a journal is a great idea cause you can really just write down anything you want. I think with a site like dailymile you might get a little more reserved about what you write. But a journal will have true feelings.

  5. Cool post. I have a journal and I do vent in it. I try and be thankful too. I may talk about my running but not as a journal. I have been looking at the many journaling blogs and see a number of people putting art in it. My next journal will have blank pages in it. My current journal has maybe a week left of space and I love starting a new journal and can't wait to begin the new one and maybe try some clip art/drawing (hahahaa) in it.

  6. No journals for me. My log is made up of just general data. Date, miles, time, pace, temperature, laps, incline, etc. No feelings. I find that those are best ignored or bottled up and kept under lock and key!

    I'm a therapist's worst nightmare. HA!

  7. Lol. I love the running journal! Also, your nap strategy is funny!

    When I studied Chinese in college, I used to practice writing Chinese characters on my boyfriends back in permanent marker... don't ask me why I did it! (OR why he agreed to that??). As a grad student studying anatomy, I drew abdominal and chest organs/structures on my boyfriend with markers (that makes more sense than Chinese characters).

    Your daughter may end up like me one day - abusing her significant other with markers!

  8. Ok, there is so much to comment on but why must I choose the drawing on the back?? Because you are just too smart...a little "touch" therapy for mommy and creativity and down time for the peanut. Brilliant!!
    I love journaling but it comes and goes in cycles. I really like planning out my training cycles and getting motivated(like the stickers!)but it really depends on what's going on in my life at the time...I can get sort of busy at different times of the year.
    I'm glad you had some YOU time, that's always good! :)

  9. My blog is my running journal. I may sometimes have goals I don't write there, and I definitely edit my feelings to protect the innocent (and guilty!), but it works for me. Sometimes I vent or daydream on paper and then, like you, dispose of those pages. My high school journals are cringe-worthy, and my journals from my first marriage are heartbreaking. I've always written most when I was most unhappy, so that was a prolific time for me, in journaling, poetry, and stories.

  10. I am not a journaler. Not good, bad, right, or wrong. Just is. Your journal looks very creative and artistic. That must be a fun outlet for you.

    For the record, I do keep all my run stats on a program called, but I never go back and look at them.

  11. I love when you get to go to the coffee shop :)
    I am a total journal writer too. I have a terrible memory and I love going back to read old journal entries and re-feeling emotions and things that I've written down in detail not to forget. A running journal is a GREAT idea. It may help remind me why I actually like to run on those crappy run days!! I love that you let your daughter draw on your back!! When we go to lake powell we let the kids draw all over themselves/us/each other with washable markers and then you can go jump in the lake, dry off, and start again. So fun.
    My Nike Frees are my FAVORITE purchase of the year so far. They are super light, and really comfy.
    I hope you're having a good start to the week my darling. You are awesome! xoxoxo

  12. No running journals...just spreadsheets. :) I think blogging about my experiences and running adventures are going to have to suffice for now with my limited time. BUT...I am going to do more of the creative writing I've always done when my last class gets over in May.

  13. I used to write down all of my runs, how I felt, what I ate and the weather during my run. I haven't taken the time to do that for quite some time. I think it's an invaluable tool to put pen to paper and release my thoughts and emotions. I look back on my old running journals from when I first began to run, and I feel like I'm reading a stranger's journals. They are so full of excitement and meeting new goals. Thanks for your blog. I will begin another journal this week.

  14. OK the journal pages and paste-ups are awesome. Love that kind of stuff.

  15. Amanda- you are a WRITER. What a creative soul!
    I am just content to turn on the computer, type in a few numbers analyze the stats and I'm good. For you it is an ART.

  16. Wow! Patrick - way to be a man in touch with his sensitive side. I love it!

    I loved this post and I love the way you write. One of my most favorite things in the world is getting a new journal. It has to be the perfect one for that time in my life. A new journal symbolizes a fresh start. I always wait until I feel inspired before I write the first sentence. From there I just write whenever, wherever.

    My journals are far more private than my blog. My deepest (and sometimes darkest) thoughts are contained within those pages. When I am struggling with ANYTHING I turn to the paper. I write and write until I feel cleansed. It is soothing and I have found it is one of the healthiest coping mechanisms I have acquired. I would LOVE to get my hands on my childhood diaries (I had dozens) but they are all gone. That actually makes me very sad.

    I loved that story about your step dad finding your journal. That was such a surprising response! What would I do without your blog?

  17. I have never kept a journal - really - but you have inspired me to start. Mine is everything - I am mixing running with everything else.

    That story of your stepdad finding your journal - OMG!

  18. I was just flicking through your blog looking at your pics before actually reading when I saw the one of your back. I made the wild leap that you were either in some self-flagellating cult or a victim of spousal abuse. Nice to know it was just a marker.

  19. I love what your step -dad said to you!! It reminds me of when I got my first period. I am in the bathroom, scared and embarassed.... my dad comes knocking loudly on the door and says, " Don't think you will use this to get out of going to school! The women at my work always try to take a sick day!!!" Really dad?!?!?! Ahhhhh!!
    I don't keep a pen and paper journal ( I like yours by the way). I use now to record my running only workouts. I use friendfit.come for the rest. I also can't say that I will even go back and look at previous workouts..... I probably should, but I probably won't. I will have all the info down though if I wise up soon!

  20. This is one of my favorite posts ever! I'm a huge journal keeper/writer. On top of that I'm an absolute statistics fanatic/geek. The two go so well together! I'm a software engineer so I've moved all of mine onto computer. I know where my son is drawing tonight...!

  21. What a great hubs. I love that he sent you away to reflect. Its such mental nourishment!
    And your back drawings crack me up, youre a cool mom!

  22. The official comment, hoping to get back into your good graces.

    I used to scrapbook as a journal, keeping ticketstubs, photos, drawings, quotes etc. in a multilayer collage, a la a Joseph Cornell box or a Peter Beard journal. Stopped them years ago - maybe I'll start up again.

  23. Oh! great idea about your running journal/blog. I love that you are so creative with it. It makes me motivated to start getting back into journaling and art because I miss the creative process! Anyway, I missed posting/commenting on your last blog entry about positive mantras (I never seem to find time to sit on my computer during the day) but I loved all your ideas. It really helps me to have some sort of positive mantra when I race to keep me focused on my goals (and not think about the pain!). I remember when I ran my last marathon I thought of all the tough things that some people have to go through (death, loss, illness, etc). and I realized how small my pain was in comparison to other's and thanked God that I had the ability to get out there and run and do something I loved. It helped! We are so blessed to have this talent, time, and opportunity to pursue our passions in life!

  24. I write lists, not journals. The lists normally have a life span of a single day. Longer term items I put on my white board as daily reminders. I not creative enough for a journal - I use my blog more to read between the lines as to what I feel over time.

    To each his (or her) own.

  25. I love this post Amanda. I am a big journal person as well. In my bag that I carry everywhere with me, I have a journal that I write in, my list of things I want to do before I die (in a separate waterproof notebook!) and my running journal (also a separate notebook). My journals consist of lists, quotes and ramblings from me. It really helps me work through things. I think it's awesome that your kid got to draw on your back. It's creative!! Glad that we are both adults and have drawings on our bodies! Lol

  26. I let Mai draw all over my legs with gel pens a few months ago (she opened up a tattoo parlor in our living room). Afterwards, I took a nap on the couch and when I got up, there was "tattoo" transfer everywhere on the cushions. I have yet to try to fix it. Yes, that was months ago - I guess I should try to clean it up at some point...

    It did feel good though. I'm going to have to try a back tattoo next!

  27. I love to keep journals. Something about handwriting stuff makes it seem real.
    I love to blog and I am glad I have this as a "scrapbook" of what is going on in our lives, but it would be heavenly to start journals again.
    To this day one of my favorite treats or gifts is a new, empty, notebook.

    Your is very impressive!

  28. All I know is that your running journal is freaking RAD!!

  29. It's funny - writing and storytelling have always been really important to me, but I've never been very good at journaling because I have a hard time of writing "just for myself." Since I've started my blog, I've come to look at it as a sort of journal of my life. Censored, sure, and cleaned up a bit - but still a reflection of the adventures of the past few years. Last year I got to go back through and relive them all, when my husband printed out a year's worth of posts and bound them together into a handmade book. It was one of the best presents I'd ever received.

  30. That is so awesome that your husband gave you your much needed break! Yay!
    I think your running journal is awesome!! I have thought about doing something like that in the past, but it's never come to fruition. I do like clipping things out and keeping them in my training binder though. So, I guess I do have my own type of "journal!" :)

  31. I have a journal thing that I write in to track my runs. I don't keep up with it as I should - regarding how I felt, or how I fueled. But I get the numbers in there. That is the trick for me. I also have a dry erase board at my desk at work. I am keeping track of which week of training I'm on. How many runs I've done with this training, and how many miles. Then I keep track of monthly miles and 2011 miles. In the center I have a big 13.1 to remind me of my goal. This is what really helps me. I love to up the numbers. When I run I picture getting to work the next morning and increasing all of them just that little bit more. .....This must be why I work in Finance!

  32. I haven't kept a runners journal but I WILL BE NOW!! Girl, you are such an inspiration to me!! Love that the hubby sent you to get some 'me' time! Norah Jones is the best. I really am going to be copying your idea, I hope that is okay:) Best back massage ever ha!!!

  33. On my ROAD ID I have engraved "Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever."

  34. Creating your journal looks like so much fun to me! It's nice to acually have something tangible, on paper--and use a glue stick!

    I USED to be so consistent at journaling and in fact have one in my nightstand drawer unused--I think I just found a real purpose for it!! Thank you!

  35. First of all, I LOVE this. REALLY, really LOVE this. I'm going to start one tonight. Second, I've journaled off and on and have really been trying to journal more regularly. What a legacy you are leaving, Amanda, through your writing. Third...the gel pen picture? HILARIOUS!!

  36. OK, I had to laugh at you letting the kids give you a back massage by writing on your back. That is something I would do! I become a 5 year old when I play with my son, we draw tattos on our arms, we pain nails (even though he is a boy), etc. My husband gives me massages sometimes and Petru got into the habit of "helping" by walking on my back - try it, it actually feels so good on sore muscles.

    I have always kept a journal. When my son was born, I started a blog for him, where I document our life. My husband and I have a common notebook where we write things that we want the other to notice, work on, etc.

    Love this post!

  37. I'm soooo glad the Lance Armstrong quote worked for you! When I ran my first ultra-marathon last year, I wrote that quote on the sleeve of my shirt so I could read it whenever I felt like I couldn't go any further... and it got me 53 long-brutal-and amazing miles.

    Keep it up!

  38. Girl!! You have no idea how honored I am that SUAR made it to the pages of something so precious and special as your journal. Thank you for putting "me" there. It means a lot. I love to journal, have not done much of it lately, but it is one of the best ways to work things out and measure growth.

    And the gel pen trick?? genius. I don't care how long it takes to wash off I am having my daughter do that next chance I get.

  39. I track my running miles and workouts with dailymile. I have a running blog to share general running stuff and a family blog for family stuff, but no real journal (all Internet stuff). I love the idea though. Your journal is pretty!

  40. thanks so much for sharing and including so much detail! i'm not sure if i'm disciplined enough to actually keep track of everything like that...but it did get me thinking about all the things that i would put in my running journal. it also made me want to collect more information/souvenirs from each race that i do. so that, years from now, i can look back and gain inspiration.

  41. lol! i had to double-take at that photo. not sure how you'll have to handle re-teaching that lesson. not sure how you washed it all off either!

    love where you put your sticker! i started keeping a written-journal once but i'm bad about keeping up with it. better with keeping it in my excel spreadsheet.

  42. No stickers, no tats…just lots of gel pen ;-)

  43. Hey there. I read this post the other day but just finally getting a chance to comment now:)

    Love your dad's comment!

    So glad you got some "me" time. Such a blessing to have a "cool" spouse! You're a lucky lady:) I love that my husband is my friend, not my dad. Well, actually my dad is my friend, but I'm glad my husband isn't my friend in a dad friend kind of way-ha! In a nutshell-we need our own space, we give it to each other, and we "work" because of it!

    You are quite a creative spirit! I love that about you-so passionate!

    I keep a running log somewhat on daily mile but I'm not into the FB type commenting on there, just post my workouts. I even forget to do that most of the time. I write a more detailed account in a notebook but sometimes I wish I would get more specific with feelings, fuel, etc. Would be a great help to look back on I'm sure.

    Ahhh-the back pen massage! At least she had a great canvas to work with:)

    Glad you liked the mantra:) Served me quite well!

  44. What a great post! Totally inspired me, last night I jazzed up my running journal with quotes and several mantras. I also just did some writing about my running, which I'd never done before and included it my running log/journal. Thank you!

    I also have journals for my each of my children and was wondering about the journals for your kids that you mention. About once a month I write a letter to each of mine in their own journal. Just wondering if you have other creative ideas for a parents journal to their children. Thanks again -- seriously inspiring post!

  45. Thanks so much. I can't believe so many people have been inspired. Makes me happy! :) Here is a post that tells more about my kids' journals. I will write a blog post about them soon too:

  46. I've always wanted to create a journal for myself, but its so hard to get into the habit. This is what my blog has basically become, only I can't be completely free because its 100% public. I wish I could put together a journal like this for myself!

  47. I just stumbled across your blog, and I've been perusing your archives. You have a gift with words.

    I've kept journals and diaries off and on since I was a kid, but I've never really kept a training log that goes beyond daily mile or the like. You have me considering it, though.