Should you keep a training diary for skating?

I honestly can’t remember a time I didn’t have some kind of log for my skating. When I started Adult 1, I had the Adult Learn to Skate curriculum PDF printed out and I checked the skills I knew how to do. Eventually I moved them to a notebook, adapting my personal bullet journal format. Soon it became its own format, and to this day I’m still making tweaks here and there to make it work for me.

Before I tell you some good reasons for tracking your skating progress, let me show you what my current log looks like and what my rationale is behind each section. Fair warning: this is a long post and you might think I’m crazy when you’re done.

  • picture of notebook with writings of figure skating

My training log

The book

I currently use the XL Moleskine Cahier notebook with squared paper. This book is neat because it has a little pocket in the back, so that’s where I usually keep printed dance and moves in the field patterns.

Season goals page

This is where I keep all my goals for the season! I have a couple of outcome and process goals for the season, and I also make monthly goals that work towards those big season goals. I track whether I’ve hit that goal or made progress on it when I go to write the next month’s goal.

Ice Dance Mastery Tracker

Not something I use too frequently, but around the time I was working on Swing Dance, I felt like I was working slower than the other dances I had passed already. This basically keeps me out of my own head if I feel like I’m stuck in progressing through the pattern dances.

Sharpening Hours

This one’s kind of speaks for itself. Adding up the total is a bit annoying but it gives me insight to how long my blades last. My last pair of skates had some really lame blades on them and had to get them sharpened every 20 hours or so because they just slid so much on outside edges. Did you know depending on the season, you can get more or less life out of a sharpening? Our ice is hard during January/February, so I have to get them sharpened more often, but in the summer I can last months with just one!

Weekly log

This is the meat and potatoes of the book. Each week gets its own spread. The left side of the spread is split into ice (left) and off-ice training (right), sorted by the days of the week. On the ice side, I usually I just put what kind of session I skated on and for how long, plus some notes about the session, like if I had corrections during my lesson or noticed something improved or got worse.

The off-ice side is the catch-all for what I do when I’m not skating. Usually it’s aerial, some kind of interval class, a trip to the gym, or rollerblading, but only if I feel like I got anything out of it. I never log walks or anything because it’s not necessarily a part of the training plan as much as a part of my daily life outside of being an athlete.

As part of the process, I sit down at the beginning of the week and write down what I plan to do in pencil. When I actually do the things, I erase the pencil and rewrite it in pen. If I don’t end up doing what I planned, I just erase the pencil and strike through the day. It’s not necessarily bad though, and in a bit I’ll explain why.

I recently just changed the right side of the spread so I’m not quite sure if it’s working or not. Weekly insights is where I write a few sentences on my general sense of training for the week and what external factors may have contributed to my success or failures during training.

Inspiration is a rebranding of an old section that basically just forces me to write down something I came across during the week about resilience and being a better athlete.

Nutrition is a new section: it just gives me space to jot down what general foods I want to eat during the week. Because of my eating disorder background I’m refraining from logging what I eat. I recently started meeting with a dietician to help me get a better idea on how I should be eating and how that changes throughout the year.

Finally, goals is my favorite section because it gives me an at-a-glance view of how I’m doing. I write my monthly and weekly goals, plus fill out a progress bar of skating hours, strength training, cardio training, and mobility training. I can tell what kind of stress I’ve been under just by flipping through and looking at this section. Instead of feeling bad that I didn’t hit my goal, it tells me I may need to change my goal setting approach or find ways to help me stay on track.

If you notice on the left page in the off-ice section, I have a bunch of letters in the top corner. Those just help me double check the number of boxes I have shaded in the goals section.

This is a huge undertaking to start with, but know that my log changed over the course of a year or so. Now that you have an understanding of what a very idealistic person’s training log looks like, let’s skip down to why you might want to keep one, even if it’s simpler than mine.

Reasons to keep a training log

1. You can keep notes from lessons

I used to always forget the random things my coach tells me, like keeping my free hip above the skating hip or whatever mumbo jumbo ice dance technicalities are relevant that day. Writing this stuff down is great for when I go to practice on my own so it’s almost like my coach is with me!

2. You can have a clear track of what you’ve been working on

After you’ve been skating for a while, it might be hard to remember when you landed your first toe loop or when exactly you finished your program choreography. Much like a diary, this helps immortalize that progress so you don’t have to rack your brain.

3. You can track pretty much anything

As you can see from my log, you can track things like water intake or nutrition, weight, body measurements, really whatever you want! And the best part is if you don’t care about it anymore, you can ditch it.

4. When you’re feeling down, you can see how far you’ve come

I’ve hit a lot of slumps since I started back in March 2018, and something that always keeps my spirits up is realizing how much I’ve done in the time that I’ve been skating. When I was stuck just working on Swing Dance in my lessons for 3 months, I realized it was amazing that I only started skating a year prior and could barely swizzle. Creating some perspective can get your brain out of that dark place that compares your progress with others, and compares your present self to your past self.

Even though figure skating isn’t a linear-progressing sport, you still get a little better overall every day even if you don’t feel like it. Maybe basic stroking happens more often than the lazy toe-push, or perhaps you can set up your jumps a little cleaner even if you can’t quite land them right. Skating can get very lonely if you’re not in synchro or a partnered discipline, so you have to make sure you don’t get holed up in your own thoughts.

Bottom Line

Honestly, I can’t tell you whether to keep a training log or not, but I’ve already told you some great reasons to give it a shot. By no means do you have to follow my example with the bullet journal-style layout, or keep something so granular. If you just want a tiny notebook to jot down your program and see what parts went well and not so great, that’s completely fine. Skating is such a personalized sport so you have to find what works for you.