Probably one of the most important things I think someone can do to drive their running, besides publicly putting it out there via blog, is to keep a training log. I am occasionally approached about training help and I always ask if the person has kept a training log.
A training log is helpful on many levels. First, its a guide to your own personal progress and feedback to any failures or success' that you want to avoid or replicate. Second, if you are looking for help it's very helpful to the coach/advisor to determine where you have been and how realistic the goal may be. Finally, once you get in the rhythm of writing in your log you feel compelled to train and get something written down. In the right context it can be positive. If you are training when you shouldn't just to get something written down then, of course, it is a negative.
When I was first approached by Christine Clark about two years before she won the Olympic marathon trials I asked for anything she had kept. It wasn't much but it was something I could look at and understand what she had done to achieve her results. At the time she was running well, but was at the 2:48 level for the marathon. What I could see from her training was that she was clearly running at a high level relative to her training. She was obviously talented and had lots of room for improvement given just a bit more structure to her training.
As much as I'd like to think I had a lot to do with her improvement, it was just a byproduct of modifying her previous work and providing more structure to the time she was already putting in. The key part was that we already had previous training and results to develop a future plan.
All my best training has been when I make an effort to log my training. Compiling totals and organizing workouts helps provide structure, focus and motivation to the training. Plus, knowing where you are at and where you want to go also forces you to fill in the space with the right ingredients to get there. You can buy a training log at Skinny Raven or just do it on a notebook or online
The new year approaches. Time to start logging