Olympic Champion Janet Evans on the Importance of Using a Logbook

Before Katie Ledecky it was Janet Evans who was the most dominant female freestyler America had ever produced. The 3-time Olympian discusses the importance of logging your workouts in order to swim fast.


During the 19070’s and 1980’s the East German women, led by names like Kristin Otto and Kornelia Ender, completely dominated the landscape of international women’s competition.

At the Seoul Olympics in 1988, with the East Germans utterly dominating the medal table, winning 8 individual medals and both relays (the 4×200 free relay wasn’t contested at the time on the women’s side), it was a 15-year old American named Janet Evans who would steal the show.

The 5’5 swimmer from California with the inexhaustible windmill stroke would win gold medals in the 800m freestyle, the 400m individual medley, and the 400m freestyle (in a world record time that would stand for 18 years).

Miss “Perpetual Motion”

Her swim workouts under coach Bud McAllister are the stuff of legend, having helped her develop the insane cardio that she relied on to run the table in the distance events that summer in Seoul.

Evans would again win the 800 freestyle in Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics, and would carry the Olympic torch into the stadium during the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Georgia.

Just as she was known for her crazy sets and high mileage in the water, Evans also kept a very detailed log book over the course of her career.

She discussed how critical recording your training history was to her success in her book “Janet Evans’ Total Swimming.”

For swimmers that were serious about getting the most of themselves in the water, she writes, “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to keep a log book.”

While there are a heap of reasons to jot down your workouts (US Open 50 yard record holder Caeleb Dressel uses his logbook to detail how he feels in the water), Evans has these 5 suggestions for why you should be writing out your swim practices:

1. It teaches you to be realistic about progress.

Having expectations that aren’t reflective of your training leads to disappointment when you don’t swim as fast as you think you should have. Having a detailed training history behind you will help guide your expectations so that you can plot out goals that are grounded in the reality of your training.

“A lack of understanding can bring frustration and dejection if expectations are unreasonable,” writes Evans.

Having your workout history at hand, and being able to see first-hand how long it takes for you to progress will aid you in creating goals and expectations that are realistic.

2. It will help you be patient.

Once you understand at what rate you can expect to progress, your logbook will help you to become a more patient athlete. Too often I have seen athletes get frustrated and give up when they don’t see results fast enough.

Your logbook will give you a deeper understanding of what it takes to be successful, and as such, the hard work and the patience required in order to see its yields are easier to swallow.

“Results come gradually,” notes Evans.

3. It will help keep you motivated.

Your logbook is the motivational gift that keeps on giving. Seeing progress on paper, how far you have come, and allowing yourself to revel in the hard work you have been investing into the pool and into your training will inspire you to continue to push forward.

“The process itself is therapeutic and motivating,” says Evans.

And during those long weeks of training, those two-a-days and long weekend meets we can use every last bit of motivation we can get our hands on.

4. Your coach will be better able to coach you.

The logbook isn’t just a tool for you to be able to reflect on your workouts. It can also be used to help your coach better guide your training and preparation. By opening up your log book regularly your coach will be better informed on how you react to various kinds of training.

“Details of interval, total distance, times, and athlete comments about workouts are invaluable in planning for the next season,” writes Evans.

Sitting down with your coach regularly for check-ins is always a good idea, especially if you are struggling to see the results you want in the pool.

5. It will keep you focused.

On top of the motivational aspects of keeping a logbook, and helping your coach better coach you, keeping a logbook will keep you accountable during training.

As Evans notes, knowing that you have to write your workout later will help keep you focused during practice, if only because you are going to “want to record a positive workout.”

Seems basic, but I cannot count how many times I have salvaged what was otherwise a bad workout because I didn’t want to have to write out a poor practice in my logbook later.

Originally published over at YourSwimBook.com.


About YourSwimBook

YourSwimBookYourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers.

It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more.

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About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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