Most successful competitive runners use a training log of some sort, and, if they don't, their coaches do in their place. The logs can be written or digital, though I prefer written. It's slower but it's a more thoughtful and mindful practice.
I have two runners that I gave logs to this year. That's a first for us because junior high xc athletes usually are just entering the sport and the emphasis is on fun. These two have been with us for the last two years and both came to me on the first day of practice asking for extra training because they want to be the best.
Obviously, they can't both be best unless every race is a tie. Not gonna happen.
But I can help them develop the talent they do have. One thing to do was get them logging their workouts. It was as not in-depth or explicit as I used to maintain. I have them recording three pieces of information. Anything else they do is for themselves.
First, I want the duration of workouts, including the ones away from practice. They can give me time or miles but I know that they do extra running outside the program. I don't want them hurt or overtrained and leg dead, so I need that info.
Second, what kind of surface are they running on? Hard pavement, trails? Same reason as above plus the training effect of trails on stabilizing muscles is huge.
Finally, the fun factor. On a scale of 1-5, I want them to give me a rating on their runs that tells me how much they enjoyed it. Once we know what they like to do for training, we can designed workouts for it. It also get us an insight into how they are enjoying the sport.
Ideally, the race times will come down while the pleasure factor goes up. Still acceptable is the race times flat or rising but the enjoyment factor high.
The only disaster is if the enjoyment factor craters. This is junior high running, not the Olympics - these kids should be running for run.