A training journal lets you see at a glance where you started and how far you’ve come with your training. It also helps you determine where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Jotting goals down on paper and telling others about them can help you bring the goals you long to achieve to fruition. That’s true of any type of aim or ambition. You can apply goal tracking to any career or personal goal, not just fitness aspirations. One study of 267 participants in various areas showed that documenting goals and holding oneself accountable for those goals led to a greater likelihood of achieving them.
You are keeping a fitness training journal, right? It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, and you don’t need a special computer program or app to keep an effective fitness journal. A simple lined notebook will work well and often better because sometimes it’s easier to grab a pen and write something down than it is to log into a program and type. For some people, exercise is a chance to take a break from all electronic devices and keeping a physical journal lets you do that.
What should you include? Your training journal will serve you well if you include these five components.
Fitness Training Journal #1: Start and Ending Time
It sounds basic, but always document the date of each workout along with the starting and ending time. This will allow you to better determine when you train the best. You might discover that you’re stronger when you work out in the early evening than in the morning and that can lead to greater gains. Better performance later in the day wouldn’t be surprising since core body temperature rises in the early evening and your muscles are stronger and more flexible. Pain tolerance is also higher in the late afternoon and early evening, so you may push harder. However, you might still prefer working out in the morning before everyone else gets up, but at least you’ll see how your performance varies based on when you work out.
Fitness Training Journal #2: What You Ate Before Your Workout
We know that nutrition plays a key role in exercise performance and the results we get from workouts. If you do a workout and discover you didn’t perform as well as expected, despite being well rested, you have a record of what you ate and when. Based on this information, you can tweak your pre-workout meal or snack to help you maintain more stamina and motivation. On the other hand, if you were sidelined by indigestion in the midst of a workout, you can adjust how much you eat and when, so you can focus on your workout rather than how your tummy feels. For example, a meal or snack relatively high in fat slows down digestive function, so you could decrease the amount of fat in your diet or eat earlier. It’s also helpful to write down how much caffeine you consumed before a workout to see how that impacts your performance.
Fitness Training Journal #3: Resistance and Training Volume
Of course, you want to keep tabs on how much resistance you’re working with and your total training volume. Otherwise, you won’t know whether you’re making progress. The same is true of HIIT training or endurance exercise. Your entries might look something like this:
· Biceps curls: 3 sets of 10 repetitions with 12 lbs.
· Ran 3 miles in 30 minutes
Looking back at your past entries will show you whether you’re making gains. For strength and hypertrophy training, you might find that you’re lifting more weight or doing more volume. That’s the goal! Remember, progressive overload is the name of the game. You need to know if you’re remaining stagnant. If you find you’ve reached a plateau in strength gains, it might be time to add more advanced training techniques such as supersets, drop sets, etc. If you aren’t documenting your training, you won’t know when you need to make changes.
Fitness Training Journal #4: How You Feel After a Workout
You also want to monitor for signs that you’re pushing too hard. So, write down how you feel after each workout. If you notice you’re fatigued after every workout and your performance is suffering, you may need a few days of rest and recovery. You can even rate how you feel on a scale of one to ten or one to five, so you can compare one training session to another. Another helpful entry is how many hours you slept the night before. We know that performance can suffer when you’re running on too few hours of sleep. Documenting your sleep time will make you aware.
Fitness Training Journal #5: Goals
You also want to track your goals and keep those goals specific. Review your goals every week and make a new entry for the upcoming week with what you want to accomplish. Reiterating your goals weekly reinforces them in your mind and helps you stay on course.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re trying to get six-pack abs or get in shape for a marathon, a fitness training journal shows you where you’ve been, where you’re going, and if you’re actually making progress! Keeping one regularly shows you’re serious about your training and are intent on achieving serious results. It can also help you fine-tune the specifics of your workouts, such as the best time to work out and what to eat beforehand.
Tracking your progress will also help you stay motivated. Just seeing that fitness journal is a reminder of how far you’ve come and why you need to stay on course. You can even jot down your favorite mantras and fitness quotes to stay inspired. There are many benefits to keeping a journal. If you aren’t already doing it, why not get started today?
Dominican University of California. “Study Focuses on Strategies for Achieving Goals, Resolutions.”