How to keep a fitness journal

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Let’s be honest. A lot of us wander into the gym and randomly select exercises and weights. Basically, whatever catches our eye, or whatever we already know how to use and how to do. So, totally random and restrictive.

Keeping a fitness journal maximizes the results of everything you do

Do you have a clear and real training plan when you head to the gym, apart it being strength or cardio day?

When it comes to our goals, most of us want to lose weight, tone up or gain muscle, but we have no real plan. No directions of how to get from A to B. But if you want to achieve your goals, and achieve them faster and possibly exceed them, you need a plan. If you don’t want to be held back, be frustrated by a lack of progress and give up, you need a plan. Even these guys like a plan.

Reasons to keep a fitness journal

Keeping a fitness journal means you can plan ahead to achieve your goals, look back to see what’s working and what’s not, and have a clear idea of what you’re going to do today when you head to the gym. It takes the guesswork out of it and maximizes the results of everything you do, because when you keep a fitness journal everything you do has a purpose.

Keeping an exercise journal can also help to:

  • Clarify and focus your fitness goals
  • Break down goals into smaller, more manageable goals
  • Track progress towards goals
  • Plan future workouts
  • Record workouts done and progress
  • Record related non-workout information e.g. sleep, meals, overall energy levels & health
  • Gain a better understanding of exercise habits, helping you to troubleshoot and make changes.
  • Plan exercise rest days
  • Increase motivation
  • Prevent and manage injuries
  • Provide a factual record of successes

A fitness journal means you have all the information you need to assess your current workout, make changes when necessary, track your progress and continually move forward in your fitness.

Not keeping a training journal is akin to going on a journey without a map (or GPS) – you probably won’t end up at your desired destination, and if you do it’ll be by luck and only after a whole lot of wasted time and effort.

By recording your training and using this information to plan future workouts, you will eliminate pointless treading-water” “workouts and make sure that each time you exercise you do so with purpose.

How to keep a fitness journal

A fitness journal doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or complicated – a simple notebook will suffice or you can use one of many online workout trackers and apps. Whatever you choose, you can be sure that using a fitness journal will give you a training edge and help you reach your fitness goals quicker than you ever thought possible.

Ways of keeping an exercise journal:

  • Paper: regular journal, exercise book, scrapbook, folder
  • Computer: Excel spreadsheet
  • Online: App, website, forum, personal blog

Your fitness journal should contain the workout you are about to do as well as your past workouts. Whatever you did last time, try and do a little more this time to push your fitness levels forward.

If you have been doing the same workout for more than eight-weeks or notice that your training progressions have stalled, it’s time to plan a new workout to kick yourself out of the training rut you are in. If you are still making progress, stick with the same (and currently effective) workout you are doing for a little while longer but be ready to change if progress comes to a halt.

Weight Training Journal

Whether you’re doing circuits or strength training keep a journal and make a note of the exercises you did, the weights you used, the sets and reps performed and how you felt. If your training session went really well, make a note of it to remind you to make your workout a little tougher (e.g. harder exercises, heavier weights) for the next workout session. If things weren’t so great, make a note to remind you to keep things the same or even make it a bit easier if necessary. Keep an eye on how many times you have repeated a particular workout and whether you are still making progress.

What to record in weight training journal:

  • Date & time of workout
  • Exercises done
  • Weight used for each exercise
  • Reps
  • Sets
  • Rest intervals taken between sets
  • How easy/ difficult it felt

Cardio Journal

Keeping a exercise journal of your cardio workouts will help you figure out roughly how many calories you’re burning every week and how much exercise you’re really doing. This is a great reality check.

Most us tend over overestimate how much we exercise and underestimate how much we eat. That’s a combo just asking for trouble. A cardio exercise journal will help you stick to your goals, achieve your goals, and chart your progress.

Want to run, but never quite got there? Keep a journal, you wont just see where you keep falling off the wagon and prevent it, but it’ll also motivate you.

What to record in a cardio journal:

  • Date & time of workout
  • What kind of cardio
  • Workout duration
  • Heart rate (intensity of exercise)
  • Distance covered (e.g. walking, cycling, rowing, or swimming)
  • If you use cardio equipment: e.g. calories burned, level, incline, resistance and if relevant program used (e.g. hills on the elliptical)
  • If you exercise outdoors: e.g. weather conditions, route
  • How you easy/ difficult it felt

Adding Non-Workout Details

There is some non-workout information that is valuable and worth recording. It can help you connect the dots between your lifestyle, exercise and how you’re feeling, helping you to achieve your fitness and weight loss goals.

After all, exercise positively impacts many areas of our lives – often more than we ever imagined possible. Better sleep, improved mood, greater stamina, an improvement of chronic health conditions are often just few of the ‘side-effects’ of regular exercise.

Extra non-workout information tor record:

  • Hours Slept
  • Appetite (good, average, poor)
  • Mood (good, average, poor)
  • Energy (good, average, poor)
  • Motivation (good, average, poor)
  • Body weight (or body fat percentage)

Keeping a record of the positive changes can be very motivational. But also, many of these same factors affect how hard we exercise or whether we exercise at all (e.g. sleep deprivation, fatigue, poor mood/ PMS, long shift at work).

A written record of all these factors allows you to find patterns that are holding you back, and helps you to plan your workouts around things you know are going to impact your exercise performance or the will to exercise.

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