Exercise Log - Keep a Fitness Journal To Track
have a confession to make. I'm not proud of it, but for the bulk
of my fitness career I never really used a workout log to track
my workouts. I always figured I could tell when I'm working out
hard enough. Or I figured I knew my routine so well I didn't need
a map to guide me through my workout.
Most of all, I simply felt that such a simple thing as pen and
paper couldn't really be the missing piece to my exercise puzzle.
My experience just didn't point to the fact that I needed to write
down what I did. I knew how far I ran last week and I remembered
how much I did on the bench press.
Of course, I remembered what I did because I always did the same
thing. Every workout was a carbon copy of the one before it. But
I felt I was paying my dues. I worked out on a regular schedule
and I pushed myself too hard each and every time. So why did I need
a piece of paper to tell me what I already knew?
Silly me though, I thought that getting in shape would happen if
I just worked hard enough and put in enough time. Even though the
progress was almost never there, I figured I just had to be patient
and wait. Rome wasn't built in a day after all.
I feel silly now for believing such things. After all, we don't
build muscle just because we lift heavy things. We don't burn fat
just because we run until we drop. And most importantly, we don't
get results just because we work our tail off for years on end.
I wanted what everyone else wants. I wanted more. More strength,
more speed, more power and more muscle. In other words, I wanted
to progress. But progress doesn't just happen because we put in
lots of time and effort. Just think of all of those folks who show
up at the gym time after time and yet they look just as they did
key to progress is not just hard work and dedication, but progression.
I know, it seems obvious enough, but it is a simple idea that eluded
me for years. Maybe it was because I felt like progression was something
that would just happen on its own over time. One day I go in and
do 10 pull ups and the next week I would just magically be able
to do 12.
Unfortunately, progression isn't something that just wanders by
and jumps into our arms. It's like a wild animal that must be hunted
and tracked down before we aggressively take it for ourselves. It
only is available to those who are willing to go after it and snatch
it as soon as they can.
This is why a workout log is so important. By keeping a record
on hand, you can instantly know what you need to do to progress.
It's all right there in black and white.
The issue with hard work and effort is that it can fool us into
thinking it's good enough. The other day I did 11 pull ups and felt
that was pretty challenging. As I dropped down I felt I must have
accomplished something and this surely spurred my body into becoming
stronger. However, after checking my log I learned that my personal
best was 17 pull ups in a row. Those 11 that I did were a step backwards,
not a step forwards!
If I didn't have that log I would have gone home believing my 11
reps were good enough. But after checking that log, I tightened
my boot straps and cranked out a solid 18 reps. Now I knew for sure
I accomplished something. There was no guessing or thinking about
it. I had gone above and beyond what I had done before which is
the essence of progression.
Progression really is that simple. It's not about complex formulas
or periodization plans. It's simply about knowing what you have
done in the past and then reaching down deep to improve your performance.
While progression is a simple thing, knowing when it happens can
be tricky. As I mentioned before, we can trick ourselves into thinking
we are progressing when in reality we really are not.
On top of our own efforts, we can be fooled into thinking our workout
is progressive through any number of other signs. I used to believe
a workout was effective if I broke a sweat or if I burned enough
calories on the calorie counter. I also thought I did a good job
if I got a good pump or if my workout was longer than usual.
Of course all of these things can be fooled. My workout can be
long just because I was distracted. I could have broken a sweat
because it was hot and humid. And that muscle pump could be from
a lack of rest or changes in my diet. In short, all of the signs
of a good workout could be there, but at the end of the day I may
have even lost ground.
Keeping a workout log keeps this from happening. By looking to
progress performance you'll know in black and white if you have
progressed or not. If you do better, than you have progression.
If not, then you don't have progression and you won't progress plain
if progress is so important and keeping an exercise log is the best
way to achieve it then why don't more people use a log? One of the
reasons is like the one I mentioned where people feel that exercise
logs are for telling them what they need to do when they already
know what that is.
Another reason is because keeping a exercise log can be tedious
to both read and write. There are all sorts of boxes and numbers!
Who wants to stop after each set and write down stuff as they tremble
and sweat on the page?
And then, there is the idea that we need all sorts of special
log charts or books to create or spend money on. All of these reasons
are nothing more than making a mountain out of a mole hill. Keeping
an exercise log should be simple, cheap and super easy. You don't
have to write down every little rep and set. You don't have to use
a special app or log book.
Just a simple note book with some notes after each exercise is
all you need. Heck, my log book is just a single sheet of paper.
All I write down are my personal bests. If I beat a personal record,
I erase the old one and write the new one in. If I don't break a
record then I just leave it as a sign post that I need to pass in
order to progress.
There are few rules on what your exercise log should include or
look like. As long as it has some record of what you have done it
will serve as a reliable vehicle for progression. The only recommendation
I would make is to include a quick comments section. That way you
can make notes about things like technical improvements or reminders
for the next workout.
In the end, I wish I had kept a workout log many years ago. I would
have avoided so many plateaus and frustrations. I also would be
in far better shape than I am today, but better late than never.
So if you have been neglecting the workout log then simply start
on your next workout. Keep it simple. Keep it cheap and keep it
progressive. Within a few short weeks you'll be further along than
you ever imagined.