I know that keeping a workout journal does not sound all that sexy. But it is a powerful tool if you use it correctly! Some of the greatest bodybuilders and athletes keep workout and nutrition journals.
Having a record of what exercises you have done, the sets, reps, and weights you performed. These are all important factors of having a training plan that delivers results. Even the importance of having a detailed food log can drastically improve your fitness results.
Have a clear focus of your fitness goals
Break down your long-term goal into smaller goals
Track progress towards goals
Plan future ahead future workouts
Record workouts done and progress each week and month
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
Prevent and manage injuries
Provide a factual record of successes
In order to understand the benefits of the journal, you need to first know what is that we are tracking in them. There is a method to the madness and just writing down your workouts are not going to cut it.
Keeping a detailed workout journal is more than just writing out what it is you did that day. You want to look at the big picture. How are you progressing over time with the current training plan? Whether you made your own training plan or you are following one from your trainer.
Keeping a workout journal and a detailed log of your training helps you plan ahead, look back to see what's working and what's not, and gives you a clear plan for what you are going to do that day. When you take the guesswork out of planning a workout you will be surprised at how much more effective you can be!
How To Keep A Fitness Journal:
Your workout journal does not need to be anything fancy. Just using a notebook will work just fine. There are also some great workout journals you can buy or you can use a fitness app like the one I use for my clients. Keeping a training/workout journal will give you an extra edge at reaching your goals.
Different ways to keep an exercise journal
Paper: A regular notebook of your choice, an exercise book (I’ll post a link to my go-to), scrap paper and a folder.
Computer: Using Excel, or google spreadsheet,
Fitness App: There are many out there find one you like. If you are having a hard time I recommend my personal fitness app! With this, you get all the progress tracking as well as a custom program from yours truly:).
Your workout journal should have the workout planned for today and your last workout. So this makes it easy to see what you did last and today do a little more. You can progress each workout by increasing the weight a little more each week, or maybe increase/decrease reps. This way you are challenging yourself more with every workout. You will also know when you should take a rest day or deload week based on performance in the gym.
It is good to have a deload week every 8-10 weeks if you are in a strength phase and every 6-8 weeks if you are in a cutting phase. Your ability to recover will dictate your ability to lose weight and build muscle. Don't neglect your recovery!
If you have been doing the same workout for 6-8 weeks and your progress is stalling out. Then it's time to start a new workout program. With the workouts recorded you will be able to look back and make changes to improve your new workout plan.
Pro Tips on Keeping a Workout Journal:
Whatever the type of training you are doing keep a journal. So bodybuilding, powerlifting, circuit training, CrossFit, you will still benefit from this. Write down the exercises you did, the weights you used, the sets and reps performed, and how you felt overall! It is good to keep a notes section in your journal for each workout. In the notes, you can document how you felt, what you struggled with, and if the workout was to easy with a reminder to step it up. Track how long you have been doing the same workouts and still making progress. In the “Bodyminder” journal you can track the date, time, cardio, who you trained with, the workout, and the notes all on one page. In my training app all of that is already there and saved in a calendar you can go back and check. You can also add notes on the workout and see the progress of each exercise in a cool chart. That's just some of the features in the workout log on my app.
What to record in weight training journal:
Date and time of workout
Who your trainer or workout partner was
The weight used for each exercise
Rest intervals taken between sets
How easy/ difficult it felt
Journaling Your Cardio Workouts:
Keeping track of your cardio workouts can also be a valuable tool. You can track the type of cardio workout, time/distance, calories burned, heart rate, resistance used (for cardio machines) all in one spot. This will give you a realistic view of how many calories you are burning, and how to change things up to not peatue. You can use fitness trackers with a heart rate monitor that will keep a record on your phone and you can simply copy it into your journal. Or if you are using an app like the one I have for my clients your fitness tracker will update it into your account. If you don't have a fitness tracker you can simply record the type of cardio, the time or distance, and the frequency there is also an option for this in my app and you can time the cardio using the ap as well.
What to record in a cardio journal:
Date and time of workout
What kind of cardio
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 the relevant program used (e.g. hills on the elliptical)
If you exercise outdoors: e.g. weather conditions, route
How you easy/ difficult it felt
For those of you living a more active lifestyle and do more than just go to the gym. You can also track your activity outside of the gym. In the “Bodyminder” journal there is two side for each day. On the left side there is your workout and cardio, on the right side there is outside of the gym and nutrition. There is also a spot in the back of the book to record body stats and goals. This means you can track everything health, fitness, and nutrition related. You can see all your goals and progress all in one spot and always have a game plan to make improvement. You will also be able to see how living your active lifestyle and eating healthy are positively affecting your day to day life. After all, fitness is a lifestyle, not just one workout.
Have all your long-term goals broken down into smaller more achievable goals helps you not be so overwhelmed, and celebrate the small victories. Motivation is what most people feel they are lacking but what it really is, is consistency and having a plan for success, Keeping a journal helps you with all of these factors and will give you that missing link to reaching your goals!
non-workout information tor record:
Body weight (or body fat percentage)
Appetite (good, average, poor)
Mood (good, average, poor)
Energy (good, average, poor)
Motivation (good, average, poor)
Now that you know the benefits and how to keep a workout journal. It is time to start your own. I will add in links to the “Bodyminder “ journal I personally use if you want to streamline starting your fitness journal. I feel this is the most complete fitness journal on the market. If you are not a pen and paper type of person. Or want to have a kickass workout plan that you can follow on your own time anywhere you are. Then maybe having an online fitness coach is the right step for you. My goal is to help thousands of people transform their lives and achieve their dream bodies. If you are ready to take the next step and hire an online coach no matter what the goal. Check out my website and get started with my online fitness coaching program today.