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February 05, 2019

Why you should be keeping track of your workouts in a fitness journal

This habit might just help ramp up your fitness efforts

Fitness Workouts
journal pexels Jessica Lewis/Pexels

Physically writing things down with pen and paper is a fleeting method for keeping track of things in this highly digital age. Yet, you might be able to take your fitness efforts to the next level by hanging on to this “vintage” tradition.

If you’re trying to improve your diet, one of the first things experts will suggest is to create a food diary – logging everything you eat in a day and when. This same method can be applied to physical activity in a fitness journal or workout log — whatever you want to call it.

“Maintaining a fitness journal can be one of the most impactful things you can do for your own training,” Matthew N. Berenc, C.S.C.S., director of education at the Equinox Fitness Institute in Los Angeles, told Men’s Health


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But the log should include more than your time spent in the gym — it should be as detailed as possible. Include reps, sets, tempos, rest breaks, and weights or equipment settings. If you’re serious about your fitness goals, Men’s Health suggests including a baseline for yourself in your journal, too –, body weight, body fat percentage, or maybe personal records on the exercises you care most about.

The best part? You can do all of this ahead of time, so your plan is all laid out as soon as you get there, removing any sort of guesswork and wasted time.

Plus, a log is more than just a record of how you have done in the past — it’s a blueprint for the future. A high-performance log book includes not only the workouts you've completed but the ones to come — including your short-term goals and objectives, according to Stack

At the same time, a journal is perfect for marking and celebrating smaller, but certainly no less significant, milestones in your fitness journey. So often, the big wins ends up boxing out a large number of small wins that we tend to cruise through first, Stack reminds.

Men’s Health also suggests including your "rating of perceived exertion," or RPE, a ranking between 1 and 10 of how difficult your workout felt on a given day. Using the measure allows you to see if the same exercise or session is getting easier or harder, and if you should progress or take a break. 

Of course, you might also want to include other specifics of how you felt during the workout. Were you experiencing any abnormal pain or tightness? Were you hungover? Did you eat too much beforehand? This gives a more holistic view of your performance.

Now that you know how and what you should be tracking, let’s figure out the medium with which you’ll take notes.

While pen and paper works for some, an app on your phone might be easier for others — so it basically boils down to which method you're more committed. Some apps that can help you track your fitness progress include: Strong Workout Tracker Gym Log, Playbook, Way of Life, and Exercise.com.

As for physical journals, Well and Good and Women’s Health both have lengthy lists of aesthetically-pleasing journals you can peruse.  

Of course, a plain ol’ notebook from the drugstore will also do the trick, too. Happy tracking! 

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