Keeping A Handwritten Workout Log
Many of us have kept diaries, journals, and planners, but how many of us have kept workout logs? Think of a workout log as a hybrid between a data tracker and an exercise diary; it keeps track of your objective progress overtime, but also provides an outlet to subjectively track your mental outlook, recovery, and cues with your workouts. I personally have been keeping one for about two years, and have no idea how I ever lifted without it! In addition to why they are beneficial, I am also going to provide you with some fun tips and tricks if you are unsure of where to start!
In today’s busy day and age, there are so many things going on that we want/need to stay on top of. If we try and keep our life organized in our head without writing it down, little details can slip through the cracks. People keep a written record of all kinds of personal data, from taxes to financial planning to personal obligations and everything in between. I encourage you to look at your workout log the same way you look at receipts. Workout records are key to tracking exercise habits in the same way financial records are key to tracking spending habits.
The physical act of logging your workouts allows you to see a written reminder of what you have accomplished and what you want to work on. Let’s use a hypothetical example; one of Gustav’s goals is to complete 50 pushups in a row with no break (I do not train anyone with this name, but if you happened to be named Gustav I promise this is purely coincidental). Gustav has been consistently training for three months and is feeling a bit discouraged because his progress feels slow, and he can “only” complete 30 reps without stopping. He flips through his workout log, and notices that in his first week of training he could only complete 20 pushups without stopping. Gustav goes “Wow, I forgot I could only do 20 back then. Although I am not at my goal yet, I have improved by 10 pushups in three months. That’s pretty good! Looking at the big picture really puts it into perspective.” Obviously, this is a super cheesy example, but you get the idea. Workout logging shows you all that you have accomplished in the past vs. all you have accomplished since then.
In addition to the analytical tracking, workout logging can be a useful mental tool as well. Technical cues, mental cues, and reflection are all so important and can really give you and your coach an insight to how you approach training as well as life itself. Let’s use our friend Gustav again; in addition to his aforementioned pushup goal, he wants to increase his overall strength and movement patterns with lifting and corrective work. He is feeling a bit fatigued, but has enough athletic maturity to recognize that he can safely push through today without causing any harm (knowing when to push your body and when to back off is a lengthy topic that requires a whole blog on its own, don’t worry too much about that yet). In addition to receiving encouragement from his coach, Gustav writes down something a bit cliche like in the margin of his log like “stay tough, don’t give up, etc” and grinds through his workout (again, cheesy, but if it works it works!). At the very end, he begins to reflect and writes down his thoughts on why he felt fatigued, what it took for him to mentally push through, and how accomplished he feels. This can be as brief or as long as he needs. Why is this important? Writing down your reflections can help you see a pattern of what works vs. what doesn’t when it comes to your own personal approach to training. Share this with your coaches/trainer as well! Coaches can see all kinds of things in the physical realm, but we can never truly know what you’re thinking. Seeing a glimpse of how you operate can truly give us an extra tool to unlocking every last bit of your potential!
Handwritten workout logs come in all different shapes and sizes. You can use a journal, notepad, or my personal favorite, a planner. The exact structure of your log will obviously depend on your workouts themselves and how your specific log is organized. However, some universal tricks are going to ensure your tracking is a success regardless of structure!
1. Record the Date - This is why I like a planner so much! The date’s are already written for me, I just fill in my session in the appropriate box. If you are using a journal or notepad, write the date somewhere in the margins as demonstrated below:
2. Record All Sets and Reps - This includes drop sets or any extra sets that you complete on your own that aren’t part of the program your coach gives you. If you are currently a part of our remote team on TeamBuildr, you’re already logging it in the app, but you can still write it in your journal, or just keep the other notes I suggest. If you are an in-facility, in-home, or virtual session client, you can record your workout as you go, or simply ask how many sets/reps are planned for you that day.
3. Write Mental Cues in the Margins - As mentioned above, record any mental or technical notes that you feel are valuable in the margin for that workout. Again, these can be as long as a few sentences, or as short as a few key words.
4. Write Weights or Times Next to each Exercise- Although this is not mandatory if your goals are subjective, this is a must if you have specific number based goals, or if your end goal is competition based (running a triathlon, lifting in a weightlifting meet, competing against your best friend to see who can do the most pullups, etc.). I like to write mine in teeny tiny numbers and circle it if it breaks a personal record.
5. Store Your Journal With Your Gym Bag/Equipment - Whether you are working out at home or at a gym, storing your journal in a specific spot ensures you do not lose it. Keeping it with your gym bag or equipment also makes it way easier to build logging your training into a lifelong habit!
Using these tips and tricks above will help you track your progress, recognize individual learning patterns, and keep your workouts organized! Even if you have a coach or trainer who writes your workouts for you (like us!), or if you’re using an app to record your workouts (like ours!), hand recording your own notes is a helpful trick to getting the most out of your training. Logging your workout “receipts” will keep you disciplined, and allow you to attack your goals more precisely!