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A Few Good Reasons to Keep a Training Journal

Start taking ’em.

What Is a Training Journal?

A training journal is your “Dear Diary” for physical fitness and nutrition. It’s a place to keep track of strength, cardio, and flexibility training. It’s also useful in recording injuries, discomfort, illness, and nutrition. In short, it is one of the most valuable (and cheap) tools in setting and achieving fitness goals. Journals range from a collection of papers stapled together to fancy apps on a smart phone. I personally opt for a leather bound journal, or whatever is on sale at Target.

Set Goals and Achieve Them

Sometime the best motivation is evidence of progress. Decide on a few fitness goals, and write them down. Then decide on a plan to meet those goals, and start documenting EVERYTHING you do to meet those goals. The small successes will start to pile up, and you’ll push on because you’re efforts are paying off.  The journal shows your concrete progress.

Stop Wasting Time

While it’s true that doing some sort of physical activity is better than none, wandering aimlessly around a gym, or haphazardly jogging around the block is not an efficient use of your time. A journal allows you step outside or into the gym with a plan, and eliminates any propensity for laziness. No more wondering what you did last time, how long each lap lasted, or how many sets you performed last week. It’s right there on paper, and you have no excuse for not taking your performance to the next level.

Pre-journal days, I’d walk into a gym and do a few sets of whatever felt good. I had no goal, no plan, and no way of knowing if I was making progress. I worked out 4-6 days a week, and over the course of a few years, I made little observable progress. Now I march in armed with the journal, take a look at what I did last time, and I move forward. If I can’t, I write down why I couldn’t. Sick? Poor meal choices the night before? Not enough sleep? Write it down! This information has helped me make informed decisions, and I’ve seen progress in strength and flexibility, even though I train only three days a week.

Train With Intelligence

Keeping a record of fitness does not guarantee success. Sometimes you’ll set a goal, and you won’t make much progress, but this is one of the biggest strengths of keeping track. Over time, you will see what is or is not effective, and you can make decisions based on that information. Without a written record, you are more likely to repeat the same inefficient programming. Repeated failures will result in discouragement, and ultimately in abandoning a program of fitness altogether.

For an entire year I kept meticulous track of every set, repetition, and weight used. I made very little progress, and I wasted many precious hours that year with inefficient training. Looking back on those twelve months, however, it wasn’t a waste. It was a lesson to move forward in a new direction with more intelligence and more information. I started reading articles from authorities on strength training (rather than listening to my friends and random guys at the gym), and I changed my approach to training. The results started accumulating, and I now look back on that failed year as an important data set that informs how I will train in the future.

Yes people will give you strange looks, and some will simply inquire as to why you are writing down everything you do in a book. Unfortunately, many effective behaviors appear awkward (look up proper squat and deadlift form), and there comes a point where you need to decide if other people’s curious glances and opinions are going to dictate your progress.  Achieving goals is not a matter of luck or genetics. It’s a matter of incremental success which comes from making intelligent, informed decisions. A training journal costs next to nothing, but it’s contribution to meeting fitness goals is invaluable.


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