My training log – or workout journal, pick your name – fits in my hand so nicely. It’s become rather worn, packed with my scribblings about how much weight I’ve lifted and how many reps I’ve done. And it’s only been since I started using it – six months ago – that I began seeing real results from my hard work.
Before my journal, I didn’t know what I’d lifted the time before. So on subsequent visits to the gym I simply lifted whatever I felt I could and I rarely pushed myself. Heck, for all I knew, I’d lifted 40 pounds on that lat pull down last time. So maybe I’d try 50 this time. However, in reality I’d lifted 55 pounds last time so I wasn’t challenging my muscles at all!
At first I felt a self-conscious carrying around my little book. It was slightly cumbersome making sure I remembered to pick it up each time I moved to a different place in the gym. And I wondered if my fellow gym-mates thought I was totally a bit anal-retentive. However, after a few weeks I knew I couldn’t live without it and began noticing other people carrying around little books too.
The Truth Recorded
I don’t get overly detailed in my log. As you can see from the page I included in this post, I simply write the minimum – enough to know what I did. How detailed you get is your decision. On June 15th I used an Olympic bar for my squats and deadlifts, which adds about 45 pounds to the weight. I very nearly couldn’t get back up from my last squat! This little nugget might stay in my head regardless, but I’ll have a record of how long it takes to pass this milestone.
The next time I’m working the same muscles, I’ll flip back and see how much I lifted. I make adjustments accordingly, such as adding more weight or changing the exercises so I’m not doing the same thing over and over. I doubt I’ll do 145-pound squats next time unless there’s a spotter there to help me.
Some people also like to track their workouts on a weekly basis, especially if they’re cycling the intensity (for example, performing a high-intensity routine for three weeks and then shifting to a low intensity routine for three weeks to avoid plateaus).
There are all kinds of ways to avoid plateaus, and a journal is absolutely essential in doing that. Obviously, one benefit is you can track how long you’ve been on the same program. I know I’ve been doing my back program for five weeks. I have increased the weight a little each time, but now it’s time to change it up. My back muscles are probably getting used to this program even though I still feel the burn and enjoy it a lot.
Knowing if you’re progressing – lifting more, getting stronger, building more muscle – is something you’ll only be privy to if you write it down. Really want results? Get serious and keep a training log.
I’ve used both the BodyMinder Workout & Exercise Journal and the Workout Log. The BodyMinder has space for dietary notes and cardio, includes a little plastic pouch at the back for printouts, a place for weekly progress, and even additional records such as games and competitions. The Workout Log is bare bones – simply a page per workout for exercises, reps, sets, weight, and a few other details. I currently prefer the bare bones approach.
When my workout journal is full I’ll save it for reference and buy a fresh, new, wonderful book. If you’re feeling unmotivated or stuck in your workout, consider pumping iron with a new friend. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.