Even though I’ve been lifting 5 days a week for over 5 months, I just recently made a point to get a workout notebook. I spent countless days reminding myself to get a notebook but it never happened, until 3 weeks ago. Long long ago (we’re talking high school) I used to keep track of my workouts because we had to for strength and conditioning. As organized as I am in every other aspect of my life, why I waited so long to actually start bringing a notebook to the gym is beyond me. You may be wondering why it is so important, or laughing at me because it took me so long, but I am going to explain their importance. Before I begin I want to explain what I use my workout journal for. My workout journal is strictly for recording the date, exercise, weight, sets, and reps. I like to keep it simple. There are many different types of workout journals where you write about how you feel during your workout, your mood, etc.. but that isn’t something I personally choose to do. Also, in this great technological age there are a bunch of different apps that you can use to record your data too. I tried using some of those in the past but found that they just weren’t for me as far as weight lifting is concerned. I do use MapMyRun and Polar Flow to track my other exercises (like rollerblading, walking, biking, and hiking) and calories burned but a real notebook is the only way that works for me to track my weight lifting. Anyway, that is stuff for a different day.
Here are reasons why you should have a workout journal:
- It increases workout efficiency. When you sit down on a machine, the longer you spend sitting and thinking about what weight you did last week, the more time you are wasting. Your workout soon takes an extra 10-20 minutes because you have to think about how much weight you did last time and play a game of trial and error. If you have to do that for 5 exercises, that is a lot of wasted time! This way you also know the order of the exercises that you want to get done and have a clear-cut plan.
- It increases workout effectiveness. If you are spending time guessing about what weight you think you did last time, and then try it for a set, or half a set, you are decreasing the effectiveness of your workout. Let me give you an example. Say I want to do Preacher Curls today. For those of you who don’t know what those are, here is an example of them. I think last week I added 17.5 pounds to each side of the bar, so I add the same weight today. Well when I do that today I can’t get more than 2 reps. Now my arms are already tired and I have to adjust the weight without getting a solid set in. (Even if you are thinking you could consider it a warmup set, it would be better to get more than 2 reps in). If I had written down that last week I did 3 sets of 15 pounds/5 reps, 15/6 , 15/4, then I would have known what to start with this week. Had it been recorded in my journal, I would have known that I should have started with 15 pounds again this week. In addition to knowing what weight to start with, by keeping track of what you did last time, you will have an idea of how many repetitions you should be able to do with the weight this time. If I know that my last set of lateral raises I did 20 pounds/5 reps, then today I should be able to do more than that. Your workouts will be much more effective because you can recall what you did last week and move forward from there.
- It shows your progress and can inspire you. As you continue to lift, you will continue to build strength and muscle mass. If you have a workout journal, you can look back and reminisce on the days where you could only overhead press 15 pounds, or leg curl 110. You have a tangible road map of your progress and can use that progress as motivation to keep working hard.
- It helps you set goals, realistic goals. Keeping track of the weight and reps over time will help you get a feel for your body. You will be able to identify which muscle groups are the strongest and which are the weakest, as well as which muscle groups strengthen the fastest. Each person’s body is different. Keeping track will provide you with feedback so that you can set goals that are realistic for you.
Here is an example from my workout journal. Nothing fancy, but it gives you an idea of how easy it is to jot down the info.
Do you use a workout journal? Why or why not? I’d love to hear from you!