Why you should keep a workout diary

Why you should keep a workout diary – Off The Mat

Why you should keep a workout diary – Off The Mat

In June I spent about a week speaking with Members of the Members’ Area. The goal was to improve the Members’ Area, but also to figure out how they were using it within their own workout programs.

It was really cool to see that there were so many similarities amongst the community. Despite geographics, age, and other differences, it was relatively easy to group people into specific groups or identities.

More than the others, there was one particular group of people that had a higher level of discipline. This group of people had a set schedule for their workouts. They took the time and made the extra effort to ensure that they would be able to stick to their workouts, even with professional and familial obligations.

Almost all of the people in this group mentioned tracking their workouts. Many had intricate systems, going far beyond simply recording the amount of reps or exercises performed to measure blood, oxygen levels, and even assigning intensity levels to their workouts. (Hint: That’s how I got the idea to add an “Intensity” filter to the Workout Library.)

Most planned their workouts at the beginning of the week. They made it so that when the time came to work out, they wouldn’t have to waste time or energy figuring out what they would be doing that day, and could focus their energy on their workout instead.

  • They knew that Monday was yoga, and they knew which workout from the Workout Library they would be doing.
  • Tuesday was weights, and they knew the exact exercises, sets, and reps they would perform.
  • Wednesday was cardio, and they knew exactly what they would do for that, too.
  • And so on…

Keep in mind – these people were by far the most dedicated people I spoke with. They didn’t miss workouts, and if they did, they probably felt pretty guilty about it. It might have even had a negative impact on their overall mood and how they interacted with people.

Personally, I hadn’t kept a workout log since I was in high school, and that’s only because they made us do it for weight training. It was useful, but I almost always lost it. And the cards they had us using to record sets and reps didn’t leave room for notes, which sucked. But speaking with the Members re-inspired me to get my s*** together and start recording workouts.

I started in July, and haven’t missed a single day. Sure, I don’t always write my workouts down right away, but I get it down by the day after. It’s proved to be incredibly helpful, in 3 ways in particular:

1. I can track my progress.

This gives me extra motivation when I see improvements. It also holds me accountable to do my workouts; it’s a physical representation of the pride I place in adhering to my fitness routine.

2. I take specific notes on what I need to improve.

In the moment and immediately afterwards, you know exactly what you can do to improve. Weeks after, however, if you just look at the weight, sets, and reps you did, that’s a pretty inaccurate picture. It doesn’t tell you if you were tired that day, if you were doing the reps quickly or slowly, or if you were sore. Adding specific notes into the workouts helps you get back into the frame of mind you were in when you originally did the workouts, and helps you better track your improvement.

3. I learn what my body is realistically capable of over the course of a week.

Many times we are over-ambitious as to what we think we can accomplish in a week. By tracking and planning your workouts, you’re able to see specifically what went wrong in your planning, and what adjustments you can make to ensure that you feel fresh and ready for all of your workouts.

Here’s a few examples of how it’s helped me in my own training:

  • Earlier this week I did weighted back squats, but I couldn’t remember how much weight I had been using for. The last time I had done them was about a month prior. So I did as much weight as I thought I could, focused on technique, and finished up feeling great. Later that night I checked my notebook and was pleased to find that I had increased my strength substantially! I went from 4 reps a month ago to 10 reps with the same weight – without any other back squat workouts, which is a good testament to my yoga training.
  • Last week when I was doing a pose guide photo shoot for that secret project I mentioned, I was getting instant feedback on my technique in each posture. Rather than letting all of that info escape, I wrote EVERYTHING down into my notebook. I have 5 pages of tips for how to improve specific postures, so I can now come back to that and use it to get better. It’s made a huge difference in about 20 different postures. There’s ALWAYS room for improvement – especially in yoga.
  • In the summer I started swimming, and I set a pretty ambitious workout plan for one week in particular. I ended up not completing all of the scheduled workouts, but I learned what my body was capable of over the course of the week. A few more tweaks during subsequent weeks gave me an accurate picture of when I would need a day off, what recovery work I would need to implement leading up to or following certain workouts, and how to space my workouts so I could give it my all in every one.

The point is that it’s a great idea to track your workouts. I use a small Moleskin notebook for all of my note taking, and I actually have 3 different ones at the moment. One for workouts, one for work, and one for self-development.

Here’s what’s going on this week.

Fitness focus: Leg days
It’s the first time in a while that I’ve managed to do two leg workouts in one week, and this is mostly because I’ve recognized my limits and am spacing out my workouts accordingly. Weighted back squats were on Monday, deadlifts were on Thursday. (We’re also getting set up in the new office, which means we haven’t started filming workouts yet, so this gives me legs a little more energy than usual.)

Music I’m listening to: Clique – Jay-Z, Big Sean, and Kanye
I’m seeing Jay-Z tonight at ACL, so I’ve been listening to Jay-Z during my workouts this week. Didn’t realize Big Sean was in this song, but he’s become one of my favorite rappers over the past year.

Product I’m enjoying: Moleskin Notebook
Keep a diary. Write down your thoughts. Organize what’s going on in your head. Track your training. Write down what you’re grateful for. A notebook helps you do all of those things.

Book I’m reading: What Doesn’t Kill Us – Scott Carney
This book was EXCITING! After a day of having too much caffeine (which for me appears to me one cup at 11 AM), I ended up laying down in bed with no desire to sleep. So I started reading. After 160 pages of this, I decided it was time to turn the light off. I finished this book in 2 days. Loved it.

This book is about Wim Hoff. If you’re not familiar with “The Iceman”, Wim Hoff focused on breathing exercises and cold water immersion to improve your health, from everything to being able to do more push-ups to improving your immune system function. This book has definitely influenced me to purchase the Wim Hoff method, it’s now just a matter of when.

Also, I don’t know if it’s possible to do “cold” water immersion in Texas – my shower barely gets below 70 degrees.

Personal Struggle: Juggling all of the balls.
There’s a lot of stuff going on, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of it all. Somehow it all seems to work out, but I’m not always sure how.

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