One of the best ways to enhance your training is also the simplest: write it down. It doesn’t matter if you use the latest app or an old spiral notebook, journaling your efforts in the gym will get you to that new body or athletic goal faster, safer, and more in tune with your body and what it can do.
The number one reason to document your workout sessions is to be accountable to yourself. Just knowing you will have to write down “skipped workout” in your log can be enough to get you to the gym. The power of third-party accountability, even when it’s an old-fashioned black-and-white composition book, is profound.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine examined 51 women who were put on a 16-week workout program. Half of the women were given a standard pedometer while the other half were given a FitBit and the daily activity was automatically logged on a website. By the end of the 16 weeks, the group that was part of the web-based exercise log racked up significantly more exercise than the group who also received a pedometer but did not have a workout log.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” said 20th century business philosopher Peter Drucker. It’s just as relevant for the weight room as it is for the boardroom. Fitness, after all, is a game of metrics.
An accurate journal can make the journey to your goals faster and more efficient. Every four weeks you can look back at your workouts and assess how they are serving your goals. If you feel as if your chest is not developing, you can see when and where to add more volume for your pecs. It also makes it very easy to see patterns emerging and weaknesses developing, such as replicating the same exercises over and over or shying away from difficult but effective exercises like the squat or the deadlift.
A workout journal is crucial tool for maintaining progress. Tracking the weight you move or the time it takes you to complete a certain high intensity interval training session is the only way to ensure that you continue to push yourself. Before you go for a PR on your bench press one-rep max or that three-mile run, revisit the last time you tried it. Keeping those results in mind will help you continue to push yourself.
Don’t underestimate the satisfaction of flipping through weeks and weeks of workouts you have completed. The confidence that comes from revisiting this succession of small victories is the foundation that larger victories is built upon.