I'm going to talk about journal-keeping. Some of you may have advanced into the age of the handheld PDA, or may be still clinging to the seemingly antiquated pen-n-paper. Regardless of the method, maintaining a simple daily log of fitness activity has tremendous benefit.
MEDIA. First, find a media that suits your needs, capabilities, and budget. I use a spiral steno notepad just like the photo here. I find it very easy to wrap a fat rubber band around the loose bottom and keep it near my area in the gym. I cherish the ability to add information during the workout (we'll talk about what information in a bit). For other friends of mine, they use PDAs to keep track. With the price tag of PDAs, they become just as popular with thieves...so I wouldn't go leaving it laying around. An added feature of PDAs is their ability to interface with a computer, allowing the logger to upload the information into a larger database. Still others use the power of the mind to remember their workout specs, and enter them later into an active computer document. For example, one friend exercises in the gym in the morning, then when he gets to work, he opens up a word processing document that he keeps adding to. He then saves the document and adds to it the next day. Maybe you'll find writing directly into the boxes of a desktop calendar is easiest.
DATA. Think about aspects of your fitness or life that you want to log in the journal. Every now and then I get into a weight-loss phase. I use the right side to keep exercising activity and the left side to keep dietary info. For some of you, maybe your workouts consist of very regular workouts that are repeated. Let's look at one coworker of mine, who is just getting into a functional fitness program. For his first phase, he has five (5) different workout regiments he'll repeat five (5) times, for a total of 25 workout days. The entries of his workout log are short: date, which numbered workout, and duration in time. A sample entry for him is:
- 04-03-08. #3. 23:12.
For him, when he's doing workout #3 next time, he can check his progress (or hopefully not his regression). He might be able to get 25 workouts over 35 days on a single sheet of paper.
Another friend's log also includes how he felt that day, what was most difficult for him that day, or any other information that affected his performance. He uses a word processing document and continually adds to it each day.
Here's a list of certain information that I've seen being kept in a fitness journal:
Warm Up. I like to keep a section each day for WU= that denotes what I did before the actual workout. Sometimes it's as easy as 5min eliptical. Other days, it's more complex like 3rds (3x pull, 10x situp, 10x air sqt, 5x dip, 5x back ext.)
Names of exercises (or abbreviations). Learn the names of exercises or movements. Please don't make an entry that refers to "those things where you bend over and pull it up to your shoulder." There's probably a name for them ;) I like abbreviations to keep entries short. Knees-to-Elbows = K2E and Turkish GetUps = TGUs
Weight used. For a 50lb kettlebell, I use shorthand of 50#KB. Guess what "20#MB" is?
Number of Repetitions. I use the letter X to denote reps. 10x20#MB WBs is shorthand for 10 reps of wallball using a 20lb medicine ball.
Number of Rounds. For circuit training or couplets/triplets, I denote how many rounds of the circuits I did. 10rds (5x pull, 5x back ext, 10 air sqt) is shorthand for 10 rounds of 5 pullups, 5 back extensions, and 10 air squats. That would give a total of 50 pullups, 50 back ext, and 100 air squats.
Time. I regularly keep my time for the workout. I sometimes even denote progress, such as what the clock said at the halfway point. I can see how my fatigue begins to set it.
Tally Marks. I often find my mind playing tricks on me. I have difficulty keeping track of how many sets I've completed. I use tally or tick marks to keep track. Some guys use a white dry erase board to keep tallies (if available of course), but I usually use my notepad (can't do that on a PDA!). During those 10rd workouts, it takes less than a few seconds to make a tick on my page. And I hate when I have to ask myself, "Was that the 7th or 8th round?" Damn it! Better error on safe side and count it as 7, as I'd rather do 11 than 9.
STRUCTURE. Keep a method to your madness. I keep my log very simple. I write the day of the week, the date, and my workout. I even log days of rest with the ever so tricky entry REST usually followed with a smiley face :) I can always look back at past entries and know what I did or how long it took me. Be sure to keep notations clear and consistent. For me, less is more. Look at what your fitness goals are, as well as how regimented/repetitive your program is.
EMOTION. When I say be structured, I do not mean keep it boring. I get a lot of enjoyment when I add a PR!!! which stands for personal record. I also have a few smiley faces next to entries of good performances. Be creative in the ways you show the satisfaction of your workouts.
BENEFITS. There are lots of advantages to keeping a daily journal. It keeps you honest. It forces you to learn the names of exercises/movements. It keeps a record of progress. The progress I see in my journal is a motivator itself......It's working! My program is getting me faster and stronger! A journal also allows you to see the proverbial "holes in the program." These holes are areas that are neglected or avoided. For me, I sometimes see that I haven't done an exercise like RPUs (that's ring pushups in my shorthand) in a while. I need to be sure to get those done within a few days. Lastly, I find a sense of accomplishment in writing down what I did. I get a feeling of permanence when I write it down, as if no one can take this day's performance away from me. It's there on paper!
Get a system. Use your PDA. Buy a spiral notebook. It's really simple....just write it down! You'll figure out a structure and what data to include based on your goals. Now get to it......Dear Diary....