I have yet to meet a fitness expert that doesn’t agree that making a plan and tracking your progress are great ways to help you reach your health and fitness goals. Studies have shown that those who keep an exercise log get better results faster than those who don’t because their achievements (or failures) are written right in front of them in black and white, so it’s easy to know where they need to improve.
I know what you’re thinking: “but it’s SUCH a PAIN in the #%!&!” We all know what we ate. We know how much we exercised. So, why write it all down? It really is for your benefit.
Sense of Accomplishment
Who isn’t motivated when they see that they can lift more weight than they did a week ago, or that their clothes fit better? Whether you’re charting your progress in terms of BMI, how much you weigh at the beginning of each week, or how many miles you run, seeing those results provides you with a more tangible reminder of how well you’re doing. A workout log can also help get over feeling discouraged. Progress is progress, no matter how small. Seeing your numbers improve each week will help keep you motivated.
Target Your Weaknesses
Having a log can help you identify patterns in your workout regime. For example, let’s say you notice that you are having consistently low rates of progress on Thursday afternoons. You can try to identify what could be causing the lag in productivity. Are Thursdays typically when you have your weekly deadline? Do you usually stay up late on Wednesday nights? Seeing the results in writing week after week can be a much-needed wake up call that something needs to change. Maybe you need to have your workout on Fridays instead of Thursdays, or maybe you need to not watch that show on Wednesday nights and get to bed earlier.
Avoid a Workout Plateau
You have to progressively increase your workload and have variety in your workouts if you want to see changes in your body. If you can see that you’ve been logging an awful lot of time on the treadmill or always lifting the same amount of weight on a given exercise, perhaps it’s time to switch it up and do a different exercise or increase weight/speed. NOTE: You should be able to lift a weight for 12-15 reps with the last few reps feeling a little hard to finish. If this is easy for you, it is time to increase the weight. You should start off with being able to do 8-10 reps and working your way up to 12-15 reps.
Keeping track of your numbers can indeed help you become more disciplined simply because it becomes part of your routine. You look forward to seeing the results, week after week!
Make a Plan
If you log your numbers consistently it’s easier to see how you need to shape your routine for the upcoming weeks. If you’ve been running for 15 minutes three times a week, you may decide to step it up to running for 20 minutes next week.
What to Log?
- What you planned to do measured by distance, time, amount of reps, or even level of perceived exertion (for example, hard, moderate or easy).
- Where you were: (outdoors, indoors, gym, at home) Any of these variables can affect a workout. Log weather and the time of day, since those can help you notice when your workouts go well so you can take advantage of the best conditions.
- Heart Rate: note your resting heart rate and your heart rate during your workout. (Pick a time to do it during a specific exercise or activity so the results will clearly indicate a change. Like right after your Tuesday zumba class.)
- How you feel: Log how you feel before and after your workout. Did you start your workout feeling fatigued, stressed, angry or bored? Did the workout change your mood or self-confidence? Do you feel energized or exhausted after your workout? Track how different accomplishments affect your feelings. Rate feelings on a 1-5 scale for a better day-to-day comparison. This will help you tune in to your body and put some perspective on the numbers.
- How well did you Sleep? Rate it on a 1-5 scale. Lack of sleep can greatly affect your workout progress and how well your body heals itself. Looking back and comparing numbers to your sleep rating can help shed light on a lull in progress.
- Record your circumference measurements. Most people get discouraged when the scale reads the same every week, but if your measurements are going down, your muscle mass is going up. The scale numbers could stay the same. This means you are gaining lean muscle and getting rid of fat. Your clothes will be looser since muscle takes up LESS space in your body than fat, and it burns up to 50 calories more per pound. Log your circumference measurements once every two weeks.
- Meals: Logging what you eat can help you judge why you aren’t getting the results you wanted on a given day. Not eating enough protein can help determine why you aren’t gaining muscle, not enough carbs can be why you are feeling so fatigued.
- Did you do a warm-up? Did you cool-down? Did you stretch properly? Using a checking box for each of these helps to remind you to do them.
You don’t have to log all the things I have listed. Do what works for you, and log what matters to you. Keep it simple. You are more likely to follow something that is convenient.
Try keeping a notebook in your car, briefcase, or on your desk, or create a spreadsheet for yourself. There are also plenty of convenient websites dedicated to workout logging. Here are some of our favorites: www.bodybuilding.com www.workoutlog.com/log www.fitsync.com If you’re an iphone user, there’s an app for that! Check out iFitness.
REMEMBER: Progress only happens if you don’t give up. It will take 6-8 weeks to see physical changes, but you’ll feel the improvement in 2-4 weeks.