You put on your running suit, tie your shoes as firmly as possible without causing your feet any pain, put on your stop-watch, and head out for a jog on a cold winter afternoon – or just straight to the gym and onto the treadmill if that’s your thing.
After a 5-10 minute warm-up, you pick up the pace. Slowly but surely you cross the 7 mile tempo and settle into a nice and cosy state of relaxation.
Around 30 minutes go by, and things start to get a little tough. Soon enough you find yourself constantly looking at your stop-watch, trying to determine how much longer you should go.
“Last week I did 40 minutes per session, so let’s try and go for 45 this week.”
You keep running, but suddenly a daunting thought creeps into your mind…
“Wait, was it 40 minutes? Or did I run 45?”
Your mind gets side-tracked, and instead of focusing on getting the most out of your run, you find yourself thinking about whether you should run for 45 or 50 minutes. You finally settle down for something in between, and go back home feeling kind of doubtful and uncertain about the whole workout. Definitely not a good state of mind to be in.
Not sure about you, but this is something that used to happen to me quite often before I started keeping a workout log. And believe me – the last thing you want while trying to push yourself past your limits is to have negative thoughts and uncertainty get the best of you. It’ll wear you down more than you realize.
Before I tell you exactly how to manage a workout log, allow me to share with you some of the associated benefits; all of the following are based entirely on my own experience and I can attest to them being spot-on.
Benefit #1: A Log Page Is Worth A Thousand Memories
We all like to believe that our memory is great, but the fact is we forget the vast majority of things that happen to us. I mean, think about it: you’ve probably been on this planet for 25+ years, and have probably done hundreds of thousands, if not millions of different things. Can you recall much of them, other than the most critical moments of course?
Most important of all – can you recall precisely which actions in your life, even the smallest ones, resulted in specific consequences?
If you rely on your memory, then the best you can hope for is to remember all of your best personal workout records. Unfortunately though, all the other little things which play a critical role in making those records happen will get lost along the way.
Benefit #2: Consistency
This partly ties to benefit #1. Making the best out of your exercises and achieving your goals is all about consistency, and I’m sure anyone who’s ever achieved anything worth a penny in this field will tell you the same.
Keeping a workout log will help you achieve just that. It’s far easier to keep track of what it is you should be doing on your next exercising session if you have everything written down. In this case, you need to know where you are coming from if you want to know where you’re going.
Benefit #3: Motivation
Remember the last time someone shared a cool little motivational quote on Twitter and you immediately re-tweeted it because you thought it was so cool and inspiring? Well, an exercise diary is probably a hundred times more effective as an inspirational tool than all of the world’s quotes combined.
This becomes particularly true once you’ve filled up a few dozen, and even better – a few hundred pages. Whenever you feel any doubt creeping in, or you start wondering whether you can keep going, just scroll through your entire workout log. Let the sheer scope of it all sink in and try to understand the magnitude of what it is you’ve already managed to accomplish.
If this doesn’t get you motivated, nothing will.
Benefit #4: Monitor Your Rest Days
You probably already know that rest is an integral part of any exercise routine. If you’re not keeping a workout log, then you’re probably failing to mentally connect your exercise days with your rest days, which is not a good thing as the two should naturally flow into one another.
By noting how it is you feel on your rest days, how the previous day’s workouts affected your mood and physical condition, it will be far easier to pin-point all these little things that might be hindering your progress.
Feeling particularly tired on a given rest day? Compare your previous day’s workout notes to those of other past workouts and try to find a reason. Didn’t sleep too well that night? Perhaps it has something to do with your exercise intensity, or with the particular time of day you performed a given workout (maybe you sleep much better when you exercise at night?).
All of these are things that are literally impossible to track without a workout log, unless you have an absolute memory of course.
Benefit #5: Helps Prevent Injury
I could have combined this one with Benefit #4, but I felt it’s so important that it deserved a separate paragraph.
Having good, high-quality rest days is vital to making sure you do not over-train yourself. Over-training can quite easily lead to injury, particularly so if you don’t have enough muscle mass on you, which is often the case for women.
Benefit #6: Helps You Identify Your Weaknesses
Suppose you have been feeling a little bit of discomfort in your knee-cap while doing squats recently. You identified the most likely culprit to be a relatively weak vastus medialis (that’s just a fancy name for the inner muscle of your thigh), which is very often the case when knee pain is involved in sports.
You manage to locate a few really good exercises for strengthening that specific muscle, but for one reason or another you cannot get yourself to start doing them. You delay things, and your knee problems keep getting worse by the week.
If you’ve been properly logging all of your workouts, you’ll find it’s relatively easy to force yourself and start doing the required exercises. “What the hell? It has been 20 workouts already and I haven’t done a single exercise to strengthen the vastus medialis? This needs to change right now!”
I could probably go on all day mentioning various other benefits to keeping a workout log, but I think the the above should be more than enough to make you realize just how helpful it can be. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what it is you should actually be logging for maximum benefits.
The author of this article, Mark Nazzal, is an online 1 on 1 weight loss and fitness coach who will take you by the hand and make sure the job gets done. You can ask him any questions related to running a workout log, or to any other diet and performance issues, at his fitness forum.