Having a fitness journal is a personal topic to me. In fact, if there’s one thing I probably regret the most in my previous years in the gym, it’s not keeping a proper journal.
It would’ve made all the difference.
One question at my exam to getting the national fitness certification, where I placed in the top 3 of the whole country, was “Why one should keep a fitness journal.” You know a topic is important if the authorities print it on an official exam.
Here are 17 reasons a fitness journal can help you succeed in the gym and beyond:
1. The Key To Celebration
Progress equals happiness. – Tony Robbins
One of the most encouraging acts you can ever do in your life is to track your progress. If you’ve set goals, it’s absolutely crucial for you to know if you’re moving any closer.
As Tony Robbins, a top-notch motivational speaker and author, said: Progress is happiness. It’s one thing to crave progress and another thing to start measuring it. Here’s when the workout journal comes in handy.
2. Better Guidance
If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Imagine if a coach could analyze your whole progress, your weakness and your strengths in less than 5 minutes, without you telling him any word? Well, that’s what a fitness journal is for.
If you have paid to be coached by a professional in the fitness industry, why not make his life and your progress easier? Use a fitness journal. It’s less hassle for both of us, trust me.
3. Keep That Competitive Edge
A group of friends of mine once downloaded a running app. The goal was to keep each other accountable and maybe lose few pounds. What started as a harmless activity resulted in a fierce competitive battle.
I heard stories of a friend that went for a run at 11pm just to beat the daily mileage amount of a competitor. After 3 months, nearly all of the ambitious contestants were in the best shape ever. Competition is a great tool – use it to your advantage.
Using a fitness journal can facilitate competition, as all of the information are in one, tiny place. Show a gym buddy of yours your journal and see what happens.
4. Reducing Your Willpower
The last thing we all want is to put more stress on our plates. Why should we consciously note down our progress? Shouldn’t the gym clear our heads?
Yet a workout book can actually lessen the willpower that we need to get to the gym. The fitness journal takes the decision weight off our shoulders that is needed to start the task.
There’re only two steps to this strategy: 1. Plan your workout in advance and 2. simply execute it.
5. Face the Truth
We live in an illusion. Our brain is determining our reality. The fitness journal helps you see the truth. It’s hard to argue with ink.
We think we simply have “bad genetics”, yet when we look at the written down intensity in the fitness journal it turns out that we haven’t exhausted ourselves properly for the last 6 months. No more excuses here.
6. Accountability to Yourself
A coach holds us fully accountable. A fitness journal keeps us accountable partly.
By looking at our past achievements, we can set the goal to achieve more. A fitness journal can foster our ambition.
7. See Patterns
I was blind, but now I see. – Bradley Cooper, Movie: Limitless
Ever wondered why you don’t feel fit during a day and then make personal best on another? A fitness journal can help you see patterns in your behaviours. What gets measured gets managed.
8. The Joy of Task Completion
You know that feeling when you cross of something on your to-do list? It feels awesome. Why not have that same feeling after going to the gym?
If we write down the results of our training, we get a dopamine rush. It makes us think we’re in control of our destiny.
9. Know Your Weakness
Ever noticed that you’re bench pressing more than you’re squatting? In the journal, you see it in writing.
A fitness journal points out your weaknesses and shows you the areas that need improvement.
10. Minimize Variables
The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. – Albert Ellis
What if your goals were basically guaranteed? Next to having enough reason, we also have to minimize variables. We have to control all there is to reach our goals.
11. Prevent Excuses
You’ve noticed that you haven’t made any progress? Look into your fitness journal. It’s most likely not your genetics.
If we write our progress down, we can see what works, and what doesn’t. This way we can prevent excuses.
12. Minimize Injuries
Feel a sting after doing shoulder exercises? Make a note in your fitness journal.
Before starting the next workout, go through the old workout and act accordingly. Often injuries accumulate after multiple trainings. We can minimize the occurrence of injuries by writing it down in our journal.
13. Condition Yourself to the Workout
A lot of professional athletes have routines before they start their training. They either wear a certain wristband, like Lance Armstrong, or have other interesting routines. Success leaves clues.
Routines increase our performance. Taking out your journal before entering the gym floor tells your brain that it’s go time.
14. Look like a Pro
“Have you seen that guy training with a fitness journal? Yes – he must be taking this gym stuff serious.”
Do you want to be a pro? Act like one. Fake it until you make it. Looking and acting like a professional becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
15. Know Who to Associate With
The rock band Van Halen had a now-famous “No Brown M&Ms clause” in their gig contract. A standard concert contract called for them to be provided with a package of M&Ms backstage. But with no brown ones.
Even a single brown M&M in that package, was enough for Van Halen to cancel a scheduled appearance without notice and usually destroy the whole backstage room in a rampage.
The M&Ms clause was included in Van Halen’s contracts not as a cause of laughter, but because it served a practical purpose: to provide a simple way of determining whether the technical specifications of the contract had been thoroughly read and complied with.
The fitness journal could be your brown M&M clause when dealing with your fellow gym members. Did that guy just tell you to do a certain workout? To evaluate the advice, scan for a workout journal nearby.
If you don’t see one, you can just disregard his advice altogether.
16. Parkinson’s Law – and Why Your Time Is Valuable
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. – Parkinson’s Law
The Parkinson’s Law also applies to your fitness results. If you don’t give your workout a max. duration, it will go on for hours on end.
Pre-determine the sets, reps and exercises that you want to do beforehand. Then go into the gym and execute.
17. Focus on You
While I’m a huge believer in motivation through a competitive spirit and external factors, in the end, this journey is about becoming a better you. A healthier, faster, stronger and better person altogether.
The fitness journal can help you keep your focus on where it should be — on you. In the end, all the notes that you take are focused on your progress and your decisions.
How to Start a Fitness Journal?
Starting a fitness journal is simple and easy. You either buy a pre-written book which makes it even easier for you or you buy a blank notebook.
The variables to track are
the total amount of sets
But you can also track your sleep hours, your rate of percieved exertion (RPE), your daily caloric intake up until your pre-workout intake of caffeine in milligrams.
I recommend you to start with the 3 basic variables noted before and then add additional ones, once you feel comfortable. The mantra with a fitness journal, as it is with general fitness, is consistency. It’s better to start small and be consistent than to start big and be unsteady.
Take the fitness journal with you every time you go to the gym and then write down your notes after finishing the set. After a couple of workout days, this becomes second nature and won’t take any time or brain resources at all.
The reason most people don’t have a fitness journal is, that they assume it’s not worth it. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
There are plenty of reason to follow a fitness journal. From being a proven blueprint, creating motivation to being a facilitator for personal growth. Having a fitness journal is an absolute necessity if we’re serious about reaching our fitness goals.
In fact in my opinion, having a professional journal can make all the difference.