One of the most underrated weapons in your training arsenal is also the simplest– a log book. Here is how you will get better results from you effort in the gym with this tool.
Using a log book goes beyond just seeing better workouts happen. It’s about creating a database and history of training that gives you information on how to train smarter and with more confidence.
We all intuitively understand the benefits of keeping a log of our workouts.
It’s kind of like flossing; it’s something we know we should be doing, and we might do for a few days at a time, but inevitably discard it or break the chain because we don’t see the immediate impact of doing so.
But if you invest the few minutes of your day that are required to detail your workouts, and the discipline to do it each day, then you will start to reap some of the benefits.
Which, in case you were wondering, have been shown time and time again to be effective:
- Research performed at John Hopkins and Duke found that participants who logged their meals lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.
- Use your training log to set targets and goals in the gym. Writing out the things you want to do increases the likelihood that you are going to accomplish it by 42% according to this study.
- Self-monitoring makes you more accountable to your goals in the gym, as evidenced by a meta-study of decades of weight loss research that showed those who self-monitored results were more successful compared to those who didn’t.
Research is great, and solidifies what you already either knew or suspected; that logging your workouts can pay off big time.
Here is how:
It will injury-proof your training.
For those who have hit the gym regularly for any period of time you know that there comes a time where you get injured.
Maybe the pre-workout hit you so hard that you blew right past the warm-up set. Or you were rolling on three hours of sleep. Or you went back for another workout after a particularly devastating session the day prior.
Whichever the case, ya messed up, and done-did hurt yourself.
Now, for those who suffer chronic injuries, who just cannot seem to shake the misery of being injured, imagine the value in having a detailed workout history to be able to show to your therapist, doctor or coach.
It’s not too difficult to draw a line through your training when it shows how much you are lifting, how much you have increased your lifting, how you are managing your lifestyle choices, and so on and so forth.
We might “know” what causes us to lapse into patterns that promote injury, but being able to see it on paper, clear as day, is another matter altogether. Simply knowing the actual—and not imagined—circumstances that led to injury can be a game-changer.
There’s nothing more infuriating than incurring the same injury over and over again, and keeping a training log can pre-empt injury by providing you the flashing warning signs on the road ahead.
Dominate your personal bests.
One of the absolute highlights of working out (and dare I say, life?) is crushing a personal best. For the rest of the week you actually feel like a new and improved you, better, taller, and sexier than the you of days past.
If you are like most lifters and athletes these moments come somewhat far and few between. But when you think back to those days, you remember how it all just clicked.
There are a lot of variables that factor in making those amazing workouts happen. How you slept the night before. The accumulated fatigue of previous workouts up to that point. How you had eaten. Stress levels. And so on.
Knowing these things can not only help you strive to create the kind of environment that will promote high performance, but it will also help you create more realistic expectations for what you can hope to do in the gym.
Pump your tires.
In the long grind of getting in awesome condition (whatever that means in your particular case) it can be easy to get lost in all of which we have already accomplished.
Take the time to note your successes. Recognize the hard work you have done.
You don’t need to add 50 pounds to your squat to look at your recent streak of workouts and feel good about what you have done under the bar.
Don’t hold off on recognizing the good things you are doing; be gracious enough with yourself to celebrate the small wins along the way. You don’t need to wait until competition time, or the end of the year, or when you finally hit your goal to recognize the fact that you are killing it.
Divide and conquer your goals.
Your log book is more than just a record of your past workouts. It’s also a guidebook for where you want to go. Those who achieve at a high level both in the weight room and on the field of play have goals and targets that they want to achieve. They have goals they have decided on and committed themselves to over and extended period of time.
Beyond just what I would call an “overall goal” (I want to lose X pounds; I want to bench X pounds; I want to run a marathon in X time) are the short term goals; the monthly, weekly and daily benchmarks that make up the broader goals.
This is where your log book comes in supremely handy.
It gives you a platform for all of those goals. The big ones, the medium ones, and perhaps most importantly, the small and daily ones.
A glimpse into the past.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. We tend to look back to the past with a biased eye, and for the better and the worst looking back on your old workouts can provide feelings of nostalgia, while also making you feel a little silly. That workout where you lifted for two straight hours after drinking a 4-pack of Red Bull? Probably pretty stupid, but you did it anyway.
Most notably, however, are the workouts where you were just a shade of the athlete that you are now. A workout that could qualify as a warm-up today. The ones that remind the you of today that there is still more to come. These sessions provide the incontrovertible proof that you can improve.
And of course, it could be the other way around. After a long layoff it can be humbling to look back and see what you were once capable of. Of course, you shouldn’t just be humbled, but also confidant in knowing that you were once capable of great feats, and with a little bit of time and patience you will be again.
So what’s next?
Developing the habit of keeping a training log requires discipline and time, just like anything else.
For those who are unaccustomed to writing out their workouts they will want to start easy.
Write out the bare basics. You don’t need to start out each entry with “dear diary” and you don’t need to write out 1,000 words per workout.
But you should absolutely start out noting the 1-2 things that impact your performance the most in the gym.
Things like quickly ranking your sleep, nutrition and effort level in the gym are super fast ways to create some accountability without spending a heap of time wallowing in how the day and workout went.