The How To’s Of A Training Journal

by Megan K on July 22, 2010

For those of you who have trained with me on a regular basis you can remember how I react when you forget to bring your training journal with you to the gym. To me, forgetting your workout journal is like forgetting to put on a sports bra (if you’re a woman) or forgetting your gym shoes (or vibrams) when going to a public gym. Its uncomfortable working out without it/them; the absence impedes your performance and without it/them you may even feel a little bit naked.

There is a saying in the fitness industry, that sums up the importance of the training journal: “If you don’t write it down it didn’t happen”.

You must record your exercise in order to track your progress and to be able to prove to yourself that you actually did the work. If you asked me did I exercise in June? I’ll say “yes, of course”, but I can’t tell you what weight exercises I did, how heavy I lifted or for how long, nor can I tell you what classes I took or taught without my training journal. With it however, I can tell you exactly what I did and because of that, I can also tell you exactly how much I have progressed since June.

The bottom line is this, you must record your exercise in order to track your progress.

Now that you are clear on why you need a training journal, let’s be very clear about what needs to be in the journal.

1.Date and Time

2. Exercises that you chose, based on what tested well. I find it helpful to also record what my range of motion was at the start of the session. Be sure to record your exercise even if it isn’t using weights. If you ran or went to zumba class put that in your notebook as well. 

3.Volume: Number of Reps (or repetitions of the exercise)
ie: Squats 100lbs (Volume) 15 reps, 14 reps, 14 reps, 13 reps, 12 reps (etc)

4.Intensity: Weight measured in lbs or kgs

5.Density: Speed.Time it took to complete all of the sets you did for a given exercise
ie: Pull-ups 5:00pm-5:05pm (you worked for 5 minutes on pull-ups before you either fatigued, it didn’t test well anymore or you decided to move on to another exercise). You need to record density (time) because as you progress one of the first things you may notice is how much less time it took you to complete the same amount of work.

6.Quality of Movement: improvement in your ability to execute the given exercise
Frankie Faires, Gym Movement Creator, says “The first Rep is always the worst Rep”. What that means is that as you are learning how to do an exercise there are going to be some things you will need to overcome. You may be moving in a way that is a bit choppy (technically speaking sequentially) rather than smoothly (simultaneously). Perhaps you are over exaggerating parts of the movement. It may also be that you feel awkward doing the exercise. Whatever the case is, if the exercise has tested well do it, and remember that it will get easier and the movement will improve. When that happens, you can note in your training journal an improvement in Q of M or quality of movement.

If you forget your notebook, just get a piece of paper and record what you’ve done and tape or staple it into your book. You’re journal doesn’t need to be flashy; you just need to have one!

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