Nothing is too high for a man to reach, but he must climb with care and confidence.
–Hans Christian Andersen
In Five Reasons Not to Write Down Everything You Eat for a Week, I spelled-out my reasoning behind why I think it’s bad policy to food and/or meal journal. My main contention being that I feel like that food journaling only serves to mask (or, more precisely, side-step) the root problem at hand — namely, the consumption of the wrong types of foods. And that got me to thinking — do I really need to keep a workout journal, then?
I came to the conclusion that, true enough, a “by the book” practitioner of the Evolutionary Fitness lifestyle would really have little need to bother with keeping such a journal. If one had the freedom to workout when they felt like it, and as hard or as easy as they were compelled, then quite naturally a plot of their workout sessions and power expenditure would fall nicely into a fractal pattern. Such a person would naturally have all-out days, easy days, languid days, etc. And I would be, quite naturally, jealous as all hell of this person. For this lucky soul, maintaining a workout journal would be — like the food journal for us mere mortals — an unneeded waste of time.
The challenge, of course, is finding that happy medium between the “ideal” and the “what’s possible”. For the time being, at least, a huge swath of my day is planned out for me. That, for most of us, is the real world that we have to deal with. And this is where the workout journal fits in. It’s a net time saver — and anything that’s a net time saver and adds value to boot — is a keeper in my book.
So, what information is good to keep track of?
First off, assess your goals. My journal as of late contains none of the detail I’d carefully tracked back in my bodybuilding days (Uh. I really can’t believe now that I was once into that scene) or back even further, in my football days. Here’s a shot of the first section of my journal — what I call the “detail” page:
Just a cheap, college composition book. And it doubles as a Frisbee, for shooing dogs away from things they oughtn’t chew
This details what I actually did in any given workout. Exercises, set/rep schemes, weights used, rack/machine positions, and especially notes for how to adjust the next, similar workout. And that’s the key with this page;
If I were to repeat this very same workout tomorrow, what would I do different to improve upon what I did today? What would make this workout better, more intense or move along more rapidly?
Nothing elaborate, just a few notes. Maybe I need to increase or decrease a weight used for a particular exercise, or maybe the exercise pairing is not optimum, whatever. Maybe this workout is not effective, given a 30-minute time limit. It’s short, sweet, and to the point, though. I usually only have about a half an hour to spend on any given workout, and very little of that, I can tell you, is spent scribing.
Now, the second section of my journal is something most people do not do, but that I’ve found to be very helpful:
These pictures are admittedly lame, so I’ll try best I can to spell-out the madness here. I start from the bottom of the last notebook page, progressing, workout by workout, up and back towards the front of the journal — so that my last workout becomes the most recent entry as read from the “normal” direction. I’m sure I’ve succeeding in making something so simple just as clear as friggin’ mud. Anyway, this portion serves as my quick reference section. And what I list here is the date, exercise(s) performed and the set/rep scheme. That’s it. Now, I can flip to this section and, with little more than a glance, determine what method, exercises, set/rep scheme, plane of motion, etc. that has not been recently worked. If you look back over my past workouts, you’ll notice very little in the way of repetition, and this portion of the journal is what keeps me honest.
Now, sometimes I’ll purposely, and repeatedly, hit a method, plane of motion, exercise, body part, etc. in an attempt to better some perceived “weak-link” Right now, that “weak-link” happens to be hamstrings and explosive strength. Later on down the road, it’ll be something else, guaranteed. And there’s always something else — it’s the nature of the beast.
But more on that another time. For now, vow to keep a workout journal. Unless, of course, you’re Tim Farriss. Who is smugly, I’m sure, going about his workouts unencumbered by such frivolity.
And hey, Tim — I’m jealous!