Last week I talked about varying the intensity, duration, and volume of your workouts to avoid plateauing. This week I’m going to tell you how to keep that up over the long term.
The problem – what have you done for yourself lately?
Just like how meal planning can help you keep track of your meals more easily, planning workouts can keep you on track to meet your exercise goals. But it starts even before the planning phase. How do you know what to plan? Can you quantify any of your exercise habits over the last week, last month, last year??? How can you know where you’re going without knowing where you’ve been.
The workout journal.
Look, it doesn’t have to be excessive but for long term progression you need to keep track of EVERY workout. This can be as simple as writing down the date and a single sentence about what you did and possibly how you felt. I choose to use pen and paper but you could get as technical as you’d like. Prefer using a spreadsheet? Go ahead. Just be sure to go with the sustainable choice, the idea is to use it for years to come.
The not so obvious benefit.
So it’s pretty easy to see that looking back at your recent exercise sessions will help you decide what to do next. But the real reason to journal is that at some point you’re going to take a break from exercise. It may be a few days, it may be a month. But when you decide to get back into it you will notice you’ve “de-trained”, you’re understandably less fit after a longer break. That’s absolutely fine and sometimes desirable. However, there is a small problem. Where do you begin again? If it’s just a week-long break maybe you’ll start at 90-95% of what you did previously. But what about after a month off? Where do you start? Referencing your workout log can help tremendously. And what about when you need a little extra motivation, or when you need an objective view of your long term progress? Flip the pages back and check what you did that week a year ago or even two years ago. This will either be reassuring that you are on the right track or it will be a kick in the butt.
How to get in the habit of journaling.
No doubt the best way to start your habit is to write your workout down IMMEDIATELY after finishing. This way you get the task out of the way quickly and you record with greater accuracy because your memory is fresh. Second to this is streaking. No not running naked across a football field. I mean starting a streak of consecutive journal entries. You’ll inevitably become a bit compulsive about not leaving gaps in your journal and missing entries.
I’ve grown fond of my old spiral bound notebook. I use a pen as a bookmark and write down every run I do. It takes me about 10 seconds total to decide what information to record and write it down. I’ve been doing this every day for 28 months. I only use one line per day and I’ve got plenty of pages left. So you can do the math and figure out that I started this journal in 2013. If I were to start fresh today I might consider using the Google Docs or Sheets apps on mobile. You can edit any document from any computer by simply logging in to your Google account.