Why you no Log? A simple yet powerful habit.
“The palest ink is more reliable than the most powerful memory.” Chinese Proverb.
Next time you’re in the gym pay attention to how many people are logging their workouts. I bet it won’t be many (if any). I have been logging every workout I do for the last few years. Looking back I can’t understand how I trained without doing it.
It boggles my brain just how many people at the gym don’t log what they’re doing. It’s no wonder people have trouble finding motivation and feel so blah with their arbitrary sequence of lifts, sets and reps. People convince themselves that they are making progress based on their memory of what they lifted in the last few workouts. But what about over the long term? What about after you were sick for a couple weeks? How many exercises, sets, reps and in what sequence did you do your chest workout 2 months ago?
The simple solution is logging with a notepad and pen. With a $3 A5 spiral bound notepad you can store years of workout information. You can see from my logging (see below) each workout consumes just 3-5 lines with line breaks for better readability. It is simply the date, my weight on that day, then each exercises with weight and for how many reps. My weight is taken early on in the workout before I’ve necked too much water to effect the scales. Maybe this is a bit OCD for a few hundred grams but whatever.
With this log book I see all my workouts from over a year ago and there are still 100s of blank pages remaining. If I decide today I want to do some hack squats (just for something different), it takes me a few seconds to see exactly how much weight I lifted 6 weeks ago with sets and reps. On top of this I can see the rest of the workout to recall if I would have been fresh or fatigued for the lift. I can then go ahead and perform the exercise knowing what I need to do to move forward. Logging is a powerful tool for making productive workouts.
Some key reasons to log:
- Promotes progressive overload. You know exactly what you lifted last time so you can aim to beat it (even by one rep or a fraction of a kilo).
- Motivation. Again, you know what you lifted last time, so you have a goal. Hit that goal and it feels good.
- Be Decisive. If indecisive on what to do today, you can copy a workout from say 3 months ago. Less thinky, more lifty.
- Efficient and Productive workouts. We all have better things to do in our lives than hitting the gym more than we have to. Your workouts are just the catalyst for growth. Your workouts should be short but intense. A notebook will help you have a plan so you can do what you need to do and then get out of there.
- Satisfaction. Once you get going in your workout it can be hard to stop because MORE IS MORE! By beating a previous workout by a few reps you can leave the gym knowing you’ve progressed without burning yourself out. On the other hand you might feel unmotivated and CBF. You can SUCK IT UP and PERSIST with a goal to beat last time (even by just one rep) instead of giving up and finishing your workout early.
Now with regards to smartphone apps for tracking workouts, let me just say I’m not a fan of smartphones in the gym. In between sets you should be recovering, not scrolling Facebook, texting and OBVIOUSLY not calling people. Even if you have restraint in that regard or put your phone into airplane mode, your phone is a liability with the crashing plates or by leaving your phone behind. Of course people are free to do what they want and there is a good argument for people that find they can train harder with music. But in general I just feel a notepad and pen is the quickest and least distracting tool for you to just get your workout done. Unless you think you’re actually really important, the Crackberry can wait. Have a break, free your mind for an hour, just focus on yourself and having a great workout.
I appreciate wanting to log electronically for tracking, graphing and social purposes. In fact for years on top of my notepad I have logged my workouts later on to Fitocracy.com. It only takes 5 minutes after the workout to copy the data over and that way I think you get the best of both worlds.
I could go on about why tracking your workouts is a no brainer. There are so many ways to do it and customize what you’re logging. But really, the only important thing is to make sure you’re doing it one way or another. At least give it a shot for a month and see what I mean.