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When it comes to gauging progress, there is no denying that you can’t always rely on physical cues to tell you where you are. We’ve touched upon weight loss tracking and journaling before, but in this post we will focus on journaling to keep track of your fitness program progression and strength gains.
There are many ways to journal, and in today’s technological world, the options are ever-expanding. While some lifters are old school, and prefer pen and paper (or a pre-printed fitness journal), I prefer using my smartphone and Microsoft’s OneNote to track all of my workouts and metrics. Each workout gets its own page in my virtual notebook, and I create my set workout plans as checklists, checking items off as I go. After each workout, I’ll also log my own recaps.
When logging your progress, you have to know what metrics you need to focus on. Metrics, by the way, for our purposes, are standards of measurement. For the purposes of journaling your progression, the metrics you will want to log at the most basic level are set count, rep count, and amount of pounds (or kilograms) lifted. If you set up your journal to follow a particular template of your choosing, the process becomes second nature. After a set period of time (say, a month), you can outline the progression of metrics, to see just how well you’re doing. If something is unexpected in the numbers, adjust accordingly.
In any good fitness program, having a plan means you are planning to succeed. The trick here is to have a set course for every workout you plan on having, and adjusting (and recording), as you go. Whether your metric of choice is number of sets/reps, speed, or the poundage on your dumbbells/barbells/machines, make sure you follow your plan, record everything, and then look back to your journal to see how your progression is going. When you hit a plateau, stagnate, or just get bored with what you’re doing, switch your methods up, recording that, too.
When it comes to my own workouts, I always like to log a few “extra credit” metrics – things most don’t think to record, because they don’t think it has any impact on performance. For example, in every journal entry I record how much I slept, how I felt that day, what my weight is, which supplements I took that morning (I always train first thing in the morning), and how many calories I burned during the workout. If I’m in competition prep, I make notes of how many weeks out from my show I am. When I look back at my logs, I’ll find that how I was feeling that day, how much sleep I got, or what I ate will ultimately impacted my workouts, for better or worse. The more factors you record, the better your chances of breaking through a plateau, and continuing to see results.
They say that expectations are the blueprint for disappointment, and I think that’s very applicable when applied to analyzing progression. The road to improvement isn’t always going to be a sharply inclined line, but rather a series of peaks, plateaus, and even the occasional valley. Learn how to recognize these points by looking at your journal, and adjust both your plan and your expectation, accordingly.
Smartly track your training progression via fitness journal, and reap benefits from your workouts, always.