If you walk into a gym on any given day, you’ll likely observe a few different camps among the metal bars, weights, racks, and machines.
Some aimlessly wade through air on the elliptical as they knock out some Netflix. Others may follow a guided program from a device—this might include kettle bells, weighted balls, and a prime position in front of the mirror. A few seemingly more serious-looking regulars whose shaker bottles, support belts, and disposition signal a deliberate intention.
With countless ways to condition the body, and just as many motivations to drive progress, It’s clear, fitness is personal.
Exercise is essential to living an active life and preventing numerous diseases of the body, brain, and spirit. There are few, if any, disadvantages to amping up your sweat sessions.
At a minimum, you should aim to move more and sit less throughout the day and schedule 150 minutes of physical activity into your schedule each week. For many, once they notice the positive benefits of exercise, they see value in adding a program, joining a fitness group, or participating in a team sport. If you’re curious about the immediate and long-term benefits of elevating your exercise routine, consider incorporating a training routine and tracking your progress along the way. Starting a fitness journal may just be your exciting entry into a new level of wellness.
Tracking your fitness is a great way to approach a program, regardless of your fitness level, to discover if it’s the right fit for you. If you’re just beginning or need to be more focused on an activity or sport you’re already involved in, here’s how to make those minutes count. Grab a pen.
Track Your Progress—A Winning Habit
Regular exercise can be a tough habit to form. But writing down your fitness past, present, and future sets you up to discover what works for you and puts you in a position to repeat your success. What’s important is you get in some sort of physical activity. The key is to find something that works for you and create a repeatable, trackable routine.
The perfect fitness program doesn’t exist. It takes a lot of trial and error to land on a program that works for you. Do you like working out at a class or in a group? Are you better off hitting the gym solo to beat a personal record? Do you keep a running schedule with a friend to prepare you for an upcoming race?
If you’re waiting to find the “perfect” program, just get started. Tracking your progress, making minor (or major) adjustments along the way, allows you to adapt your program until it fits your lifestyle and goals. And before you swap out workouts or throw in the towel, you’ll have a detailed account of your progress.
Tracking your physical activity reveals a lot about what actually works for you. As you look through your history, you may find blended training is your best approach, or increasing your strength really motivates you. A log is a great way to get to know yourself.
Some journaling guideline basics include:
Find the right journal for you—Whether you take a classic approach with a pad and pen or prefer a digital account for access at any time, your journal has to fit your personal approach. There are numerous fitness appsavailable to provide built-in structure and many that even export data into graphs for the visual data geeks. Using notes and voice memos in your smartphone can be easy and just as useful to your program.
Be detailed—Write each exercise down before you begin. Track reps, sets, and equipment settings if your goals are centered around improving strength. Runners, bikers, and those with endurance-related goals should be tracking mileage, time, and heart rate. Comprehensive data is best for spotting trends. If you use a wearable fitness tracker, pulling in additional biometric information provides even more context.
Include a baseline—Start with your bodyweight, mile PR, body fat percentage, measurements, and any other personal areas you’re looking to improve. Not only does this give you something to build on, it keeps your goals in the forefront, as it shows proof of your gains along the way.
Be creative—This is your Write down any information that will help you succeed—how challenging the workouts are, whether you enjoyed them, who you worked out with, brainstorms for future workout sessions, etc. Your journal is a great place to catch moving thoughts.
Find Your Fitness Curiosity
It’s essential to clearly nail down trackable, concrete goals. While most of us want to lose weight, gain weight through muscle building, or just tone up, these are all vague wishes that can be thrown to the wind.
Your system should be quick and easy—don’t overcomplicate it. Resistance shows up in many forms—procrastination, doubt, excuses—the antidote is consistency. Stick to basics when you’re starting a new fitness journey. You want to spend your time in the gym working out, not calculating complex equations. Start basic and build as you improve in confidence and form.
Your new tracking system should be useful and versatile. Use your new insight to drive progress with practical, useful information. Know your workouts will likely evolve, especially as your comfort level increases. Leave room for your journaling to grow and expand with your fitness level and goals. And don’t forget to have fun! Follow your curiosity with a new sport, outdoor activity, or dance class!
Make Your Workout Work Out
Nutrition logs are popular tools to help you identify eating habits and make positive changes. Daily journaling is championed to your mental health and well-being. Similarly, fitness journaling can help you identify useful information about yourself, your habits, and maybe even surprise you with how quickly you can make progress in your physical strength and endurance. Keeping a log will help make your workouts more efficient. Visualizing your progress allows you replicate your success again and again, and identify where changes should be made along the way.
Simply Shape Up Your Routine
Your new routine shouldn’t be complicated. Start by creating a simple routine with a strong focus. It’s much easier to build a habit by tracking your fitness and progress by slight increments than to bite off an overly ambitious goal that doesn’t align with your lifestyle and schedule. Dreams don’t just come true—it’s the small steps you take each day that build lifelong, healthy habits.
As you shape your weekly routine, keep these tips in mind:
Take it slow—start small and gradually work your way up as you perfect your form and gain strength. You’re working to integrate exercise into your life. Be real. Exercise should be a tool for wellness, not just pure torture on hard days. Once you’re in it, you’ll look forward to your established routine.
Work out with intention—aimlessly speeding through your workout can be unproductive and, in worst cases, dangerous. Your new habit of tracking your progress will help you think through your workout before you begin. Make your plans manageable and thoughtful. You want to progress, but you don’t want to push your body to exhaustion. Monitor how you feel after each workout and how well you recover. Avoid getting too ahead of yourself through mindful progress that comes from planning ahead.
Simplicity brings results—your fitness plan doesn’t need complicated lifts, an overly aggressive training progression, or a daily commitment to your sport. Break your workouts down into manageable sessions. And don’t forget to include fun—if you love mountain biking, make it part of your plan. After all, a major benefit of maintaining a fitness program is creating vitality in your life with activities that bring you joy.
Be consistent—what you do every day is much more important than what you do every once in a while.
You’re all set! Rev up your fitness and get started toward your future success today. What are your favorite ways to track your training? Let us know in the comments below.