The Best Way to Track Your Fitness Progress (Shhh… it’s called journaling.)

Hey Angels and Alphas!

Without a doubt, everyone who goes to the gym goes there for one reason – progress.

Regardless if your goal is to lose weight, make your biceps bigger, or squat a hundred kilos, we all know this happens by slowly and gradually progressing toward that goal.

And knowing how much time we spend designing the way we train, organizing our workouts, and counting up the number of calories in our diet, it only makes sense that we’d apply the same effort (if not more) on tracking our progress.

Everyone tracks their progress differently. Some people keep journals (more on that later), some get on the scale every morning, and some people don’t even feel the need to track their progress and just go by their gut feeling.

Whether you’re super analytical and you write everything down, or you follow your progress by photos and the way you look, you can’t deny that tracking your progress is a vital part of your journey.

Today, we’re looking at the best way gym trainees can track their progress, and it’s called journaling!

Why is Journaling the Best Way to Track your Progress?

Logging all your workouts in a journal is by far the simplest and most effective way to track your progress.

Since your body adapts to exercise as you’re working out, continually doing the same exercises with the same weight every workout will not help you progress.

By keeping a workout journal, you can write down different aspects of your workout to ensure you’re always progressing toward a specific goal or milestone.

Not only that, but keeping a journal also helps you:

  • Learn more about yourself.
    You’ll be surprised at how many behavioral and training patterns you can start recognizing once you start journaling. You’ll learn more about your strengths, weaknesses, and what things you focused on at particular moments in your training history.
  • Document your journey.
    By making daily entries into your fitness journal, you’re not only tracking your progress, but you’re also documenting every step of your fitness journey. It’s always motivating and inspiring when you look back at all the progress you’ve made and think about all the pages you have left to fill.
  • Optimize your approach for better performance.
    You’ll be able to quickly learn what’s working and what’s not and change your training approach accordingly.
  • Keep yourself accountable.
    Did you know? A Harvard University study concluded that the best way to turn working out into a habit is to start a journal. Journaling goes a long way toward keeping yourself accountable– there’s something about it that makes us want to fill a page with our progress every day.
  • Recognize and break through plateaus.
    Taking that new perspective on your progress will help you recognize and deal with plateaus *way* quicker than you otherwise would. When you see that your numbers aren’t coming up seven days in a row, you know something is up.
  • Achieve your goals faster.
    As a combination of all the above benefits, journaling will help you hit milestones and achieve your overarching fitness goal more quickly and effectively. And we have the science to prove it! More on that later.

Now that we’ve established a gazillion reasons for starting a journal, let’s take a look at the different ways you can approach fitness journaling!

Journaling Your Workout Performance Metrics

(amount of weight lifted, speed and distance covered during cardio, body part circumference, etc.)

The most common example of this is when you get on the scale every morning.

Even though weight is the most commonly measured fitness metric, it will not give you an accurate idea of your overall fitness progress.

Professional athletes often choose a couple of specific workout metrics, and they track them in order to see “the bigger picture” of their progress toward those metrics.

If your goal is, for example, getting stronger at a particular exercise, writing down the amount of weight you lifted every time you did that exercise will help you manage your progress and spot patterns in it.

By the same token, if your goal is to run a mile in 5 minutes, you can track the amount of time you spent on the treadmill in correlation to the distance you ran every day.

This time of variable logging will help you toward the specific goal you’re chasing. It all depends on what metrics you choose to track, be it speed/distance, strength, or even those such as body fat and FFMI.

When it comes to strength training, variable journaling is a must. At any point, you must be able to identify how much weight you were able to perform on your focus exercises so you can manage your growth effectively.

And for bodybuilders, journaling is an effective way to track the circumference measurements around different parts of the body – namely the shoulders, chest, waist, hips, legs, and arms. Since proportions are immensely important in bodybuilding, journaling these measurements will help you identify essential ratios (like your shoulder-to-waist or waist-to-hip ratio).

To start journaling workout metrics and get better in specific areas of your training, you need to first determine what metrics you need to track.

This means that next to the date on your journal page, you should be recording things like the weight you lift at a specific exercise, your speed, the distance you ran until full exhaustion, your heart rate, blood pressure, VO2 max, just to name a few.

Pro tip: determine what areas you want to improve on and find the metrics that will best relate to progress in those areas.

Journaling your Exercises

One of the most common ways of journaling your progress is by logging all the exercises you do each day, along with their respective set and repetition counts.

If your goal is long-term fitness success (and I really hope it is), you’ll find that this journaling method will help you identify what aspects of your fitness regime need work when you hit a plateau.

For example, if you look back at your logged workouts three months from now, you’ll easily be able to track your training volume and frequency for each body part.

As with variable journaling, this is especially important in bodybuilding and strength training, because tracking your volume is essential to keeping progress going and avoiding overtraining.

This journaling method will also help you track your cardio efforts and your rest days, which are vital when it comes to managing training volume.

To start journaling your exercises, here’s what you need to have on the page: the date of the workout, the exercises you performed, the number of sets you did, the number of reps you did, and the amount of weight for each set.

Journaling Your Diet

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine did a study about a decade ago, where they took 1,700 people with the common goal of losing weight. They found that those who kept a journal lost double the weight compared to those who didn’t!

A similar study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics discovered that study participants who kept a food journal lost about 13 percent of their body weight, 5 percent more than those who didn’t log their progress.

Journaling is a scientifically proven weight loss tool! Diet journaling especially has the power to keep you accountable for your diet and help you recognize habitual eating patterns. (For example, craving sweets around 4 p.m. is pretty normal for a lot of people who drink coffee in the morning because of the usual drop in blood sugar levels.)

Logging everything you eat in a journal will help you manage your diet, spot the symptoms of emotional eating, and achieve your calorie surplus/deficit goals *much* easier.

To start diet journaling, here’s what needs to be on your page: the date, your weight measured at the start of your day, the foods you ate (and at what time), their macronutrient proportions, and the overall amount of calories for that day.

*A Note on Journaling with Photos*

Adding photos to pages when you log your progress will make your journal feel all the more like a journey.

Moreover, if you’re into bodybuilding and weight loss, adding photos to your journal will be a massive motivator toward your future progress.

When you can look back and see how far you’ve come and see all the empty pages of your journal still in front of you, you get an inspiring yet humbling feeling that your journey is bigger than you are.

Photos will add a visual aspect to your journal, and that added level of visualization goes a long way both in terms of tracking your progress *and* your journey.

Putting it all together…

Journaling is part of the life of every athlete.

If you want to keep track of your progress, achieve your fitness goal faster, and document your journey as you go, journaling will help you do that.

Personally, I believe a pen and paper will do just fine. That being said, there are thousands of apps out there that you can use to track your progress.

This brings me to my final point.

Journaling is not about carrying around a diary and writing down numbers in it.

Journaling is about taking the time to evaluate yourself and the progress you’ve achieved every day and keeping a record of it that you can always come back to.

This makes your fitness journey actually feel like a journey.

Never underestimate the power of journaling. Instead, use it.

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