By Scott Markey | Get Fit
When most people hear the term “training diary,” they think of a workout log — exercises, sets and reps. But you know as well as I that fitness involves much more than what you do in the gym, and that’s what you should use a diary for — all aspects of your life — workout routines, diet and any emotional states that might affect your fitness goals.
For some, keeping a training and diet journal is critical — especially if you are just starting out. You might need to keep a record and track the things you do in and out of the gym. I even know elite athletes that keep training journals to see how much they have progressed over the years, and to see what works and what doesn’t work for them.
When you sit down to write in your diary after a day’s program, you should analyze everything: how you performed, how it felt, and by the time you finish, you will always have a personal record of whether your workout was better or worse than the previous workout.
Whether it is another rep or a slight increase in weight, a gain or loss in body weight, it can be something minor or major, but write down what you did that day. This includes training, cardio and diet.
Tape measures are not enough. You can decrease your body fat and gain muscle mass and never measure a change. I rely on the mirror to see if everything’s balanced and what improvements I might have made. The mirror does not lie, so when you write in your journal, it should always be accompanied by notes on visual observations as well.
But the training analysis is only the beginning. Next, you should get into such things as whether you got a good sleep the night before, how many hours it was, whether you ate well that day, had any appointments — either business, personal or doctor — anything that might have prevented you from having the meal you should have had. Ask yourself if you were tired, sore, drained, disappointed, or even elated.
Note any and all changes, as insignificant as they might seem, then analyze and compare them. Sometimes, even the smallest of details are revealed. These small details can add up to big improvements in your overall fitness level.
For some, just writing in a diary is not enough. If not, take pictures of yourself in various stages. This way, you can compare photos from different times and discover exactly what might have changed. Then check to see how your workout might have differed during that time.
One of the greatest benefits of a diary is also to prevent overtraining. If your intensity is phenomenal and you are really hitting your workouts hard and all of a sudden you see that the weight is dropping, you have plateaued for too long and you’re not making progress, or simply start to lose interest in going to the gym or performing your specific workout, you are most likely overtraining.
I find that I make good, steady gains by listening to my body and never forcing a workout. If you are really tired, skip the workout that day; it will actually benefit you. You’ll come back the next day feeling better, both physically and mentally.
If you don’t feel like carrying your diary or journal to the gym, then just sit down when you get home and go over some details. It only takes about 10 minutes, depending on your fitness level and your specific workouts and diet. Now if you are an elite athlete or a competitor, writing everything down before a contest or specific event will also help you improve on each outing. You will see things in your diary that you might want to change or improve.
You may think you have it all in your mind, but even the most experienced athletes benefit by keeping a diary. You will soon discover that there is no other way you can remember, let alone organize and compare, everything.
Stay healthy everyone, and feel free to email me with any questions you might have. I get a lot of emails, but I try my best to get back to everyone.
—Scott Markey has over 25 years in the fitness and health industry. He has graced dozens of magazine covers and specializes in physique management, training and nutritional consultation. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.