At Impact, we talk about having a plan and executing that plan. That means having a strategy with nutrition, meal preparation, and having our short, medium, and long term goals clearly written down. This also includes having a plan for when you step into the gym. Impact provides the progressive program for training, but are you taking responsibility to ensure you are maximizing that plan?
A huge piece that is missing from many people’s routine, is a simple journal. Not just one that holds your 8 year old feelings and your new boo-thang crush, but one even more powerful than that. A workout journal is a huge piece that separates people who just exercise and go through the motions from a serious lifter or person pursuing a goal. I myself have almost every training session I have ever done written somewhere. Even back when I had no idea what I was doing, I still wrote it down. Now I can reflect on the idiocy and learn from it.
Your workout journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It doesn’t have to be the voice sensitive password journal from the 90’s (though I totally had that). Mine is a cheap, dinky one from the dollar store, but I am able to fill it with extremely valuable information.
Each entry should include the following golden nuggets:
- Date of the session
- Exercises you performed in chronological order
- Number of sets
- Number of reps
- Weight used
There are thousands of exercises to choose from. Even if you had the memory of an elephant, I doubt you would remember the loads and reps you did the last time you did that particular exercise. If I consistently start at the same weight, say with front squats, because I can’t quite recall what weight I ended with on my last session that included them, I would be basically spinning my wheels. I would be assuming that I am utilizing the principle of progressive overload but honestly, because I don’t know for sure, I would just be getting nowhere. Recording every session is the key to help drive the next one. And ensure you are actually making progress toward your goals.
Besides the numbers and weight, I would suggest write down how each set or workout felt. I believe this one of the most extremely important pieces of information that is often overlooked. There are times when I feel weaker then a piece of white bread. Then , there are other times I feel like a can pick up a brick house and launch it like the Hulk. If I think about how I ate that day (most should be writing this down), how much sleep I got, if I was stressed because my cat threw up in my shoes, or my overall attitude, that can help explain a lot about my performance. Those little things, too, have a huge influence on your training.
It’s a process of discovery. The more solid you make your information, the more you can learn about yourself. I know that when I eat a heavy carb breakfast and get too much sleep, my strength suffers. If I never wrote that down how would I ever discover that? I would continue to make the same mistakes blindly, wondering why I felt like I had the strength of a new born baby. Figuring out which daily habits make your performance suffer or thrive makes it easier to create more days where you feel like a superhuman, and avoid the ones that make you flop.
One more piece I also record is what my MyZone heartrate band tells me. I will record the calories as well as the MyZone Effort Points (MEP). I like to pay particular attention to the MEPs because if the right loads were hit and I properly challenged myself in every rep, every set, that number should be progressively higher. I can tell where I slacked off if I look at my session and find I only managed a measly 65 points in a hour and a half. However if I complete a session with a higher MEP like 140, in less time I know I was getting after it.
A workout journal is like the trophy from the show Legends of the Hidden Temple, it can look super cheap but in reality it holds all the power. The journal can ensure that you make appropriate progressions with loads, sets, and exercises by taking the guess work out. It also can help you discover what small tweaks help create the best version of you. Not only does it give you valuable information, but it can help motivate you to push yourself toward bigger and better goals or loads. So pull out your oldest, cheesiest Spiderman notebook and bring it to your session. Take responsibility and get to work.
Barbells & Broccoli,