By Samantha Clayton, OLY, ISSA-CPT Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness, Herbalife Nutrition
For many people getting fit and staying fit can feel like an impossible task. But a fitness journal will help keep you on track and make sure you see progress. While this may not be the most glamorous subject, it’s important to keep a record of what you’re doing and how you feel about it, because you’ll be amazed to look back six months later and see how much you’ve improved.
Keep reading and I will share a few common fitness roadblocks and help you to overcome them through a process of self-discovery. I firmly believe that keeping a fitness journal will help you on your quest to become fitter and healthier.
Did you know that fitness plans can yo-yo just like a diet? People often tell me how they start a fitness plan with great enthusiasm only for it to tail off, or they approach fitness in fits and starts and then end up feeling frustrated. I hate to hear about people sabotaging their health and fitness levels and advocate a slow and steady approach to exercise.
Please try keeping a fitness journal for six weeks. I have high hopes that it won’t just keep you on track, it will also help you become more active and even happier.
How a Fitness Journal Helped Me as an Athlete
When I was competing as an athlete, I kept a detailed fitness journal. My coach required all athletes on our team to keep a training journal, and he would review ours with us once a month. There are some coaches who review their athlete’s fitness journal on a consistent basis like my coach, and other coaches who only request it when there is a problem, such as an injury or poor performance.
The four key reasons competitive athletes keep a fitness journal are:
- To help them stay accountable to their training regimen.
- To assist coaches and trainers with injury prevention.
- To monitor progress.
- To help the athlete and their coach reflect and research factors that are contributing to success or failure.
Why Fitness Journals Aren’t Just for Athletes
If you’re saying, “I’m not an athlete so this doesn’t apply to me,” don’t worry. I’m no longer a competitive athlete, but I still use a fitness journal to keep my fitness and nutrition goals on track.
I’ll show you how you can simplify an athletic journal to suit your needs, regardless of your current fitness level.
I believe that keeping a fitness/activity journal can help people with any of these goals:
- Getting fit
- Staying fit
- Losing weight
- Prioritizing fitness
A fitness journal can help everyone. But if you’re not yet convinced, here are my top two reasons why an activity diary will improve your approach to fitness:
- A fitness journal will help you be honest with yourself on a daily basis and understand why you are reaching, or not reaching, your goals. This will help you continue to push yourself and make progress, whatever your fitness level.
- A fitness journal will help you keep moving forward. If life or injury gets in the way of your exercise plan, then a fitness journal will help you easily retrace your steps and get back on track.
How to Start a Fitness Journal
If you’re wondering how you’re going to find the time to keep a journal when you can barely even find the time to work out—relax. You don’t need an essay.
Just jot down these five things every day:
- Day and date. Use whichever tool helps you stay consistent: a journaling app, a diary, a desk calendar, or even a downloadable template.
- Feelings. Always do this at the end of the day. A simple happy, sad, or indifferent will do (you could even use smiley faces!), or if you wish to elaborate you can. In this section, add any special notes or major events.
- Activity. List the time, duration, type of workout, and intensity of the activity.
- Body assessment. Do you feel any pain or excessive tiredness? Did a particular exercise feel uncomfortable, or do you feel amazing?
- Nutrition. Did you eat well? Put down a number from 1-10, with one being terrible and ten meaning you were perfectly on target.
Reviewing Your Fitness Journal: What to Look for
After keeping a journal for at least six weeks you get to play the role of detective. It can be fun to look through and evaluate patterns in your behavior. With a fitness journal, it’s simple to detect problem areas or successes at a glance.
Let me share some common fitness roadblocks and patterns that people discover when keeping a journal:
Try to find a pattern of which days are your most successful activity days. Many people discover that Monday workouts are essential. If you look at your journal and see that weeks that start out with a Monday workout consist of more total workouts for the week, then you should try to always make time for a workout on the first day of the week.
Decline in Activity
If you notice that your activity level declines as the week progresses, then it is important for you to discover why. Is it because you are sore, tired, or just busy? Your fitness journal notes will help you to create a plan to stay consistent.
Life can be hectic and full of surprises, but do you notice that a certain family member or friend is disrupting your workout plan? If this is the case, you need to ask them for support or invite them to join you.
Certain types of exercise can affect your emotions. Maybe you’ll notice that each time you do a particular type of workout you end up feeling uplifted for the rest of the day. Now that you know, you can try to fit in a quick blast of your favorite exercise style to turn your day around if you are low or lacking motivation. Alternatively, if you see that on gym days your mood is not so positive, you could try skipping the gym and adding a workout outside or at home instead. Finding what works best for you is the key to prolonged success.
How Journaling Helps You Stay on Track of Your Goals
What you do determines your success, and once you begin to keep a regular and honest account of your fitness, you’ll ensure yo-yo activity levels are a thing of the past.
I believe that my role as a fitness professional is to help people take control of their fitness, and keeping a fitness journal will help you discover how to work with your personality and time commitments to be more successful.