In setting fitness and health goals for ourselves, ultimately we are accountable only to ourselves. While there are people who support us in our endeavors and certainly applaud our efforts to reach whatever goals we set, it comes down to a battle between ourselves to push forward, stay focused and achieve our goals. Not that we can do it alone. I, for one couldn’t do what I do without certain people who are there every step of the way. But, no one is forcing me to get up before dawn to do cardio, or to spend the hours cooking and prepping every meal ahead of time, or following me around telling me not to eat the chocolate or cookies that I am craving at night. That is all on me and I have to keep myself accountable to myself.
One of the best ways we can be accountable and keep progressing towards our goals, whatever they may be, is by writing it down in a log or journal. There is something about having to see what you do in print that keeps you that much more focused on your goals. Two logs I keep are a training log in which I record every set and rep of every workout, and a nutrition log in which I keep every meal of every day.
Using a log serves several purposes.
1. It is a written plan. Each workout, for example, is recorded so that every exercise, the exact number of sets and reps, and the weights used for each are written. This information can be referred to the next time you do that workout, thus providing a quick reference as to where to start, what goals to reach in the next workout.
2. Progress monitoring. If your goal is to run a 5k and you track your workouts in a log, you can then measure your progress based on the distances you are running as well as the time it takes to run a certain distance.
3. Keeps you honest. Only you will know if last Friday night you decided to indulge in a large bowl of ice cream, or a couple chocolate chip cookies as you walked passed the pantry. No one knows, and for the most part no one else cares. If you are tracking your nutritional intake, and you are honest with yourself you will need to write it down, and maybe think twice before veering off your nutritional plan. Not that ice cream or cookies are bad. The log provides feedback – if you are having a similar snack several days a week, or every night without thinking about it, perhaps it is time to look at your overall nutritional program to see what needs adjusting or balancing out. In that case a log is an invaluable tool.
4. Knowing what works – and what doesn’t. As your goals change so will your training and nutritional needs. Knowing what works for your body is key to success and saves a lot of trial and error. Does 5 meals keep your energy levels and metabolism up, but does 6 cause faster weight loss or less energy in the gym? Does a certain combination of exercises, sets, and reps, produce better results than others? Depending on how detailed you get in your log, much of this information is at your disposal in an instant.
Accessiblity – I actually keep 2 training logs – one for weight training, and one for cardio. The reason being, I keep my weight training log in my gym bag and I never go to the gym without it. Cardio I view as a separate entity so I keep that in a different log, because I don’t bring my gym bag with me just to do cardio.
The log that you use needs to be accessible to you when you need it, so that you can keep all of your information recorded in one central location. This may be done in a notebook, on a computer/ lap top/tablet, etc. or even on a phone. As the saying goes, “there’s an app for that” and training and nutrition logs are no exception. If you want it, you can find it.
Tailor it to Your Needs – Whatever your preference for recording your information, be sure to tailor your log to your goals. Think about what your goals are and record the information that is most useful to measure your progress. Also consider when you look back at a particular period what information will be important to have in order to monitor and adjust your current program to further reach your goals.
Provide Feedback – Don’t think of your training or nutrition log as just a list of data. Take the time to include particular observations, results and other notes. This may be simply, “weight to light”, “increase reps”, “felt great pump”, and other short comments for yourself. Sometimes you may want to take the time to include a short narrative or reflection about certain aspects.
Set Short Term Goals – Your log should be a short and useable guide that you can refer to often to check your progress. To accomplish this, set short term, measurable goals to be achieved in a reasonable time frame. If your goal is to lose or add 10 pounds over a year, set smaller goals, maybe monthly that you can track, then monitor and adjust your program as needed.
Setting fitness and nutrition goals is an important part of any successful program. Keeping a log that is tailored to monitor how you achieve those goals can be an invaluable tool when used correctly and honestly. Take the guesswork and ambiguity out of your training. Use a log and take the guesswork out of achieving your goals.