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In this busy world you might be thinking, who’s got time for journaling? Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be a ‘Dear Diary’ session. Simply recording your daily activity promotes awareness and boosts productivity. Our brains respond to handwriting. It stimulates memory and thinking processes far more effectively than typing or print.
Exercise journals combine all your data to assess your workouts. It’s an essential tool to give you the best chance of success.
What Are the Benefits?
Whether a simple log or a full-page journal, you’ll find benefits in using exercise journals:
- Track your progress
- Evaluate nutrition or fasting requirements
- Schedule workout times and rest days
- Increase motivation
- Track weight loss
- View wins and vent frustrations
- Include more variety of activities
- Break through plateaus
- Monitor moods and energy levels
- Invigorate brain activity
- Stay committed and consistent
Focus on the 4G’s
An exercise journal doesn’t have to be elaborate. If you’re pressed for time, simple lists will do. The act of writing these down keeps them in the forefront of your mind.
Think about what drove you to this decision. Do you want to slim down? Build muscle? Gain energy? Overcome a health issue? Boost fertility? Live longer?
People who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them, according to a study by Dr. Gail Matthews at the Dominican University of California. You can break them up: have progress goals and an ultimate end goal. It increases your likelihood to stay committed.
Ever desire something and suddenly notice it everywhere? Our brains take in a tremendous amount of information. The Reticular Activating System (RMS) is a part of the brain that filters information for your conscious mind. When you set goals, the RMS is activated. It’ll pay attention to anything that helps you achieve that goal.
If you don’t set goals, it’s difficult to know when you’ve achieved them. An outward appearance is not the complete depiction of your health.
You’d be surprised what a difference an ‘attitude of gratitude’ can make. It’s easy to feel discouraged when we work our tail off and the scales barely budge. The results will come. In the meantime, noting what you’re grateful for reminds you of your achievements thus far.
It can be as basic as listing a couple of things a day. Maybe you achieved more sit-ups, mastered a new manoeuvre or received a compliment. Completed a workout when you didn’t feel like it or resisted a chocolate muffin. Thinking about even the smallest wins can keep you in a positive mindset.
Some studies found that people who wrote about gratitude exercised more and saw the doctor less often.
What muscle groups are you focusing on? Do a schedule so you’re not working on the same muscle groups every day without a break.
What group of activities are you doing? Evaluate if you have enough variety to keep you challenged. Do you need to add something new to break a plateau?
Are you eating enough of the appropriate food groups? Learn about nutrition and what health plan works best for you. Note how snacks effect your energy levels when you exercise.
Do social groups work for you? Work out if it suits you to exercise with a friend, or alone in your own time. Perhaps a weekly walking group will keep you motivated to continue exercising at home.
Honour your wins and never forget them! Have you lost a few kilo’s? Sleeping better? Reduced your waistline? Gained muscle definition? Won a competition?
Seeing your achievements in black and white triggers a dopamine release in your brain. Noting your gains gives you a clear indication of what’s worked and hasn’t worked for you. It keeps you motivated to work harder and outdo yourself.
You get to celebrate in the moment and in the future. If you need to lose weight again (e.g. after pregnancy) you can look back on your journal as a guide.
See Your Progress in Real Time
It’s frustrating when you don’t see the desired results in the mirror right away. When your goals look fuzzy, a journal gives you a clearer picture. You can view the exercises your accomplishing, the weights you’re conquering, the commitment you’re giving. Seeing your consistency over time will prove to you that you can do this.
Keep it Fresh
Look for patterns in your journal to see where you’re slipping. Perhaps you need to change your workout session times. Or the exercises are becoming too repetitive. Maybe fasted workouts aren’t suitable for you. Every person is different, and your body can quickly adapt. It’s important to keep re-evaluating.
Every Inch Counts
Relying on scales isn’t enough. Muscles weighs more than fat, and the more muscle you have the easier to burn fat. So, the scales can get confusing. If you do want to weigh yourself, you should stick to once a week or fortnight. If you feel a compulsion to weigh-in every day, you can add the weekly figures and divide it by 7 to work out your average.
What’s recommended is taking your body measurements. Often you can lose inches around your body that doesn’t reflect on the scales. An exercise journal is a great place to note down your monthly measurements. (You can add it to your gains or gratitude list)!
There’s only so much exercise can do alone. Tracking your food can be highly helpful. Discover the sugar in soda/juice, or the hidden calories in cereals, and you may think twice. You could slash over 500 calories a day. Combine this with exercise and you may create a calorie deficit (burn more calories than you consume). This is what many argue is the secret to weight loss.
Track sugar spikes. Evaluate meals and snacks and their impact on your workout sessions. After a hard workout, rewarding yourself with food can be detrimental. A journal keeps you mindful of this.
If you want your journal solely for exercise, you can use calorie-tracking apps like MyFitnessPal.
Give Your Brain a Pick-Me-Up
It’s human nature to chase those pleasurable brain chemicals like dopamine. It’s designed to motivate you to do things and reward you once you’ve accomplished it. Prehistorically, it was used as motivation to find new food resources. These days, we can manipulate it for other advantages.
By writing exercise goals and ticking them off, you get a fresh dopamine hit every time. Serotonin is another pleasure chemical released when you feel significant. Ticking off goals is a visual clue for your subconscious. Writing things down unloads your brain of excess baggage.
Types of Journals
What to use comes down to personal preference. Pick something you’re most likely to stick to.
They’re quick and easy for busy bees. Make simple notes and tick things off. You can find the details you’re after at a quick glance.
They’re handy if you don’t like to write. Many include visuals, goal tracking, badge rewards and motivation quotes. However, some can be limited with exercise lists or cumbersome in tracking sets and reps. You may need to experiment to find the right one for you.
For those who like to write, buy a blank journal to design yourself. Fill it with pictures or inspiring quotes.
If you want to go deep, you can – use it to record your feelings about your progress and challenges. Observe the pattern of your emotions on days you do and don’t exercise. Reflect on how you feel after a workout. It’s interesting what you can learn about yourself. Fine-tune your routine to the best of your best advantage.
Or you can buy some great journals online that come with workout logs and tracking sheets. Keep everything together, carry it with you, fill in your details and go.
Get Into the Habit Today
Whatever your fitness goal, you can tailor-make it to fit your needs. Consider it a record for your future wins. It’s important to stick to it until it becomes part of your ritual. Include it as part of your workout routine (after your cool-down stretches). The details are fresh in your mind, and you’ve allowed time for it without distractions.
Without a plan, you could be wandering aimlessly through your fitness journey. An exercise journal keeps a light on your path.
Do you have a preference to tracking your progress? Leave a comment and let me know.