Most of us can recall our Fran time without evening hesitating but what about how you broke it up, or your time on that random metcon in class last week? The same can be said about a max back squat, deadlift, or power snatch, but how about the weights you used during those sets of 5 a while back? Even more so, would you be able to remember how much effort those lifts took or what your sleep was like that night going into training? I know this is a lot of (mostly rhetorical) questions, but they’re things that should be kept track of. This is why keeping a training journal is so beneficial! Not just to keep track of what your body was doing, but also your mind.
Since I think everyone should keep a training journal of some kind let’s look at a few different options we have. When I say keeping a training journal the immediate thought is to write down scores on daily WODs and keep track of PR lifts and benchmarks in the back. Living in the modern age where there is, of course, an app for this! There’s several actually. Some are gym based that the members get to use if the gym has a membership and others are for each individual person to have for their own if they’d like. There’s always the old whiteboard at the gym that everyone puts their scores on, but that’s usually erased either every day or week. My personal favorite way is to keep an actual old fashioned paper notebook, but its solely a preference thing. At Innerdrive we use SugarWOD to publish our daily WODs so that members can log their scores, and either get a little competitive on the leaderboard or give each other encouragement. There’s also a section to put notes for that specific day, but when I go through them at the end of the day (yes, all of them, everyday) it’s usually just a list of weights or scales used for the workout.
Keeping track of these WOD specific things like weights and scales is very important cause it lets you progress not only in weights, but also how consistently you’re hitting a weight and how your progressing in a movement. By noting what weight you used for 5×5 Back Squats one day then the next time there’s something similar with heavy sets of 5 you’ll be able to have a reference point for what to be around. I would argue that noting scales is even more beneficial than weight though because weights can be percentage based. Keeping track of specific movements used to scale and reps that you did can let you see how you’re progressing through it. This could be seeing that you’ve moved to a thinner band on pull ups or are able to sit to a box for pistols without holding a pole, meaning your balance is getting better.
Being able to look back to see how you’ve physically progressed is a great boost of confidence when it seems like numbers have been the same for a while, but I think the most beneficial part of a journal is actually notes you leave that are focused away from what you physically did. What if a month apart you did a heavy squat test, but the later date is lower. You’ve been consistently going to the gym so did you get weaker? Probably not. Do you remember how you slept the night before each of the days? Maybe you got 2+ less hours of sleep on the second test, but you probably can’t remember how long you slept every day for the last month. Maybe your body just felt tired, you had a rough squat workout earlier in the week and were sore, or possibly were starting to feel a little sick. There are tons of outside factors when it comes to every workout we do, but if we never track them it can just look like we had a drop off in fitness. When really it was just an off day.
Having some kind of system to track workouts is very beneficial, and everyone should do it in some way or another. Having a reference for past weights used on abstract lifts, complexes, or numbers of reps is great for the next time something not exactly percentage based comes up. Even more so, following what scales and progressions you’ve used in the past can let you see what movement you should aim for next, or show you how you’ve gotten better at a specific movement. Most importantly though is the stuff around the actual workout. Sleep, soreness, maybe some congestion, or just mentally where you were at. Maybe you just couldn’t hold onto a number of reps like you wanted so it had you a little upset, write it down. You could have crushed the time or number of reps you were expecting so you were feeling super hyped, write it down! These are all things that matter just as much, if not more, than what weight you did the 5 reps at.