Keeping a training log will get you on track to meet your goals

Have you toyed with the idea of hiring a personal trainer, but just can’t fit it into your budget? Well, look no further than your bathroom mirror, because you can become your own trainer by using a fitness journal.

A fitness journal is a daily record of your workouts that gives you an accurate overview of your program and progress. Over time, this written log will help you identify strengths, weaknesses and improvements in your physique. Seeing your progress on paper is incredibly motivating. You’ll be encouraged and inspired when you look back on your entries and see how far you’ve come.

The good news is that you can make a journal out of anything, from a $1.99 spiral notebook to a $20 commercial bookstore version. It can be as complex or as simple as you’d like it to be.

If you prefer online to lined paper, computer-savvy souls will discover tons of cyber-services with high-tech extras like colorful graphs, chat rooms and bonus incentives to complete certain goals. (Note: Online costs vary greatly, so do your research and decide what you want and need before signing up)

So paper in hand, or hand on the mouse, what should you do next?

Goals Are Golden

Whether your intent is weight loss, improved cardio vascular health or increased strength, identify and solidify your personal goals by writing them down on the very first page of your journal. Devise both long-and short-term objectives, and refer to them often to-keep on track. Make sure your goals are realistic and attainable. The more specific you are, the more likely you’ll be to accomplish it.

Body Blueprint

Next, formulate a training program appropriate to your individual fitness level. Have a fitness professional help you initially if you’re a beginner. Once you have a program, use it for 6-8 weeks so you have a standard for accurate comparison.

Successful Scheming

Once you devise a weekly plan, write out each workout at least a day in advance. This way you can sleep on it, and visualize what you’re going to do the next day. It gives you a good strategy once you get to the gym, keeping you focused so you don’t float around aimlessly.

Archiving Essentials

Each daily entry should always record sets, reps and weight used. These tangible properties give you a way to compare your future sessions, enabling you to better monitor your progress and identify problems. Be consistent and precise with your journaling to determine the training methods, exercises and splits that best suit you.

Temperamental Training

Other things to consider jotting down are your warm-up, cool-down, cardio completed and stretching regimen–everything that pertains to your session. Also include personal notes, like your attitude, the weather, your stress level, PMS, anything that affects you that day. Although they may not seem important at the time, outside influences can really have an effect on your training, both positive and negative. Addressing these problems now can prevent them from recurring.

Short-Term Tally

Record your progress toward your short-term goals on a weekly basis. If your aim is weight loss, for instance, take tape measurements weekly. At the end of the month, compare your numbers and be proud of your achievements.

And if you’re falling short of your expectations, look back in your journal to see where you went astray Did you cut short your cardio? Skimp on a shoulder session? Pass on power yoga? Whatever your failings, admit them and move on. Make a pact with yourself to do better the next week instead of beating yourself up over it.

Reap the Rewards

If you’re planning to follow the eight-week training program in this issue, now is the right time to start a journal. When you do reach a goal, be proud and give yourself a treat! Try to avoid rewarding with edible goodies, a practice that tends to create a negative relationship with food. Instead, buy a new outfit, go to a play or enjoy a night out.

My friend has a great reward system. She logs how many miles she walks on the treadmill, and when she reaches a mileage equal to the distance between herself in New York and her son in Miami, she buys a plane ticket and visits him.

Remember that fitness is a lifelong process that takes place in small, daily steps. Be committed and consistent, and you’ll be on your way to formulating the physique and spirit you desire!

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