By Coach Jason Giles
Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a BIG proponent for writing my training down. Yep, good old fashioned pen and paper! That’s me though, but you don’t have to do it that way -as long as you do it. It can be on a cell phone or computer spreadsheet. Whatever it takes to track what you’ve done and plan what you’re going to do. I’m not here to convince you to use a pen and paper, but on the other hand you wouldn’t have to worry about battery life.
Let’s talk a minute about why I’m such a stickler for tracking and journaling. Well it goes way back to when I first started to seriously train myself in the gym. I’m a believer that success leaves breadcrumbs and if you want to be successful in something look at what those who have succeeded before you have done. So, I looked around, and you know what I saw? All the people who looked really serious about what they’re doing in the gym carried around some version of a little notebook and a pencil. huh. Maybe there’s something to that.
So, I started writing out what it is I planned to do weekly. On Sunday, I’d write each day on it’s own page leaving plenty of space to write notes. Then each day I trained I’d check off what I did, or write in any changes. You know what I found? This shit really works! Over the years I’ve discovered a multitude of reasons why it works for me and why it’s helped so many of my students throughout the years.
When you write out what you plan to do in advance, designating specific days to do what you plan, it provides you with structure. When there is a plan and a structure people are more inclined to work the plan. I think this is partially because it eliminate some ambiguity. It’s a lot easier to brush something off if you don’t designate a day to get it done.
I’ve always found that when there is a checklist I’m about 99% more likely to get shit done. In a way, using a journal is like having a weekly checklist for your training. There is a certain satisfaction to checking things off as you complete them and this becomes a positive feedback loop that encourages you to do the work. If you don’t do it, the journal doesn’t lie. There aren’t any check marks, and this serves as a kind of accountability.
No I’m not talking about backbends and splits. I mean, you certainly could make that a fitness goal, but that’s not what I mean here. What I mean is that you have the flexibility to change the plan when necessary. Sometimes we plan things, and then as we start training it becomes dangerous or we fail. Having a way to track and journal your training gives you a way to change the plan and record those changes. You don’t feel like your cheating because you wrote it down. It is what it is, and if you’re like me you will also write down why you think you needed to make those changes. Sometimes people feel that working a plan is an all or none deal. I’m here to tell you it’s not! Every day is different and so are you. You must be willing to be an active participant in your training and make adjustments to the plan whenever it’s needed.
- A Record of Progress
Sometimes when we work at something for a while we don’t realize that we’ve changed or made any progress at all. We’re so wrapped up in the day to day, and so hard on ourselves that we can’t see or feel any difference even though it’s plain to anyone who sees us. I think it’s tremendously helpful to have a record to look back on and say, “look 3 months ago I couldn’t even do a pushup, now I’m doing 10!” That’s progress, and that is super motivating.
Writing it in a notebook isn’t the only method I use, and it’s not necessarily the best method for everyone. At Iron Monkey Strength we use an app, TrainHeroic, to deliver programs to our students and they use the app to track what they do. It’s a great digital method! Some people use things like Google Fit, Fitbit, Garmin Connect, etc. There are so many out there that it could be a full time job just trying them all out! If you’re not sure, try one for a month or so, and see how you like it.
If you know of an app or method you use for your training and you think other readers might find it useful too -share it in the comments! I’m sure the rest of us will appreciate your insight.
Feel free to email me with your questions at [email protected].