Keeping a nutrition log is one of the best ways to track the food you eat, and the same principle can apply to your workouts. By keeping a detailed workout log, you say "sayonara" to lackluster, unfocused workouts and "hello" to targeted and specific routines. A log can help you remember what you did, when you did it and how it felt, so that next week, you can best yourself and get the most from your time at the gym.
Keep a log in a regular paper notebook, on your computer or using an app on your smartphone. One of the benefits that paper books and smartphone apps have over computers is that you can tuck them in your gym bag and record your workout info directly after you're done. That way, you're not forgetting anything. You can also use a combination of methods; a paper notebook can be scribbled in at the gym and then the info transferred into a computer-based document at home.
Dedicate a page in your notebook to each workout and include the date on each page. Or, if you're using a computer-based log, you can use a spreadsheet program, dedicating a row to each workout. If you're using an app, the setup will be provided for you.
Write your general goals in an easy-to-see place in your workout log. Whether it's to drop pounds for an upcoming cruise, lose the baby weight or be able to best your own time or reps, having your goals written down and seen often can help you to remember why you're working hard and logging your efforts.
Write down the type of exercise you completed and the conditions. Conditions, such as running indoors on a treadmill or outside in the heat can have a bearing on your performance, so they're important factors to include.
Track the number of reps you did for each exercise, if you're doing a circuit-based workout. If you're doing a single activity workout, like yoga or Zumba, just record the time you spent exercising.
Provide insight on how you felt during the workout. If you did 15 reps of triceps curls and felt great, you might need to increase your weight or the reps. In this way, your workout log can help you track your success and know when it's safe and beneficial for you to shake things up. On the other hand, if you headed to Zumba and felt like quitting halfway in, you know that your cardiovascular fitness probably needs improvement.
Consult your exercise log before each workout session. This will refresh your memory as to your last workout and what you need to be working on. For instance, if you notice that last week you spent three days focusing on your arms, it might be time to change the focus to the back for a workout instead. The American Council on Exercise notes that changing up your workout routine can help blast through fitness plateaus.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.