For as long as I can remember I have been a huge proponent of having an exercise journal or workout log. In fact, I still have most of them and from time to time I like to pull some of the old ones out and read through them. I thought I would outline some of the benefits of keeping a workout log.
- Goals – This is a great way to create and track your goals. By examining what you have done in the past you can learn what you need to improve, set new goals and stay on track towards achieving them.
- Progress – Keeping a journal is a great way to track your progress.
- Identify weaknesses
- Identify patterns
- Motivation – I love to look back at where I’ve been on exercises. Sometimes if I haven’t done an exercise in a long time I am motivated to get back to where I was in the past and sometimes it is just exciting to see how far you’ve come.
Traditionally I have always just used notebooks to record my workouts. Recently, my wife bought me an actual workout log to use. No matter what you use I like to make sure I record the following each day.
- Date – I record the day, month and year.
- Time – The time I start the workout and the time I end.
- Exercises done
- Sets and reps
- Notes – It is extremely helpful to record notes on each workout. I will record if a particular exercise is harder or easier than expect, if I feel I should stay at that weight next time or if I should increase the weight, any injuries, pace of the workout, conditions in the garage gym that day, etc.
This is definitely not a complete list but just the things that have proven to be important to me in the past. I believe keeping a workout log is an extremely under-rated and under utilized tool in any trainee’s toolbox.
Unscheduled rest days happen. I typically try to follow a Monday through Friday plan for my workouts with Saturday and Sunday as scheduled off days. This allows me to use Saturday as a makeup day if I should happen to miss a workout during the week.
When you have children, missed workouts can happen for many different reasons. Lack of sleep due to a child who doesn’t feel well from being sick, having a nightmare or because they just can’t or don’t want to sleep that night. Sometimes it is difficult to understand why your kid doesn’t want to sleep. My wife deals with the majority of these nights; especially with our youngest, but I help out as often as I can.
Due to our busy schedule in the evening I am often getting to bed much later than I would like. This makes it difficult to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to workout. I have gotten into the bad habit lately of pushing that snooze button and rationalizing with myself that I can still workout if I only stay in bed for 10 more minutes. Unfortunately I often sleep through the snooze or simply turn off the alarm and roll back over.
Sleep is so important to your recovery in training. Lack of sleep is probably the leading cause of my missing workouts. At 46 I cannot burn the candle at both ends the way I used to. I find that I definitely need more sleep than I used to but I am not getting it.
It is important to recognize when your body needs a day off. And it is equally as important to take the day off when needed. Yesterday I woke up feeling tired, with sore muscles and a sore lower back. I elected to workout anyway. I pushed through a short workout and struggled mightily through it. It was not a good workout at all. I couldn’t match the pace I have been doing lately and the reps were very poor.
When I woke up this morning I felt the same as yesterday; tired, sore muscles and a sore lower back. I originally planned on pushing through like I did yesterday. After some internal deliberation I eventually decided to take a mid-week rest day. I did not want a repeat of yesterday’s workout. I am hopeful that I will feel better tomorrow and can get back on schedule.
Sometimes it is necessary to take a break and or back off a bit. Sometimes those breaks/back off weeks are planned. Sometimes they are not.
A couple of weeks ago I had a back off week planned. Typically I have been still lifting and doing my conditioning on those weeks. But I normally lift much lighter and reduce the sets. I work on form and conditioning. During this back off week I didn’t lift at all and it wasn’t in the plan at all.
I missed the first day of the because we were away. No problem, I figured I would just pick it up on Tuesday. But Tuesday I slept in and woke up with a sore back. Wednesday arrived and I got in some conditioning. I slept in again though and only did half of what I was planning. I got some extra conditioning in that evening though at my son’s soccer practice (I am one of the coaches). Thursday I got in another conditioning workout but Friday and Saturday were off days.
In the past I would have been very upset that I didn’t get my workouts in. But I realized that sometimes you need those weeks. Sometimes your body is trying to tell you to slow down and rest. I am quite certain mine was telling me that. I suffered that week through some back issues, late nights and headaches.
After a week of backing off on my workouts, chiropractic adjustments and rest I was able to get back to my normal workouts last week and am feeling better. An important lesson to always remember is to listen to your body. It will help you in the long run.