If you are serious about improving your health (i.e. lose fat and stress/gain muscle and confidence) or your athletic performance (increasing your personal records on the high bar back squat or workouts like “Fran”), a training log is essential.
How a Training Log Helps
1. Training logs help you understand the origins of your performance.
Does it seem like you are crushing your old personal records every day in the gym? Have those punishing WODs that used to give you nightmares suddenly become a walk in the park? Have you dropped 10 pounds in the last month? If this sounds like you, a training log will reveal how you were able to achieve your respective goals.
2. Training logs keep you accountable to your fitness.
Every month, your log should include new training goals that will help keep you focused. For example:
1. Achieve a kick to handstand hold.
2. Snatch 200 pounds.
3. Complete “Fran” in under 2 minutes.
You determine the goals and then you set out to achieve them. Not really complicated. You’d be surprised how important the act of writing down goals is. In Mark H. McCormack’s insightful book, What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-Smart Executive, Harvard MBA students in 1979 were asked,
“‘Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?’ Only three percent of the graduates had written goals and plans; 13 percent had goals, but they were not in writing; and a whopping 84 percent had no specific goals at all. Ten years later, the members of the class were interviewed again, and the findings, while somewhat predictable, were nonetheless astonishing. The 13 percent of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all. And what about the three percent who had clear, written goals? They were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.”
Write your goals down, folks, and revisit them frequently.
What Your Log Should Include
For the past four years, I’ve been keeping track of my workouts in simple composition books. You can purchase these at any CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, etc. for a couple of dollars. (We just might be transitioning to an online workout tracking/membership system in the near future. Until then, this book works just fine.) What I like about the comp book is that it allows you the freedom to write anything down.
Here are what I believe to be the essential components of any training log.
1. Time of day you trained.
Did you train for one week only in the AM? PM?
2. The warmup.
Was the warmup more metabolic based or skill based?
3. Strength/Skill work
Identify the lifts you performed, the intensity (pounds/kilograms lifted) of the lifts.
4. Conditioning work
Did you perform a chipper, AMRAP, or Rounds for Time? Was the workout a training or testing session?
5. Amount of Recovery.
This goes for both the strength and conditioning pieces. Super important in determining a number of things such as your general aerobic capacity to your body’s ability to recharge it’s CP system (in other words the system that allows you to lift really heavy stuff, repetitively.)
6. The Cooldown
Did your day’s training include some kind of light cyclical aerobic work (rowing, running, airdyning) to help your body gradually return to normal?
7. Daily Reflections
Your reflections about the training session cannot be discounted. Include at the end of each log entry how you felt during each the strength and conditioning sessions. Did you feel flat/sharp? Distracted/focused? In this section you should also include other factors that may have influenced your training. For instance, “barely slept last night due to my neighbor’s dog barking all last night” or “I had a really big report due at work yesterday and my stress levels have been through the roof.” The seemingly mundane details in your life can have a tremendous impact on your life. Write. Them. Down.
Start taking your training seriously. Use you a training log!