How to Start Tracking Exercise and Stop Fitness Frustration
Why Track Workouts?
People in the fitness world love to track. We track our progress, our food, and of course our workouts. And it’s all for good reason: keeping a record of everything, at least for a short period of time, can be extremely helpful to your overall fitness program. While you may not want to add another thing on your list of things to do when you’re just getting started, by keeping a record of your exercise history you can be more aware of exactly what you’re doing and what effect your routine is having on your body and mind.
Together with good goal setting and progress tracking, Exercise Tracking can help provide a full picture of your fitness path and help with assessment. Using these as guides is helpful to figure out what parts of your program are working, which ones are not, and how to progress further. Also, if you’re ever feeling frustrated with your progress, looking back at your tracking systems can be a great way to boost motivation, letting you easily see the improvements and changes you’ve made over time, and be inspired to continue.
What to Track
Some key pieces of information to capture are the day, date, exercise name, weight used, number of reps, and number of sets. These are the core building blocks of your exercise routine, and the most relevant data to see progression over time. By keeping a close eye on these, you can see how you’ve increased you stamina, strength, and endurance.
How to Track
When it comes to actually recording exercises, there are a few options depending on what works best for you. Some opt for writing in a small notebook or full size paper in a folder, while others go the high tech route and use their phones or tablets. No matter which method you use, you have choices of how to format your Exercise Tracking.
A list may be the simplest and the most popular way to track workouts. A small notebook, or the note app on your phone are great for this. Just write down the exercises in the order you perform them, going down in a list, making sure to note the key pieces of information. As a guide, check out the sample list above. As shown, your list can get a little long so if you do decide to go this route just make sure to have enough paper on hand.
Keeping an exercise chart can be a little easier to keep track of than a long list. As demonstrated above, the chart takes up fewer lines of paper than a full list, showing a full day’s exercise all in one quick glance, rather than flipping through several pages. Two days’ worth of exercises in a chart can fit into the same space as just a single exercise in a list. Keep in mind, you may need a wider piece of paper or a larger notebook, in order to fit all of the information in an easy to read way. Even writing down your workouts in a chart is easier, since the headings stay constant and show exactly what pieces of information are important. The less writing and remembering you have to do during your workout session, and the quicker can do it, the better.
Depending on what is in your workout program, you can change the chart headings and columns to fit your needs and make recording your routine as easy as possible. For cardio work, I stuck in my distance in the weight column, and put my time instead of reps, but you can modify and organize it however you want. You can even create your own chart with a simple excel spreadsheet, and print it out to fill in on paper at the gym.
A great new trend is to use technology for a quick and easy way to get a little more insight into your workouts. One easy way is to use a note taker or spreadsheet app to make a list or chart a little more accessible. If you have horrible handwriting like me, this increases the chance of being able to look back and actually recover your information, rather than having it just sit in a notebook in a drawer somewhere.
Full-fledged fitness tracking apps can take this one step further, providing a full picture of your exercise history. My personal favorite app, Fitocracy, makes it easy to track your workouts and to go back and chart your progress over time. You can click on one exercise and see a full description and video of how to perform it. It will also show you your full history for just that one move, including your personal records. Rather than sorting through pages and pages of notes, free mobile apps and websites like this make it really easy to see all of the details.
Work it Out
No matter what tools you decide to use, the most important thing is that you have fun. Exercise, enjoy it, and if you do something to keep track, you’ll be able to quantify and see how far you’ve come.
Tracking is definitely the only way to make real progress in fitness. Our bodies change so slowly that it can be difficult for us to see the change if we don’t have a record of it.