How many shoulder press reps did I do yesterday?…I have no idea and I’m good with that.
Do you track the details of your strength training workouts? You know, things like…
* specific exercises
* rest time between sets
or any number of other factors that are important to you.
There’s certainly value in keeping detailed notes on these items. It’s smart to note the exercises you do so you know you’ve hit the muscle groups you intended to. You totally planned to skip triceps, right?! The number of reps you do and the amount of weight you lift can show you concrete, measurable progress (or lack of it!) right there in black and white.
These carefully documented details of your fitness life can also help you backtrack to pinpoint gaffs that led to injuries (that crazy new move you saw in a magazine probably wasn’t executed properly!) Or, on the flip side, show you what workouts helped you make big gains.
If you’re training for something specific, a race, a competition, a special occasion, capturing these details could be critical to your success.
I used to keep all these details. I religiously recorded every rep, every set. I wrote down every little variation of an exercise, every change in exercise order, every time I took a longer rest break than usual. My orderly columns of numbers and shorthand notes were important.
Until one day I thought, important for what?
My strength training routine has always been for general fitness. I’m not a figure competitor. I’m not an Olympic lifter. I train to be fit and healthy and because I love it. I have several small notebooks full of penciled-in workouts. I even tried a few iPad apps that collected all my data and gave it back to me in beautiful colored graphs or charts.
But when I really stopped and thought about it…I wasn’t DOING anything with all that information. I never looked back through it to check for anything. I can feel and see changes in my body without checking my training log. I know, during my workouts, if I’m working hard enough or not. I know when I’m slacking and I don’t need to record the pitiful numbers to prove it!
My strength routine can vary from week to week or even day to day because of things like the time of day I workout, how much energy I have or whether my kids kept me up the night before and comparing today’s chest press numbers to last weeks chest press numbers just isn’t realistic or beneficial for me.
I still keep a workout journal. It’s just very general in nature. It’s a simple spiral notebook and I write notes like ‘upper body workout-felt great but need some new back exercises’.
Sometimes I write more details, sometimes less. Since I’ve ‘let go’ of a lot of workout details, I’ve relaxed about my workouts. I’m more likely to change them up in the middle if something’s not working instead of trying to stick to the “prescribed” plan. I don’t freak out if I’m not lifting as much weight as last time, mostly because I can’t remember what I lifted last time! I actually recover during my recovery time instead of frantically scribbling my numbers before I start the next set.
Keeping detailed workout notes wasn’t a huge stress in my life but now that I’m NOT doing it, my workouts are easier. Not physically, of course, but mentally easier. I know that sounds silly, after all, how hard is it to write some numbers down but, for me, it felt easier.
I know this is not for everyone. For many people, a journal provides valuable information that is useful to them. If you’re one of those people then keep doing what you’re doing because it’s working for you. But if, like me, you aren’t using all that data for anything other than filling pages, take a good look at why you’re doing it. Don’t make more work for yourself!