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Write it down!

How To Use A Fitness Journal And The Benefits Of Keeping One

We’ve all kept journals at some point in our lives. For some of us, it was a way of writing down thoughts, feelings, and emotions we had throughout the day. For others, it provided us an outlet for our creativity, giving us a way to express ourselves in a safe place. For many, it’s a place to note important information and details that we don’t want to forget.

Journals are, with doubt, a useful addition to your life. And that absolutely goes for a fitness journal as well!

Why should you keep a fitness journal? What’s so useful about writing down all the food you eat and the exercise you do? Below, you’ll find a (surprisingly long) list of the benefits of keeping a fitness journal, along with advice on how to keep on effectively. By the time you reach the end of this page, you’ll understand why a fitness journal can be your best friend on your weight lossand fitness journey…

Tip: When it comes to increasing strength, you might hear the phrase "progressive resistance." This means "do more work as time goes on" -- lift heavier weights or do more reps of the same exercise to see results. Keep yourself on the path to success with a workout journal. Research shows that those who record their progress are more compliant and see better results than those who wing it.

Benefits of Keeping a Fitness Journal

Here are the benefits of logging all your information into a fitness journal:

Accountability. It’s so easy to think, “This little snack won’t hurt. It’s just a bite.” But that mentality is actually going to get you into A LOT of trouble!

For the average dieter, your food intake has to be pretty carefully calculated. You want to make sure to get the right balance of macro and micronutrients, and you need to be careful not to overdo it on the calories. With a fitness journal, you are accountable to yourself, and you will see every time you make the wrong choice.

The fact that you’re writing it down means it’s on your “permanent record.” You’ll be far less likely to cheat on your diet simply because you’ll know that you did. You’ll hold yourself to a much higher standard as a result!

Precision. It’s amazing how much you actually end up eating in a day! Most of the time, you have no idea how much you actually ate. Maybe you forgot about that handful of chips you snagged from a friend or the little snack you had on your way out of the house. Or you didn’t add the tablespoon of oil you used to cook your breakfast. Or any number of other things…

With a fitness journal, you log ALL your food intake for the day. Keeping a fitness journal forces you to think carefully about what you ate all day long, and you can see exactly what you put into your body. You’ll soon come to see where your weaknesses are, and you can take steps to correct your eating habits.

Track Progress. The one thing that’s going to stop you from losing weight is a discouragement. If you don’t see the progress you were hoping for, you’re much more likely to feel that you’re wasting your time on your training and dieting–thus, you’ll have a hard time keeping up with the diet or exercise program.

But that’s where a fitness journal is so handy! As you track your weight loss, your strength gains, and your increasing run times, you’ll see that you’re making real, quantifiable progress. Sure, it’s slower than you’d hoped, but at least it’s there. You’ll be far more motivated to keep up with your efforts so you can continue to see that progress.

Provides a Goal. Without a vision, the people perish! We all need a goal, something to strive for. If you don’t have a specific objective in mind but just want to “get in shape,” you’re going to have a much harder time actually reaching your goal.

A fitness journal helps you to come up with a clear, well-defined objective. It could be some pounds (20 pounds), a time frame (6 months), or even an end-by date (my wedding). Heck, you can even commit to keeping up with your diet and exercise habits until the diary pages are all filled. All that matters is that you have a goal to work toward. Your fitness journal will give you something to focus on, making it easier for you to stick with it even when the progress slows.

Consistency. Consistency is the best way to build healthy habits. It’s not easy to start eating healthy or working out every day, but if you know you have to write it down in your journal, you’re far less likely to bail.

Make it a habit of filling out your journal at the end of every day, and it will provide you with a time to reflect on how you did that day. Every day, you’ll think about your successes and failures, and you’ll write it in your journal. As the day’s pass, you’ll start to see more successes than failures, which will encourage you to keep going. That consistency is the key to forming the habit of eating and living a healthy life–and using your journal to track it!

Change. With a fitness journal, you can see the results your efforts are yielding, so you can know when it’s time to change things up.

The human body is designed to adapt to your diet and exercise program. After a few weeks of a certain diet, the body adjusts to meet the reduced or altered calorie intake. The same goes for your exercise program. To keep the weight loss moving, you have to change up your exercise program at the very least, if not your diet.

But how can you know when it’s time to change? Simple: you look over your fitness journal to see your progress for the last weeks/months. When you see that progress has slowed, it’s time to consider doing something different. It’s just that easy! Thanks to the fact that you’re writing everything down in your journal, you can check out your progress and realize when it’s time to change.

As you can see, a fitness journal can be your best friend, and it can help you to be more effective in your diet, exercise program, and weight loss efforts. If you want to make the most of your new lifestyle truly, it’s a good idea to start keeping a fitness journal.

How to Keep a Fitness Journal

So you want to start keeping a fitness journal, eh? Good for you! Let’s dive right into how you can keep your journal. First up, the “where”…

Where to Keep Your Fitness Journal

There are three simple options for your fitness journal:

Physical Journal. There’s something beautifully elegant about a proper journal and a fancy pen. If you don’t want a journal, why not try a notebook, an exercise book, or even a scrapbook? Anything that helps you to write it down.

Smartphone. You can find A LOT of fitness tracker and fitness journal apps on your smartphone (iOS and Android)! These apps are designed to make it easy for you to keep track of your daily eating and exercise habits. They provide you with a lot of tools, but they can also be a bit more limited.

Computer. You can build yourself a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, or download a computer program (like FitDay) that is designed for tracking your daily exercise and food intake. You can join a forum or website or even create your own personal blog to keep up with your fitness.

Find the method that works best for you–the one that is easiest to remember to do on a daily basis!

So we have the “where,” and it’s time to move onto the “what”…

What to Include in Your Fitness Journal

There are two very important elements you need to track in your fitness journal:

  • Exercise
  • Diet

You can add in lifestyle factors if you want, but it’s these two elements that really matter!

Exercise. When tracking exercise, you should include information like:

  • How much time you spent working out
  • What you did (resistance training, cardio, walking, sports, outdoor activity, etc.)

If you want to get into it really, you can calculate the number of calories burned and even break down your training volume (weight used x reps x sets). You can get as detailed as you want with the exercise information. In fact, the more detailed you get, the easier it will be to see the progress you are making with your weight lifting, running, cardio classes, cycling, or other training.

Food. This is DEFINITELY the most important part of your fitness journal. You need to keep track of everything you eat, as that’s the only way you can be sure exactly what you’re putting in your body!

How much detail do you need to add? That’s up to you.

  • Some people like to break their meals down into a list of ingredients. That way, they can calculate how many calories each of those ingredients contained, and they can get a clear understanding of how many calories they consumed that day.
  • Others prefer to “round off,” using the calorie counter provided by their app or computer program to help them estimate the rough number of calories they ate that day.

What matters most is that you take all the little “extras” into account as well. For example, did you add a tablespoon of oil into the pan to cook your eggs? Add it to the list! Did you grab a snack on your way out to work? Add it! Did you steal half a cookie or eat a handful of potato chips or pretzels? Write it down!

The reason you want to write EVERYTHING down is that it will help you to see your weak areas. As you go over your journal, you can look back at the last days and see what “no-no foods” slipped into your day. You’ll see the foods that trigger you to snack or eat more, and you can make plans to help you avoid or resist that temptation.

If you put it in your mouth, write it into your journal! The more detailed your list, the easier it is to see what you ate–and you’ll have a more accurate calorie count.

When to Update Your Fitness Journal

Now that you know what to put in your journal, you may be wondering when to write it down. The answer is easy: EVERY DARNED DAY!

The only way to ensure maximum accuracy in your journal is to take notes on a daily basis. You can write in your fitness journal after every meal or in the evenings–whatever helps you to be as accurate as possible. Be as thorough as you can, and make sure to note down everything that you do that day. Whether you hit that workout hard and ate like a champ or skipped training to watch TV with a large pizza, write it down!

But here’s another important thing to remember: go over the journal. Every week, go over the journal and see where you failed. Don’t let it get you down, but use it to motivate you to do better the next week.

Do this, and you’ll get the results you want!

A fitness journal can be your best friend when it comes to weight loss. Not only will it help you to stay accountable for everything you eat and do every day, but it will give you the motivation to keep going. Even if you don’t see drastic results right away, your fitness journal can encourage you that your diet and workout program really is working. It just takes time!