Readers, I don’t know if you have gotten this impression of me, but I’m a big fan of a little structure and planning. Very early in my journey I encountered the simple advice (probably in a bodybuilding magazine) to consistently keep a training log, and it made sense to me right away. Since then, I could probably count the number of training sessions that have gone unlogged without taking off my shoes. Logging my training applies a sense of structure to each session, and that has proven critical for keeping me on track.
I personally prefer to keep a handwritten log in a notebook. Digital has never really done it for me. I tried using spreadsheets or word docs a few times, but they’ve never lasted very long. There is just something about the tangible accumulation of pages filled in a real book that I find very satisfying. It’s fun to have a little stack of filled training logs to remind me of all the work of the past. (It’s also fun to look back at my first few logs for that “what the hell was I thinking?” moment.) I honestly rarely use the data contained in these logs for any practical reason (maybe never, really), it’s really more of a sentimental thing. (My first training log is actually lost to the ages, and not having it to complete the set kills me.)
That said, the daily record keeping definitely has its practical benefits for me. Every once in a while I’ll get the wild idea to chill out and try to do an unplanned session, and every time it falls apart. I just can’t stay motivated without knowing there is a purpose and plan behind the training. Don’t get me wrong, I can goof around and have fun with movement, but it never effectively takes the place of a formal session for me. Unless play happens in addition to my actual training (assuming it’s a training day), I never enjoy it as much as I would like to.
This isn’t really a “you should definitely keep a training log” post. Maybe if I had written this a couple years ago, that would be the message; but I recognize that this sort of thing isn’t as critical for everyone. Some of you will do just fine following your program and never taking a single number down. Some of you might not even follow a program (though I would caution that this probably isn’t the best idea for most people). You just need to find what helps you optimize your training sessions, and for me that means meticulous record keeping.
I think, though, that even if you’re not a data lover, there is great value to at least maintaining a log to keep track of your training insights. As I wrote about last summer, those little epiphanies can leave you as quickly as they come, and a few lines of wisdom from your past self can do wonders to help bring that feeling back. Even just the act of putting that feeling into words and writing it down could do a lot to cement the lesson into your mind.
So, if you’ve never tried keeping a log, I would recommend taking a crack at it. If you’re of a very classical mindset, it might end up being a quantitative analysis of reps, sets, load, tempo and all that good number stuff. If you’re more of a romantic, it might be descriptions of feelings, insights, and achievements. If you’re like me, it’ll be a nice weave of both.
Whatever works for you, readers.