One of our writers took on fitness journaling and found greater motivation to get fit in the process.
Workout: Running four miles
Wiped out from interrupted sleep.
First half mile wanted to quit, feet and legs felt heavy. Everything lifted just after that.
Should have stretched better but feel pretty accomplished and calmed after four miles
Workout: Boxing class
Want to power through work; workout feels like waste of time.
Head totally cleared halfway through class. I felt really strong and clear-headed.
Actually came back to my desk more focused and less anxious
Workout: 7-minute yoga session on Aaptiv
Did not sleep well, can’t imagine this is going to go well.
Kind of meh at first but felt so much better after second sequence
If I didn’t have an appointment, would have kept going but glad I fit it in.
These are entries from my fitness journal. I use it to track my exercise routine and my mood before, during, and after I workout. After several years not really tending to my workouts as I should have, I became pregnant with my second son and realized how much better I feel when I hit the mark with my workouts.
Why fitness journaling?
With two boys at home and a fairly busy writing job (which involves a lot of butt-in-chair time), I’m someone who needs a bit of variety to stay motivated to workout. But, I also lack the open space in my schedule to count on fitting in hour-long classes on the regular.
Workouts can feel like both an indulgence and a hassle, simultaneously. And yet, I have a pattern of feeling much better once I’ve started or finished them. I think we all know that feeling, and yet we all—at some time or another—skip the workout because we’re not feeling it. That’s why I like fitness journaling. When I get that ‘don’t-want-to-don’t-need-to’ feeling about my workout, I read a few of the past entries and usually find that “don’t want to” often leads to “glad I did.”
How to get started
Fitness journaling can be as intricate or as simple as you’d like. Because right now my primary goal is staying active while balancing work and family—and maybe hitting a personal best at my next 5K—my fitness journal gives me a way to track when I worked out and how I felt. But, that’s not the only approach. If you’re working toward a big goal–either a weight loss milestone or finishing a big race or event, for example–a more detailed journal might be good for you.
“I would suggest everyone keep a journal,” said Edouard L. Hall, an Aaptiv trainer who specializes in cycling. “My experience is, if you write it down, you are more likely to hold yourself accountable to training as well as being able to see your progress.”
Because he often trains for races, Hall keeps an extremely detailed journal of his metrics, miles, heart rate, and heart rate zones, as well as watt production and lactate threshold test results. But no matter your goal, he had a few tips.
“Before starting a journal I would suggest arranging your schedule so you are training at the same time consistently,” he said. “This is important because although intensity is good, consistency is paramount.”
What you record is up to you. An athlete in training will have different milestones than someone looking to lose weight, for example. Hall pointed out that in those cases, seeing numbers increase or decrease (depending on your goals) will keep you on task.
Journaling your moods
The mood journal, Hall agreed, could serve a variety of exercisers. “Tracking your mood could be useful especially if you’re noting how you feel after a particularly hard effort. Be specific, i.e. you’re physically fatigued, elated, or refreshed,” he said. “Also, compare that to the type of work you were doing that day and see if there a correlation. If you were exhausted and only did steady state cardio then you have to look at your recovery protocol or hydration level.”
To get started, you can use a notes app in your phone (Hall uses his phone to journal both when training and in his off season). If you enjoy doodling or being able to flip through your notes easily, buy an attractive notebook or journal. But, make sure you reserve your notebook purely for fitness, or at least call out or box your fitness tracking so you can easily review it.
Weight loss is another common goal and combining fitness journaling with a food diary may help you incorporate healthy habits into your day. For those looking for a solution for overall wellness, consider tracking a host of things, from your mood during certain activities to water consumption and sleep.
There’s another possible payoff to all this, beyond workout motivation. Journaling to track fitness moods or stats might inspire you to write on a larger scale. Journaling increases focus and reduces stress. In fact, keeping a journal is a common practice among successful people. Some of its famous fans? The artist Frida Kahlo, who kept an illustrated diary. Author Joan Didion, still prolific in her 90s, said she writes everything down so as to “Remember what it was to be me: that is always the point.” Albert Einstein kept track of every little thing, from travel observations to daily bursts of insight.