The end of the year is a good time to check in on your health and fitness goals — even if you choose not to call them resolutions.  So, how did you do? And how do you know?

Overall progress is usually very visible.  All you need to do is look in the mirror, step on a scale, or try on a favorite pair of pants and compare that to when you first started your fitness journey. But, to see what made the difference day to day and allowed you to achieve your overall goals, you need the details — and a workout journal is one of the simplest ways to do that.


The Earliest Fitness “Tracker”

Before we had fitness gym equipment that stores workout stats, personal trackers, or smart watches that do it all, there was paper and pencil. This is what the great athletes and trainers of the past used to record, monitor, adjust, and track their training and improvement over time. Yes, there’s plenty of technology available to make tracking your workouts easier, but writing still holds at least a few advantages.


Writing: More Engaging than “Save Workout”

Writing down the details of a workout instead of relying on a computerized device to remember them for you forces you to focus and think —and thinking leads to noticing and remembering more. It can be easy to get lost in the numbers that roll across a screen, but it’s not as easy to get lost when your own hand is forming them on the page.


New Discoveries About Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Manually recording your workouts at the fitness center can lead to new discoveries about the conditions that surrounded your best — and worst — sessions. For instance, maybe you’ll notice that your best workout of the month was when you worked out first thing in the morning instead of after a long day at work. Maybe you’ll see a pattern of feeling stronger through an entire workout on the days you fuel your body with a nutritious pre-workout snack.

Some discoveries might be even more nuanced — you work out better with certain music, when the gym is crowded versus empty, or when a friend comes to join you.


Detailed Insight to Maximize Your Efforts

Some say “work smarter, not harder.” We recommend working out hard (you’ll get out of it what you put in!), but using what you’ve learned about yourself from a workout journal can help you both work harder and smarter.  Simply writing in a notebook won’t do anything for your fitness ­— it’s what you do with that information that counts.

If you’re not sure how to interpret your detailed records, invite an experienced friend or trainer to peak at your journal and offer some insight. After all, it’s not like you’re keeping any secrets in there —right?


Paper Workout Journals Are a Thing

Keeping a journal is as simple as finding an empty notepad, but you might want to purchase an “official” workout journal that provides a template of what to include and helps you neatly organize information. A quick online search will lead you to nice-looking workout journals priced anywhere from $5 to $25. Many of these journals have designated spaces for both workouts and food logs, or the bonus of self-reflective Q & As.

Fitness trackers are wonderful, but sometimes it’s nice to get back to the basics of tracking your fitness center workouts the old-fashioned way. As we enter the New Year, consider starting a workout journal to help you better engage with your workouts, discover what makes you tick, and accelerate your progress.