It doesn’t matter how experienced you are in the gym: If you’re not tracking your fitness routine, you’re missing out on really getting fit. Here’s why tracking your workouts actually matters—and how to do it correctly.
Why You Should Track Your Workouts
To get real.
Tracking your workouts lets you develop a realistic picture of where your fitness stands. Without tracking, it’s easy to think you are more (or less) fit than you actually are. When you start recording everything you’re doing in the gym as well as your time and distance (for aerobic training), you’re able to develop an accurate picture of your overall fitness. This gives you a better understanding of your body and allows you to set achievable goals.
To facilitate goal achievement.
Speaking of goals: Not only does tracking your workouts allow you to set realistic goals, but it also enables you to identify reasonable timelines, develop a scalable plan for achieving those goals, and remain accountable to your progress.
Tracking your workouts is a much more effective strategy than observing physical changes such as losing weight or wearing a smaller pant size because physical changes don’t tell the whole story. You may be able to lift heavier weights or run longer distances well before you see a change in the number on the scale. Tracking your workouts allows you to watch your progress evolve over time and reassures you that you’re moving toward your goals even before you can see bodily changes. It’s a great way to stay motivated, especially when you’re working toward long-term achievements.
To identify patterns.
Comparing workout records from week to week, month to month, and year to year can tell you a lot about your fitness preferences and progress. For example, you may notice that you regularly skip certain exercises, which may indicate you don’t enjoy those exercises and need to find alternatives. You may observe that you’re hitting a plateau, or that you lean toward a certain type of exercise during a certain time of year. These insights into your fitness patterns allow you to continually refine your routine so it’s optimum for you.
To cultivate consistency.
Keeping track of your workouts allows you to identify when you’re overdoing it or slacking off. This lets you course-correct before things escalate into getting injured or turning into a couch potato. Utilizing your tracking records as a checks and balance system allows you to maintain a consistent level of activity that’s appropriate for your body.
To boost motivation.
Looking at all the workouts you’ve put in and the progress you’ve made can inspire you to keep going when things get tough. If you ever hit a workout slump, taking a look at your tracking records can remind you that you’re capable of achieving the goals you set and remind you of the gains you’ve made. This inspiration can motivate you to stick with your fitness routine both in the short- and long-term.
How to Track Your Workouts
Now that you’re convinced of the value of tracking your workouts, it’s time to make it happen. The process is actually pretty simple.
First, decide what you want to track. You could track any and everything from the exercises you performed to calories burned, distance, heart rate, pace, time, weight lifted, reps, sets, and so on. You could choose to track your workout as a whole or track each exercise individually (a la this squat calculator). You could focus strictly on the physical details of your workout or include notes about how you were feeling that day, whether you enjoyed performing certain exercises, and so on. What you choose to track depends on the type of workouts you complete and your personal goals.
Once you’ve figured out what you’re tracking, you need to decide how you’ll track it. This could be as simple as using a notepad and paper or as technical as using an app. If you choose to go the app route, do your research—there are so many apps available; you should be able to find one that really appeals to you.
The key with all of this is to be realistic about what’s going to work for you. For example, if you haven’t used a pen since smartphones were created, then it’s probably not realistic to think you’ll write everything down by hand. Set yourself up for success by creating a tracking system that appeals to you. Then stick with it to reap the benefits of workout tracking over the long haul.