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5 Ways Keeping a Logbook Will Make You Better (and How to Do It)

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By Carissa Mueller

Why do you come to EVF? No, seriously. Yeah yeah, I know. Your friends are here, you want to be fit and the coaches are super nice. But really, what is it deep down that drives you through the door? Why do you wake up early, turn down evening plans and otherwise rearrange your life so you can come beat yourself up on the regular?

Everyone has a reason. Your reason is personal, so your experience will be different from anyone else’s. A logbook adds a personal element to the community experience we all love. It allows you to stay self-aware of your progress and maybe learn something about yourself you didn’t even think to find.

How will scratching down a bunch of numbers in between sets do all that? Here are 5 ways.

1. It allows you to maximize the benefit of every class.
Consistently monitoring performance builds awareness of the best way to approach your training. You will be able to recognize more easily when and why your movement excels or starts to break down and use that knowledge to train better. For lifts and skills, this could mean tracking your progress on specific aspects of movement and noting drills that help cue you to move correctly. For metcons, whether your goal is to crush the WOD, remove a scale or something else, you need some kind of plan for how to break up reps and pace (or not) accordingly. Looking back at your logs from similar WODs in the past allows you to be intentional about your plan, rather than leaving your progress to circumstance.

2. It accelerates learning.
There’s a reason your teachers encouraged you to take notes in school. When you log a workout, you are taking the time to process what happened. Your brain literally stores the information you write in a way that helps you retain it, identify patterns and apply it later on. How many times have you left the gym feeling either amazing or destroyed? Did you take the time to consider why? Logging your workouts forces you to think more critically than “I crushed it today” or “I had an off day” and learn things that you can repeat or correct in the future.

3. It makes you more coachable.
Logging makes it easier to know how to ask for help. Instead of asking “Does this look OK?” and getting 99 different opinions about what you should improve, you can be more specific about what you want to know. For example, “I’m focusing on my pull. Can you tell me if I’m pulling early?” Moreover, keeping a detailed log helps coaches give you better advice on how to progress because you can show them exactly what you’ve been doing. This is especially helpful if your logbook includes notes about how you feel — not just in terms of movement, but also in terms of mental state, nutrition, sleep, etc.

4. It keeps you honest.
All of us have moments when we’re just not feeling it. Knowing that you will need to write down what you did and how you performed helps resolve the mental struggle we all experience, that back-and-forth bargaining where we try to legitimize skipping part of the program, cutting down reps, slowing down or otherwise minimizing what we’re capable of. If you really want to get real, share your logbook with someone. Don’t underestimate how motivating it can be to want to report a true effort every day.

5. It gives you a story of your progress over time.
Over the years, your logbooks will tell a story. You can flip back and see how much work you have done and how much faster, stronger and better you’ve become. Let it serve as a reminder of what you can achieve and cause you to wonder what your logbook might say a year from today.

OK, I’m convinced. But how do I start?

Logging your workouts is not difficult. There are lots of ways to do it: an app, a Word doc or Excel sheet or notebook and pen. Since logging is personal, your system should work … well, personally. Experiment with a few things and find a process that lets you record things quickly and in a way that makes it easy for you to reference later on.

With these goals in mind, here is an example of the system that I’ve found works well for me.

Step 1: Write down your program for the day. I also include notes about how I want to approach the day. My notes include the obvious things like what weight I will use if percentages are prescribed. I also often include things I want to keep in mind based on my past — for example, cues to remember for a lift or my strategy for a metcon. I leave a few blank lines between each section so that I have space to take notes later. This is usually the first thing I do when I get to the gym, but you can also do it the day before if you like to plan ahead.

Step 2: As you work, record completed sets and intervals. I use checkmarks to note when I complete a set. This allows me to focus on the work I’m doing rather than trying to remember how many sets I have left. (Don’t lie, you struggle with it too.) If I’m doing timed work-rest intervals, I also keep track of my time/reps on each interval so I can use this information later.

Step 3: After you work, take notes about how it went. For lifts and skills, I take notes on any specifics I’m working to improve, plus anything that felt unusually good or unusually sloppy. For metcons, I note how I broke up reps, about how much time I spent transitioning between movements or resting between sets and how I felt at different points in the workout. This information is GOLD for the next time you have a metcon with a similar structure.

Step 4: At the end, fill in your log with anything else that seems relevant. Before I leave the gym, I take a minute to look over my log for the day and fill it in with any additional information that I want to be able to reference later on. Think “advice to future self.” If I crushed it or had a particularly challenging day, I also take a minute to consider what circumstances influenced me positively or negatively, either in the gym or outside of it.

And that’s it! Have fun with it. I mean, honestly … at some point, all of our middle school selves kind of wanted to keep a diary but were secretly terrified someone would judge us for it. Now here we are, and it’s the cool thing to do. Embrace it!

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