Journaling is not a one size fits all activity. Some people need to log everything, others need a bare minimum. That decision is partly about your goals as the business school maxim “you manage what you measure” is true in this situation as well. While your goals are important so is your personality. As with anything health and fitness related the most effective option is the one you will actually stick to long term and for different people differing frequency and volume of logging works best.
At a bare minimum you need to track your personal records. This includes strength and benchmark workouts. This would also include any runs, swims or ergs if you are an endurance athlete though the endurance world is very easy to quantify these days which we will discuss in part 3, so most of that can be automated.
This is great for people who hate the tedious nature of logging every single thing every day. You can look back at your testing from the previous attempt and base you strategy around that. This will allow you to track progress over time which has motivational benefits and importantly will allow you to see if what you are doing is working. This is totally acceptable for long term for anyone without elite goals that doesn’t feel the need to track the minutia.
There are benefits though to tracking more regularly which are discussed below.
Daily training log
Basically you write down what you do each day. Start with the obvious stuff, sets, weights and reps for lifting, Weights and times or rounds for crossfit. Times and distance for running etc. Also, include things like how you felt, when you ate etc. This will allow you look back and see things that affect your training on a day to day basis. It will also allow you to see patterns of over training. If you have weeks in end where you simply don’t feel good and you are training a lot it may be time for a rest or more than likely a time to take a look at your recovery plan.
One thing to consider even if tracking you daily training is too much for you is to simply check in your calendar the days you trained. This helps add accountability by monitoring. It’s a strategy that seems to be effective for certain people to keep them in good habits.
Food, Sleep etc
Some people would go crazy tracking sleep and food, others would thrive on it. Consider who you are and also your circumstances and then decide what to track. If you are getting plenty of sleep AND you feel well rested and don’t like the idea of logging sleep simply don’t . The nutrition plan I follow is simple and doesn’t require a log and I have no problem sticking to it so I don’t log food. Some people though fly off the rails if they don’t log food. If that’s you then you need to log.
What is important is that you log when and what you ate and how you felt both in and out of training. When it comes to sleep log no only time but how you felt after it. There are now apps to automate a lot of this which we will talk about in part 3.