Journal your way to success

It has been twelve years since I was sitting in my English Writing class reading a popular bodybuilding magazine. The article featured legendary bodybuilder Dorian Yates. What was interesting about this article was that it didn't focus on Dorian's usual high intensity training, his massive back, or the supplementation or training strategies he used to become a 6 time Mr. Olympia. Instead this article focused on Dorian's daily journal that tracked EVERYTHING he did and how he used his journal to help him achieve his success. To this day it has been one of the most influential articles I have ever read.

Recently while cleaning out my garage I came across all my old training and nutrition journals dating back to 1998! Keeping a training journal is something that I highly recommend to all my clients and especially to my elite level athletes and competitors. Journaling is one of the greatest tools to ensure your success. If you look at any successful business you can guarantee they keep a close look on their books! They track how much money is coming in, how much is going out, analyze their growth and loses and always look at ways to improve and grow. Well you are no different when it comes to getting results. You need to know what your goals are, what's going into your body and how much and if the training you are doing is getting you the results you want.


To ensure your fitness success, here are six major items that you should start to keep a journal of.
1. Goals:
Determining and writing down your goals is the number one priority before anything else. You can't determine what direction you are going in unless you figure out where you want to go. What most people don't realize is that once you write down your goals, your brain's subconscious begins to find ways to achieve your goals. So just by taking the time to THINK about what you want to achieve will help your brain find a way to make it happen! To increase your odds of obtaining your goals, make sure to use the SMART system when determining your goals. Make sure your goals are:

  • S: Specific
  • M: Measurable
  • A: Attainable
  • R: Realistic
  • T: Timely

2. Nutrition:
Whether you are looking to pack on mass or shed off some fat, one of the quickest and easiest ways of doing that is to start keeping a journal of your daily eating! A fascinating thing happens as soon as you start to journal your daily food intake. You automatically make positive changes without anyone even having to tell you what to do. As soon as you have to write down everything that goes into your mouth you become more conscious and aware of what you are putting into your body. You also become more accountable for every calorie you consume. Many of us fail to realize just how important and how much improvement we can make on our nutrition.
Some of the questions you should be asking yourself and items you should be monitoring are the following:

  • How many calories am I taking in each day and is it consistent with how many I need?
  • Is my meal frequency consistent?
  • Am I skipping meals?
  • Am I eating every 2-3 hours?
  • Am I controlling my portion sizes?
  • Am I consuming HIGH quality food?
  • Am I consuming protein with each meal, am I taking in the right type of carbs and am I including healthy essential fats every day
  • Am I taking my supplements when I am supposed to and drinking enough water?

3. Weight Training:
It's really enjoyable to be able to look back at workouts you did years ago and see the progress you've made. Journaling workouts is one of the best ways to ensure you are making slow and steady gains week to week. If strength and size is your goal you should always know going into a workout what weight you are shooting for. Another great tool for journaling your workouts is to recognize when to take a recovery week or change a routine/exercise. If you notice a huge drop in the weight you are using or that you can no longer progress on an exercise, that's a good indication that its time to take a recovery week or change up your program
What to track:

  • Exercises, reps, sets, rest periods, weight
  • Determine if an exercise is bothering your, causing injury
  • Energy levels during your workout

4. Weight/Body fat/Measurements:
I track my bodyweight every morning upon rising on a great application I downloaded onto my blackberry and I try to get my body fat and measurements done every month. I highly suggest you do the same. Even though your weight fluctuates day to day the key is to see what your monthly trend is. If your goal is to lose weight, then you should see a general trend of your weight going down. Don't stress if you wake up one morning and your two pounds heavier than the day before, what you're interested in is the direction of the trend week to week. Similarly, if you are looking to put on mass, you should see a general trend week to week of your weight increasing. If you goal is to either lose or gain weight and you aren't moving, then it's a good indication that you need to take another look at your nutrition and training to determine what needs to change!

5. Cardio Log:
I'm always humoured when I'm talking to someone at the gym or a client and I ask them what their cardio routine is. I usually get the usual "30 minutes on the treadmill". Ask yourself this, in the last month, has your cardio improved? Do you keep track of your speed, your time or your distance when you are doing your cardio? I see people give more attention to what they are going to wear to the gym than to their actual cardio routines! Keep this in mind; performing the same amount of work load at the same intensity for the same duration will elicit LESS results every time you do it! So treat your cardio routines just like your workouts and aim to improve on one or more areas each time.

What to track:

  • Type of cardio machine
  • The duration of your session
  • Distance covered

6. Pictures:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to changing your body this couldn't be truer. Pictures don't lie! Personally I think pictures are the biggest motivational factor to make changes in your body and to reap the rewards of your hard work. There is nothing more humbling that to stare at a picture of yourself and see exactly what you look like. There is also nothing like seeing yourself six to eight weeks later and seeing just how far you've come in such a short period! Each month take a front, side, and back photo of yourself and place it in your journal. Give it a good analysis and determine what areas of your body you want to change. Do you want to lose more fat? Do you want more size on your shoulders or arms? Use these pictures to help determine your goals and track your progress month to month. When you see yourself everyday, it's sometimes hard to determine just how far you've come, or even just how much you are letting yourself go!
TIP: Take a before picture. Now schedule and pay for a professional photo shoot three months from now. Use that as your motivation and incentive to stick to your goals!

A fitness journal can be purchased at most book stores, online or even made by yourself and customized to suit your needs. So make the commitment to yourself to journal your success and reap the rewards!