Why You Should Keep a Workout Journal

You can get better results faster. 'Nuff said!

If you want to see results from each and every workout you do, chart your progress in an exercise journal. Self-monitoring your workout has proved to be a cornerstone in losing weight and building muscle, sccording to Jeffrey Katula, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Wake Forest University.

While many people jot down their weight after stepping off the bathroom scale, researchers at Northwestern University found that those who consistently tracked their exercise habits — especially during holidays — lost more weight compared to those who did not.

How can you increase your chance of journal success? "Keep it simple," says Katula. "You're more likely to stick with something that's convenient." Westcott suggests recording the exercises you do, the weight load and the number of repetitions. Also record the time you spend doing cardio, along with other available measurements, including distance, for example, or the pre-programmed treadmill or stationary bike program you followed.

Journal Your Way to Fitness

1. It increases awareness of your behavior.
According to Katula, "a workout journal helps you become aware of what you are and are not achieving at the gym." An accurate record might reveal, for example, that you are doing only 10 minutes of cardio after lifting weights, not the 20 you thought.

2. It reminds you to change your workout.
You have to increase your workload if you want to see changes in your body. "Once you can lift a weight 12 times, you should increase the weight by 5 percent and lift it nine or 10 times," says Wayne Westcott, PhD, CSCS, fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. "Then stick with it until you can easily lift it 12 times." Your journal will help you keep track of these numbers and show you when it's time to increase the load.

3. It allows you to evaluate your progress.
"Write down your specific goals, like when you want to be able to lift a certain amount of weight or run at a certain speed," says Westcott, "then check to see how long it takes you to reach them. "Set small goals that can be realistically conquered in two to four weeks."

4. It provides a record of accomplishment over time.
"The more improvement you see on the page, the better your physical results will be," says Westcott. "Every day you should see some improvement in the numbers. Maybe you can do an extra rep or increase the weight a bit."

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