Any weight trainer worth his or her salt keeps a training log, it provides a backbone from one training session to the next, keeps progress fluid and allows you to easily spot and address weaknesses.
The reason for tracking and recording your training is simple, it allows you to increase the volume or intensity in each subsequent session, even if it just one extra rep. Anyone who has kept a log consistently will know that without one it is very easy to stagnate.
Something worth some thought is why we don’t assign the same level of importance to other areas of our lives. After all, the reason we keep records in general is so that we can refer to past experience, to observe, analyse and improve.
Logs can be extended in an obvious manner to nutrition. Again, anyone that has kept a food diary for long enough will know that it is nearly impossible to eyeball quantities and macro-nutrients. Equally, to put a lot of effort into training without at least equal effort into diet is a recipe for failure. So, if you’re not already doing this it would be my first suggestion. First, find a method that suits you but i strongly recommend an online or app based log. Either www.mynetdiary.com or www.myfitnesspal.com have website based logs with mobile apps and don’t cost a penny. The latter even has a nifty barcode scanner if you have a smart-phone (I’m yet to consume a food that it didn’t already have on record).
There are however other, less obvious uses of logs that I would suggest considering. I decided some time ago that it would be interesting to log some fixed variables in my life for a while and see if I could make any improvements.
I logged the following:
How I felt as soon as I woke up and whether I woke up during the night. Again, for smart phone users, “smart alarm” is a good way to monitor sleep – it records sleep cycles and background noise level.
How tired or alert I was at midday and how much coffee I drank.
How much work I got done at different times of day (I simply noted whenever my concentration wavered or I procrastinated).
When I got my first hunger pang.
Finally, I took a photo (front, side and back relaxed) and a scale weight reading every day.
I did all of the above for 2 weeks.
What did I learn?
I discovered that I usually feel pretty good as long as I’m in bed by 11pm but I usually wake up if I consume any caffeine after 5pm.
(I try to be in bed by 10:45pm on most nights and have my last cup of java before the gym at 4pm)
As long as I got over 7 hours sleep I usually had pretty good energy levels at midday, on days I got less sleep (<6 hours) I resorted to coffee a lot more.
(I try and get at least 7 hours per night, often aiming for 8. If not, I take a midday nap and try not to abuse coffee)
I work really well in the morning and tend to procrastinate the most between 3-5pm.
(I wake up earlier to make the most of the AM and train between 3-5pm)
When I eat at 9-10pm I was never hungry until at least midday apart from after heavy leg days.
(I try to delay my last meal after leg training and try and consume slow digesting protein with some fat, I also have some cream in my morning coffee to stem the hunger)
I learned that I tend to hold a lot of water if I get all of my carbs from grains or eat a lot of salty foods such as bacon and pizza but very little when I consume sugary cereal and pastry. This tended to coincide with my scale weight fluctuations, for example, every day after I eat pizza I gained at least 1kg without fail.
(I now try to limit really salty foods and don’t worry about having cereal or donuts on occasion.
In conclusion, I’ve learned a lot from simply tracking a few variables a few times a day and I’m convinced you could too. I wanted to learn what foods I responded best to and how I should go about working so that I got more done. Decide what you want to achieve and get logging.