The Perfect Workout Journal: How to Track Your Workouts Simply and Effectively to Improve Your Success

You should be tracking your workouts, it’s that simple.

When you do, you give yourself access to your own fitness history, which then allows you to use that information to figure out how to improve your success.

Using a workout journal is the simplest and most flexible way to keep track of the complex workouts that we encounter in our training. We agree with James Clear in his description of a journal:

  1. Simple – Being able to flip to a page and either find your old workout or record your new one cannot be overstated for its power. In less than 10 seconds you can be recording your exact workout, without flipping through screens, opening keyboards or trying to ignore notifications. We all know how hard it is.
  2. Useful – Beyond its simplicity, a workout journal gives you the ability to easily retain and review your workouts within seconds. It can go anywhere with you, and there is never a battery issue to contend with.
  3. Versatile – A workout journal gives you the ability to write a workout, large or small, with whatever annotations, thoughts, arrows or exclamations. It will record the notes that work for you.

Check out our fitness journal

close up view of lined 2x workout page

How We Created Ours

A workout journal is truly about information, your information, and in creating ours we wanted to give you a head start with room for all the goals, workouts, benchmarks and personal records you can treat yourself to.

We created a workout journal to not only track your workouts but to track the components of your life that affect those workouts. In deciding what to put on our pages, we tried to find universal metrics that profoundly affect performance; am I getting enough water? How did I sleep? Did I work on my goals and mobility? These daily reminders and tables allow you to look back and add an extra layer of information to either recreate or build upon your success.

How to Use a Workout Journal

Step 1: Set a Goal

Even if you are just exercising to maintain your fitness, you have a goal, ‘maintain your fitness.’ Write it down and add some mental willpower so that when your consistency starts to waver you can look back and see what you are striving for.

You can make that goal more effective by giving it a timeline and some methods for maintaining it, but even just the act of having that goal will make it more likely for you to complete it. If you want to reinforce that goal, make it a point to write it down everyday.

Step 2: Write down the whole workout first

Start by writing down the whole workout. This allows you to think about the reps and sets before you have to start them. Preparing for the weights and knowing where you are likely to have trouble is a sign you are progressing nicely. You can look back at previous attempts to see what weights you should be aiming for and use the tables at the back of the journal to pick appropriate weights for the reps and sets you are doing. Try to pencil in what you should be aiming for each set so you can work towards a concrete set. If you are unsure about your strength, aim for the last set to be a max effort, where you complete as many reps as possible. This allows you to truly push yourself and should give you a benchmark for where to start for the next workout

Step 3: As you complete a movement or set, record your numbers in the workout journal

With each finished set or movement, figure out a way to record your success or failure, weight, rep count, time to completion, or whatever measurement you are recording. Its important to do this immediately as short-term memory fades quickly when performing at max effort. This is also the reason you want to pre-write your workouts in the workout journal so the mid-workout recording is as simple as possible.

Step 4: Keep Specific Notes About What Worked and Failed

One of the best parts of a workout journal is the ability to write what you want. While we’ve added a specific notes section to almost all our predesigned workout pages, with pencil and paper, you can write wherever you want, so circle those PRs, if a shoulder is bothering you, highlight the set where it started and jot down any mobility issues you are dealing with.

Switching from Strength to Cardio (or Metcon)

During some workouts you will be performing a separate cardio/metcon (metabolic conditioning) workout and we’ve created a space to keep those separate. The same rules apply, write the workout down beforehand so you can easily record your progress as you complete it.

Tracking Your Metrics

Keeping track of your nutrition, sleep, mobility and goals is enormously important, because those parts of your life greatly affect your training progress.

By keeping track of them, you can also recreate the success of previous workout cycles, and predict future success if you get those components of your life nailed down.

If it is a PR or if you choose to keep track of all your lifts, put it in the PR index

Finally, it is important to record those personal records somewhere you can easily reference them. For that reason we’ve included a PR section at the back of our workout journal to record your most important lifts and movements. That way, you have a place to check the next time you are attempting that lift you haven’t tried for two months.

Review – the ‘Other’ Reason for Tracking Your Workouts in a Workout Journal

The really nice thing about workout journals is that you can review and reflect on previous workouts really easily. With the other metrics that we’ve included, it becomes very easy to recreate previous success and/or design your next workouts to progressively reach your goals.

close up view of lined 2x workout page