Coaching Tip: The Importance of Journaling

At my gym, CrossFit Los Angeles, we require all of our students keep a workout journal. What’s so valuable about keeping a journal? Turns out it can make a difference in your performance.

At my gym, CrossFit Los Angeles, we require all of our students keep a workout journal. In their journal they write down in detail their warm-up routine, the workout, the “score” or results of the workout, and any thoughts or feelings they had in regards to the day. When they write down the workout they include the weights they used and any modifications made to the exercises.

Why do we require students keep a journal?

First and foremost because keeping a journal accelerates the learning process. Starting a new workout routine can involve learning new skills and new jargon. By writing down your workouts you are taking an additional few minutes to process what you have learned, repeat the concepts and terminology to yourself, and engrain it into your brain. Plus, if you forget what an exercise is called, you now have an easy reference.

Logging workouts also helps you remember the appropriate weights to use on a workout. Sometimes from workout to workout it can be hard to remember which kettlebell you used or which weight dumbbell you lifted. You might be working out on your own and there’s nobody to ask, or maybe you wanted to do a little more than last time, but you’re not sure how much weight you had put on the barbell. Having a journal to double check can quickly give you an answer that’s possibly even more accurate than what your coach may estimate.

As a coach, I find that if you as a student are journaling, I have a greater ability to help you on your fitness journey. if you have a detailed log of your workouts, it aids me in giving advice on how to progress because I know exactly what you have been doing, instead of guessing. Perhaps your progress has stalled out and you’re not sure why. If you have a journal we can sit and look through your workouts and try to pinpoint the problem. This is especially helpful if you are also logging details like sleep, water intake and nutrition. Logging isn’t just for workouts!

Finally, the best part of journaling is being able to track your progress. This is a great benefit both for when you are having a good day at the gym and when you are having a bad day. I have been doing CrossFit for a little over six years and I have a stack of journals, one for each year. It’s a lot of fun to be able to look back and see how far I have progressed. And, when I’m having a day where I’m being hard on myself, it’s encouraging to see I really have come a long way already and that the journey is full of peaks and valleys.

What are the basic benefits of journaling?

  • Faster learning
  • Remembering weights
  • Having information to analyze
  • Tracking progress

And remember – journaling isn’t just for CrossFit. You can keep detailed records of your workouts no matter what your exercise regimen. For example, you can log your run times and distances, you can log the new yoga moves you learned and what was challenging about them, or you can log your weightlifting numbers. Personally, I keep a kickboxing journal where I write down any new combos or techniques I learned in class.

So what all can you write in your journal?

  • Warm-up routine
  • Skill practice or new movements learned
  • Workout and “score” of the workout
  • Weights used and any scaled movements
  • Post-workout stretching or mobility work
  • Hours of sleep
  • Water intake
  • Mood
  • Any circumstances surrounding the workout
  • What the BEST part of your workout was!

No matter what you are doing for your health and fitness, journaling is a valuable tool that will help you remember details and accelerate your progress.