People always ask me about keeping a fitness journal and do I recommend keeping on for bodybuilding. My answer is always the same -sometime, many years from now, you might want to look back and see exactly what you were doing today. This is incredibly important if you've hit a training plateau. That's why keeping a fitness journal is invaluable –it lets you look back and see the last thing that worked –or didn't work.
Relying on your memory is not sustainable. You have to keep a journal. When it comes to bodybuilding this is really critical. The reason why is the actual nature of bodybuilding as a sport. We off season bodybuilding and then pre contest bodybuilding. Bodybuilders fluctuate between the two seasons constantly. A successful 16 –18 week bodybuilding contest prep incorporates so many variable and potential training plateaus you cannot possibly rely on your memory to dial yourself in the next time you compete. The something goes with personal records. With no fitness journal to consult you're left with what you might remember.
The problem with that is the mind has been known to play tricks on us, particularly when it comes to memory. I had a fun “discussion” with a friend the other night about one of our early business meetings. I was positive we met at one restaurant and he was equally positive it was a different place. It was no big deal, but it illustrates how our memories get distorted over time—even the ones where we are absolutely certain we have right.
The best way to document, track and preserve your bodybuilding efforts accurately is with a journal. A quick Google search will yield theme journals for just about everything for wine lovers, book readers, travelers, leaders, teachers, and yes, fitness journals for those who want to track their workouts. There are also online journals and smartphone apps.
What do I use? I’m a self-directed, straight forward, old school, kind of guy. I like a simple ruled journal. I don’t want prompts on what to write. My journals for the past 30 years have been very basic and task oriented.What do I write? Simple:
The only subjectivity in my journal is what shows up in the “results” section when I evaluate myself. Now, if you are a pro bodybuilder, you do take measurements from time to time. You know what you can see in the mirror, but you need objective numbers, too. There was no guesswork for me on those days.
I still remember the first time I measured my arms at 21-inches. That was pretty cool. I proudly wrote it down knowing that some day I'd want to revisit that moment, maybe even with my son. I knew precisely what areas were responding correctly to my regime and where I needed to put in some extra work. But I had been around the sport long enough that I could track my performance by what I saw in the mirror and how I felt.
You may be thinking, Rich, I’m not sure I am that hardcore. That sounds like too much trouble. No problem. But, I still encourage you to at least test keeping a fitness journal for a week. After seven days, read back over what you wrote. I know that’s not long enough to gain deep insights on what works and what doesn’t work long term. But, you still might discover something there, and you might also find that you like keeping a record of your efforts and progress as much as I do.
At the very least, writing in a journal offers a symbolic exercise that what you do each day is important. It all matters. It is worthy of being committed to paper. So, write yourself a note that you can look back on in the future, to see just how far you've come