How To Keep The Perfect Exercise Training Journal

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A good exercise training journal is essential for anyone who works out with a purpose. It's not rocket science, but laying out your exercise training journal properly will make it easier to track progress and see trends in your training process. For a beginner, knowing what you've done in previous workouts enables you to try to beat your old bests and make little improvements week to week. Don't rely on memory! Write down each performance so you know for certain how you did.

If you simply workout for fun and have no desire to improve, you can get by without a workout journal (although there are still some benefits to keeping one). If, on the other hand, you want to improve and/or you're following a specific training plan, a training log is essential.

For advanced athletes, obviously your exercise training journal lets you organise your workouts and record what happened. But just as importantly, it also gives you the ability to look back and gather key insights about what's worked in the past and what hasn't. With the right analysis, you can then fine-tune future training plans to make them more and more effective. It's a great strategy if you're interested in improving performance because you can easily track those metrics.

Keeping an exercise training journal also works beautifully for anyone works for those who are only seeking to maintain fitness with longevity since you can examine how performance, injury resilience, and health interact with your training regime.  

Here's how to keep the perfect workout log so you can track progress, stay organized, and maximize your time in the gym.


Exercise Training Journal Priority #1

You want to write down just enough information so you could perfectly re-enact your workout from what's written down.

For strength training, that means tracking:

  • the exercise variation you performed
  • how many sets you did
  • the number of reps completed in each set
  • how much weight was used in each set

I also strongly recommend tracking how much rest was taken between sets.

For conditioning workouts you'll want to track:

  • sets & reps
  • pace/speed
  • distance
  • amount of rest between bouts of exercise if doing intervals.


A couple pages from my training journal.

A couple pages from my training journal.

The Other Workout Training Journal Keys

Add Extra Notes As Needed

Add any qualitative notes on technique adjustments, how fatigued you felt, things that felt particularly good that day, or injuries, etc.


Get Perspective

Be able to see a snapshot of several weeks of training in one glance. I also like to clearly mark the start of new training cycles so it's easy to understand what I'm looking at when I'm flipping through the book. Otherwise you end up sorting through a bunch of random workouts without a good idea of the greater context and the goal of each workout or week or workouts.


Make Your Personal Bets Stand Out

Highlight personal bests so they're easy to see. Some people also like keeping a personal best sheet separate from their main training log.


Make Sure it's Build to Last

Choose a quality book so it lasts and you key pages don't fall out. It sounds simple and obvious, but trust me, get a book that's build to last. 




Lot's of people prefer to record their workouts online. Here are some options.



Google docs is a simple and free option. Their spreadsheet app is your best bet. It stores your workouts in the cloud and can be shared with friends or coaches. I use this with many of my clients who receive individualized fitness programs. Just make sure that you organize it well, so it's easy to get that big picture view of where you are in your training cycle.

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For strength training, Coach Alastair, who heads up the powerlifting team at Quantum CrossFit, recommends an app called "weightxreps". He says; "It has a couple cool functions including tracking total volume and average intensity automatically, those aren't imperative but they are nice to have. It also records all PRs so I can pull them up quickly. I used to do this myself in an excel sheet but I found this site and it's a lot less work."

Here are a few screen shots:

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