Strength and Conditioning Coach Jerome shares his insights into the importance of tracking your training.
I want to start with a pretty simple statement that should set the tone for the rest of this post:
If you are not keeping some sort of written account of your training, you are NOT maximising the potential benefit of said training.
My history with weights and the gym began when I was 16, clustered up with a bunch of lanky mates at the school gym. Our training was rich in ambition, ego, stringer singlets and protein shakes. Training was purely for the purpose of aesthetics, and we were having a ball!
We wanted to grow our muscles whilst staying lean, which, at first, proved damn easy. Rock up 3 days a week, spend 45 minutes hammering whatever we felt like (usually chest and biceps) in a bodybuilding style, and then forget about it as soon as we left the gym.
The results came fast, despite terrible diets and little to no appreciation of recovery or progression. Why? Well for starters, we were young men with testosterone leaking out of our eyeballs. More importantly though, we were new to training.
When you’re new to a modality of training, particularly strength and conditioning, you’re going to see results week to week, sometimes session to session. As your training age increases (the time you’ve spent consistently exercising over months or years), so does the time it takes to see results. It’s why you’ll see weightlifters make less than 5% increases on their lifts in subsequent Olympic appearances, despite committing themselves whole heartedly to the cause for the previous 4 years.
Your progress will never remain linear!
After a year or so of lifting weights with my buddies, progress stalled and reality hit. The next 6-12 months saw very little progress, and eventually lead to a lot of us giving up the gym all together, or being content with training for ‘maintenance’. It’s not until years later that I look back and realise where I went wrong…
There are 3 reasons that you should seriously consider tracking your numbers and times in your training.
1. It holds you accountable
We come to the gym to work. Whilst it doesn’t always have to be at 100%, 5th gear intensity, it’s extremely valuable to track your training in order to hold yourself accountable to how hard you’re working.
For some of us, it will be a reminder to push the limits on our back squat just a little bit, because 2 weeks ago you wrote down that ‘3×10 @40kg felt easy’. For others, it may be an attempt at beating a conditioning challenge from 3 months ago.
In my experience, a big reason for stalled progress seems to be our mentality. We get used to working at a certain intensity, a certain weight on the bar, or a certain split on the rower and fail to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions. Discomfort breeds success, both in and out of the gym, however we need to know where that discomfort will lie!
2. It helps you make smart and safe decisions
While accountability is essential, so is safety. If you’re fairly new to training, you might still be grasping what your body is capable of. If you’re coming in to training on a Wednesday morning and the workout asks for a max lift on your deadlift, it’s extremely valuable to know roughly what that number may look like based on your previous experiences with the lift.
Not having this information may mean that you pick a number way out of reach. This means that your warm up sets won’t be at ideal weights, and when it comes to pulling the barbell off the ground, you’re putting your body at risk of injury by attempting something out of your league. Check your ego, but first, check your training log!
3. It forces you to question whether what you are doing is working.
If you are someone similar to 17 year old me, that is, has been training for 1-2 years a few times a week, saw great progress to begin with, and now feel like progress comes sporadically or not at all, you need to question what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. This can be difficult if you can’t remember anything prior to last weeks burpees.
Whilst our progress will never remain linear, that isn’t to say we should ever stop making it.
So buy yourself a notebook or download an app, and next time you finish your session, write down the exercises, times, weights, and give yourself honest feedback on how difficult each element of the session was.
I guarantee it will set you up for better success in your training!