A Lady’s Guide to Workout Logs

I promised a full-frontal explanation of my workout notebook, and far be it from me to disappoint, so here it is: a small but feisty guide to logging your workouts.

Why is it important to write down or log your daily workout? For me, it has been helpful because I like to have variety in my workouts, and sometimes I don’t use one particular machine for weeks on end. Then I come back to it, and I can’t remember how much I can lift on it. I could start with a very light weight and work my way up until it’s challenging, but that is a waste of my time. Or I could guess a heavier weight, and end up snapping my shit up by trying to lift too heavy. With a notebook, I can see, “Oh, look – on Monday of last week I did three sets of ten with fifty pounds on this exercise.” Then I can decide whether I want to try that same weight or try a more challenging weight. It’s fast and convenient.

I also think that the log can be a huge confidence booster. If you don’t remember what you benched last week, how will you know if you set a new personal record this week? Flipping back through my notebook, it makes me feel great about myself to see how far I’ve come. It makes me want to go back the next day and work even harder. Speaking of my notebook:


Here it is. Cute, right? It probably would behoove you to get something with spiral rings so you can stick your pen in there, but my bestest friend bought me this and I loved it, so I’m using it. It doesn’t need to be huge; most of your workouts will fit on one small page if you know how to format it right. Keep in mind that half the time, what I plan out and write down for my workout changes about eighteen times, because either I run out of time or some greasy, tribal-tatted guido is doing curls in the squat rack for an hour and I am too scared of his stench to ask him to leave. So I’ll show you how I do it up:


As you can see, I’ve dated the page so I know when this workout happened. I head the page with what muscle group or groups I worked out that day. Also, because I belong to more than one gym, I wrote down which gym this workout took place at. This is very important, because different gyms have differently-calibrated machines. Just because I lifted 60 pounds at Gibson’s doesn’t mean I can lift 60 pounds at Retro Fitness. Then I write down whatever I did for a cardio warmup and how many calories I burned doing it, according to the (questionably accurate) machines.

Below all that, I record my workout. In the left column, I write the name of each exercise and machine. Sometimes I don’t know the name of the exercise or machine, so I make it up. Whatever helps you to remember what you were doing is fine. You’re not turning this in for homework. If you know exactly what “bicep pull-downy thing” means, then you do you, girl. Then in the middle column, I record how many reps I did and how much weight I was using, and then how many sets I did of that weight. For instance, “8 @ 95” means that I did 8 repetitions of 95 pounds. “(5x) 5 @ 105” means I did 5 sets of 5 reps each at 105 pounds. This is definitely not like, mandated by some creepy omniscient Exercise Nazi. This is just how I do things, and it works very well for me. You’ll notice on this particular page, I have an exclamation point on my last deadlift set. I like to mark it whenever I hit a new personal record. It’s a great way to boost self-esteem  and remember your accomplishment. In the last column, I write little notes to myself about the exercise – what felt good, what hurt, tips that my spotter gave me on form, etc. The next time I do that exercise, I can look back and say, “Right, gotta remember not to arch my back on dumbbell rows.”

If you don’t already use a workout log, I think it can be extremely helpful for all types of athletes. Are you a runner? Record the time and distance of your run every day. Do you do yoga? Write down how long, what type, any new poses you tried. It can be a really fun way to materialize the work you do every day and make it tangible for you. Whatever helps you to be your best, most swole self.


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