This applies to more than just training, but we’ll stick to what we know.
To have progress and educated change we need data to compare against. This all boils down to making educated decisions and not random whimsical choices based on which direction the wind is blowing at the moment. I’m willing to bet if you were asked to give an honest answer on “doing it for your health” (pun intended I suppose) vs. “really caring about where your training is headed in terms of being proactive and getting the most out of your time and money” you would categorize yourself in the later. Not to say that our daily decisions never fog that up, but we all make mistakes. There’s a way to go about this that to the veterans seems like second nature, which is completely the point we’re after, and to the beginner or maybe just slightly “less-versed” seems arbitrary and time consuming. The veterans are doing something right. We can take a note or two.
I’m talking about journaling. Tracking progress and having a methodical system to provide a way to look back on our methods and adjust according to goals we’ve set out to achieve is a non-negotiable asset. Seems simple, but I can guarantee it is not a top priority and plenty of details are missed in your “log” when you scribble it out. Reps, sets, times, scores, loads, etc. are all obivous traits your journal needs to cover. What about the time you trained at, what you ate that day, when you ate it, how long you slept, how well you slept, what time you took specific supplements, overall feeling that day? We can track so many details to be able to make small changes in the future that make big improvements it’s almost silly not to take the time.
Some facilities have fancy booklets made, some use composite notebooks, others employ client management software like Wodify, and some take advantage of web tools like Beyond the Whiteboard. The first two seem to be the cream of the crop. Using a fancy system or online tools are great, but you can’t put enough onus on the athlete and it doesn’t inspire accountability and responsibility like personal note-taking. If we’re going to do this right, we need our athletes paying attention to a lot more than what they squatted that day, how their snatch pulls felt, and what conditioning times were. There’s so much more that is out of Coach’s control, but if you just pay attention to it and jot down notes we can avoid a world of hurt and make leaps and bounds in the right direction. So, here are some guidelines to journaling that I highly suggest you start using, like . . . yesterday:
1. Set goals and have a schedule to test them. Whether it be a competition, monthly check-in with Coach, or your own self-administration of a simple weigh-in protocol and strength test.
2. Chart progress and failures. Every PR, every missed lift, everything. Don’t leave it up to chance that you feel the same every day, or all the small things remain consistent, because you don’t and they aren’t.
3. Track history/habits and adapt. Use as many metrics as you can think of to get the most out of your data. I listed some above, but get creative. Everything matters.
4. Compare your metrics. What worked, what didn’t? Be honest with your results so we can adapt accordingly. If you lie to yourself that in your 2-3 cups of coffee in the morning you use a teaspoon of cream when in reality you use 1/4 cup we have a problem. You’re drinking damn near a full cup of cream every day and we can’t adjust accordingly with false data. Like-wise with rounding your loads up or down 1-2 kilos, 2-5 lbs, etc. That throws off your volume big-time (not always but you get the picture) over the course of a week and we can’t work with that. Don’t cheat yourself, you’re only hurting yourself.
5. Care. You’re an athlete. Realize you need accountability and own it.
Also, my Lions D is crushing it! Hooray for fall and football. If you learned anything from reading this to the end, I’ve always said, “There’s two seasons in sports: the NFL season . . . and waiting for the NFL season.”