Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Want to Get Fit, Strong and Lose More Body Fat? Log Your Workouts

“I’m supposed to go 5 lbs heavier than last Friday?  I can’t remember what I did last Friday!”

“Well I know I used 75 lbs in the last workout with front squats in it, but I can’t remember if that was hard or easy…”

“How long has my shoulder been bothering me?  I don't know…forever?”

“I feel like I’m never adding any weight to the bar!”

“I ate pretty healthy today…I think.”

Be like Linda and Deanna and log your workouts...look how happy they are :)

Have you ever heard one version or another of those above sentences during a CrossFit class or your own workouts? I know I have. Logging your workouts for most of you may be like keeping in touch with that awkward relative – you don’t really want to do it, you aren’t sure you see the value in it, it sort of annoys you, but once you get in the habit of it, it’s kind of fun and helpful.

I know a lot of you aren’t logging your workouts because I have to hear some variation or another of the above sentences in class ;), and there is NO reason why you SHOULDN'T be logging!  It’s a simple action that can really help you to keep an overall picture of your fitness.  Let’s talk about ways to improve how you log, what to log, and why it matters:

1)  Record Your Weights – Logging Helps You Scale
By logging your workouts, you are recording the workout, what weights you used for exercises requiring weights, and your time (if applicable).  But that’s not ALL you should write.  Leaving notes for yourself like “Felt like I could have added more” or “Presses started burning around rep 15” can help you learn where you should start scaling wise for the next workout.

For example, let’s say you did 5-5-5-5-5 RM Front Squat (5 sets of 5 reps max each set) on a Friday at 115 lbs, you made a note that said “Front squats felt good – tight hips at first – last set was hard!”  Lets say the next time you do front squats, its 3-3-3 RM (3 sets of 3 reps max each set)!  Oh no, how do you ever figure out what weight to use?  Check your log – there it is –  you previously did 115 lbs for 5 reps so even though the rep range is different, you have at least an idea of where it should be. In this case since you'll only be performing 3 reps, you can lift heavier than 115 lbs.

After adding in some extra mobility to release your tight hips (remember those from Friday? Now you do!), you know that you can go heavier than your previous 5-5-5-5-5 RM as mentioned above, so maybe you pick 135 to see how that feels (this is of course after a few warm-up sets, don't just go to that weight from the start).  You may not get the answer right on the first try, and of course your coaches are always there to help you scale, but checking your log book is ALWAYS a great starting point to learning to set yourself up for success.

When recording your weights for the strength section of each workout, remember to record what weight you lifted for each set as you see in the below picture. This is a critical step even if its a workout where its for instance, 5-5-5-5-5 RM Deadlift (5 sets of 5 reps max (RM) each set) and you did the same weight for all 5 sets, still write out each individual set. Note: for warm-ups sets, you don't need to record the weight you did for each warm-up set though.

This is my WOD book for today's workout. You can see on the right side the notes I wrote concerning the WOD.

2)  Record Your PRs – Logging Helps You See Improvements
When you’re not keeping track of your workouts, it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come in CrossFit – overall, or a specific movement.  It can been encouraging to you if you are annoyed with yourself or think you aren't improving, to look at workouts just 3 or 4 months prior and see the weights you lifted and your conditioning times.  It will remind you that you're definitely making progress.  In our log books, you can see in the picture above that thare is a box to check off if you got a PR (personal record), and in the pictures below there's a section for specific benchmark workouts such as Grace (as I did today) and the weightlifting movements such as Front Squats so you always have those numbers handy for quick reference and you KNOW when you’re going for a personal best.

3)  Record the Bad Stuff with the Good – Logging Helps Keep You Accountable 
In business, there is a saying that if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen and in regards to eating there is a similar saying that if you didn't actually cut a piece of cake and put it on a plate, there aren't any calories in it ;) We use this justification secretly in our minds a lot.

If we don’t write down that workout time that we aren't happy with, maybe we can just forget about it.  If I’m logging my food and just happen to “skip” writing down the piece of cheesecake I ate (which I will most definitely consume over Christmas :), then maybe there’s a slim chance that it really didn’t happen!!  Keeping a detailed log helps you get an overall picture of how you are performing – it is a true look at how many days you’re in the gym (oops, only 2 days last week?!), how many days a week you’re really giving your max effort (why is my conditioning not as good?), an idea of how well you ate (weird, all my days I felt lethargic at the gym were bad nutrition days!) and how you slept that day, etc, forces us to take a true examination of how committed we are being to our goals.  So, the more detailed the better.  You don’t have to log EVERYTHING you ate, but just rate on a scale of either clean, 80% good/20% bad, or off (meaning it wasn't so good).  Same with your sleep, stress levels and mood.  Start to discover patterns and what affects your workouts.

I placed an F beside the strength sets that I failed or missed that lift and didn't get it up so I can know for next time I do this same movement.

4)  Record Your Injuries – Logging Helps Keep Track of Injury Timelines
We’ve all had nagging injuries that seem to appear out of nowhere, and before you know it you can’t remember if that right wrist has been bugging you for weeks or months.  Putting a note to yourself that says “Wrist started hurting with overhead squats – maybe more mobility next time?” or “Hips felt tight today” can help you track when injuries start and when they start to feel better.  You can also start to see patterns or factors that might be affecting those injuries – wrist always bothering you on overhead days?  Knees always bothering you on days with squats?  Time to examine how you move with those tasks and how you’re mobilizing those areas.

5)  Record Your Weaknesses – Logging Nags Reminds You to Practice
After you’ve identified the two or three skills you want to work on, maybe write in your log book reminders to practice.  For me the movement I work on and that I consider my "goats" is: pistols. When you flip to a new sheet, it already says “Go do 10 pistols!”  Again, it’s easy to let practice slip by the wayside…too tired…too sore…in a rush – but having a written reminder can help you stay on track AND help you understand how many hours you have actually put into a skill before mastering it. 

6) Record Helpful Tips and Cues from Coaches – Logging Helps You Retain Coaching Cues
For the Hang Squat Clean and Hang Power Clean that we are working on this month at CrossFit, writing things down like “Keep the bar close”, “Narrower stance”, "Shrug the bar then fast with the elbows to get under the bar" are simple reminders than can help you reinforce what you learned that day and give you a jumping off point for the next time you see that movement.

Those are just a FEW reasons why logging your workouts is so important.  Furthermore, it is probably the easiest thing to do in the world. You can buy one of our log books for $20 plus tax, or you can bring your own spiral notebook in.  Let’s ALL get in this great habit and it will lead to streamlined classes, better chosen scaling, recognizing improvements, and keeping a good overall picture of your fitness.

If Emily from CrossFit does it, you know we should do it too :)


Article has been based off an article written by CF South Bay

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