The Importance of Journaling

Originally written for CrossFit NYC, October 19, 2007.

Everybody should invest in a notebook and write in it everyday. There are many, many reasons to keep a journal. It is a great tool in the organization of thoughts and ideas. It is an invaluable tool in charting your progress in life. For the athlete, a journal is a necessity and should be in your gym bag along with your shoes, towel and other workout gear. I have long neglected the religious journaling of my workouts and other important details of my life and have paid the price. I have forgotten so much of what I have learned over the years. Furthermore, I have many achievements and accomplishments that have gone unjournaled and have thus faded into distant memories. It is unfortunate, but it is not too late. Since opening the gym, I have kept much better records of my workouts and have, as a result, made much better progress than I can ever remember.

We encourage you to post your scores on the board, but that simply isn’t enough. You need to keep a copy with you. You should record what you did during your whole workout: warmup, workout, cool down, scores, times and weights. You should record your impressions of your workout. If you felt good or bad or injured or energized. You should record strategies that worked and did not work. Thoughts and ideas on how to improve your performance between workouts or to improve on your performance on a specific workout. If you learned some great detail that improved your form or time, you should write that down so you do not forget.

There is no limit to what you can write about in your journal. The important thing is that you write in it consistently and refer back to it to see your progress. If you are working on a goal (and you all should have a goal) like pullups for example, then you should state your goal in your journal. Outline your plan and then record the steps you are taking to fulfill your goal. Perhaps you read a good article on improving your pullups and are trying to follow the program. You can cut it out and tape it into your journal or write down the details in your journal and then see if day by day, week by week, you are following the program. Not all programs are one-size-fits-all and so if you are not finding success you can analyze where it might be going wrong and thus make some adjustments.

Remember it is your journal and you should feel free to write in it, personalize it, make it as interesting and enjoyable and user friendly as possible. Many people tape inspiring pictures in their journals of six-pack abs that they want to have or inspiring athletes that they idolize. Here is one tip that I find works really well. Use two pages that face each other and track your workouts in columns going across so that you can fit several weeks of workouts on those two pages. Having several weeks worth of work staring you in the face makes it easy to look at your recent progress. This is especially true if you are working a progressive goal like those pullups. You can see from left to right how many pullups and other assistance exercises you did for those weeks and quickly see if you are progressing. If you are doing a max reps test every saturday, then you might have 4 weeks of tests on those pages staring at you and thus you can see if the program was working that month.

I repeat there are no limits. I haven’t even touched on food journaling. If you are zoning, it is a must that your write down everything you eat. Charting your fuel and performance will allow you to really see how everything works together. Getting really personal is also good because you can see how your emotions effect your diet and exercise. If you are a good journaler, you might notice patterns that help or hinder your performance. You might notice that every time your boss gives you a new assignment, you eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and you don’t workout for 3 or 4 days. You might notice that every time overhead squats are posted in the WOD, you come down with a cold. Hmmm…interesting.

Get writing, people!

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