Go “Old School” and Chart Your Workouts to Tangibly See Results!

Before I wholeheartedly committed myself to fitness, I was a big culprit of being a “yo-yo gym goer.” I had zero accountability to anyone, including myself. Once I had my Phoenix Moment (see more about that here!), I knew I couldn’t approach going to the gym the same way I had in the past. What I had done in the past simply had not worked. It did not yield results- so I thought- therefore I never fully adhered to an exercise program for any significant amount of time. Once I fully committed to the gym, in addition to keeping my workouts extremely simple initially, I made another game-changing decision- I began charting every single workout I performed.

Benefits of Charting Your Workouts

In today’s hi-tech society, with I-Pads and I-Phones everywhere in the gym, I always have stood out with my “old school” beat to shit, marble notebooks. My training logs over the years though have become my accountability partner, and my tangible measurement of progress. I take a huge amount pride in the books, and I love when they’re tattered and beaten up because that’s symbolic of the countless hours that book was with me. Charting my workouts helps me stay focused on the workout at hand, and now I can look back almost 10 YEARS and see the improvements I’ve made.

Below are the main reasons I feel that everyone should have an old school notebook of some sort that they chart their workouts with- especially if gym attendance and workout adherence is an issue for you!

Built In Accountability Partner

When you don’t have a training partner or a fitness professional to have a scheduled session with, sometimes the motivation to hit every single workout in a week begins to wane- this is a huge problem people face when fighting to achieve gym adherence. One way to help combat this, is create an accountability partner through your training logs! Feel bad about the fact that if you skip a workout, you now can’t have a week to week comparison. No one needs to see the inside of your notebook, but it should serve as proof to yourself that you are hitting your workouts, week in and week out.

Tangible Measurement of Progress and Success

I find that individuals come to the gym and basically do the same weight for the same amount of reps for years and don’t really realize that they’re never pushing themselves outside their comfort zone. If you’ve got a notebook staring you in the face with your weights from the previous weeks’ or months’ workouts then you’ll be much more aware of your improvements or lack thereof.

When you are experiencing some personal bests, your workout logs will also give you the satisfaction of seeing where you came from, to where you’re at now. Sometimes when you’re so engrossed in accomplishing your goal of building muscle or losing some weight, you forget to step back and realize exactly how much you’ve accomplished.

I’m not a huge proponent of patting ourselves on the back, but it can serve as such an incredible source of motivation to flip a few pages back in your training logs, and be proud of the improvement in your weights, reps or sets. Admire the amount of hard work that is literally staring back up at you and use it to keep your fire lit, knowing you’re well on your way to achieving your goal!

Helps Prevent “Exercise A.D.D.”

Consistency is King. Results in the gym will be most pronounced when you’re following a workout program, and not just walking around the gym thinking of random exercises to perform for a nondescript number of sets and reps. Organize yourself and write up your monthly, weekly or daily workouts, then keep them in your notebook with you. This will help you stay on task in the gym, and allow you to see improvement from week to week.

Keeps You Focused In Between Sets

The variable of “rest time” is a huge determining factor on whether you will achieve your goals or not. Keep in mind here is what your rest times should look like in between sets depending on your goals:

  • Fat Loss- 30-45 s.
  • Muscle Growth- 45-90 s.
  • Strength Gains- 90 s. – 3 mins
  • Power- 3 mins- 5 mins (Olympic Lifting specifically)

Most people in the gym have wildly inconsistently rest times due to changing their music or scrolling through social media in between sets. If you have a workout log, it’ll keep you disciplined with your ‘in-between sets’ routine.

It should look something like this:

  • Complete your set -> Chart your weights -> Adjust the weight for the next set -> Begin to mentally prepare for the next set with the remaining rest time you have left (based on your goal)

By staying on task in between sets, you’ll be able to accomplish so much more in your allotted gym time, plus your workout will wind up being so much more efficient towards accomplishing your goals.

How to Set Up a Simple Training Log

You can set up your training log as simple or as complex as you’d like. Experiment with a few different styles and see which way allows for you to most consistently chart your weights and see improvement week to week.

The way I break it up is as follows:

  • Break a Composition Notebook into the amount of days you plan on working out (I eventually would do 7 sections, so I can chart my active rest days as well)
  • Each section would be only that “Day’s” workout, so that week to week, you could see improvement by just looking at the charted weights above
  • In the very front of the book, I’d keep my weekly or monthly workouts taped to the inside cover on index cards, so I always had a reference if needed
  • EXTRA Tip: Write motivational notes to yourself throughout the notebook- you’ll be surprised how much of a spark these little notes to yourself will create when you feel like your tank is on empty

The following method was always super simple for me, and allowed me to see my progress tangibly week to week, month to month and even year to year.

Each “Day” is broken up in the following sections:

Sample Day 1 Log

Date Exercise Set #1 Set #2 Set #3 Set #4 Set #5
  x Bench Press 135 x 12 185 x 10 205 x 8 225 x 6 235 x 6
  x A   x   x   x   x   x
  x B   x   x   x   x   x
  x C   x x     x   x   x
  x D   x x     x   x   x

* 135 x 12 means 135 LBs performed for 12 reps *

*This is also just a small section of what a page would look like. I’d have this pattern basically extend across the entire page, with a thick bold line separating one weeks’ workout from the next.

Final Thoughts

Getting started going to the gym is arguably the easiest part. Once you clear the hurdle to walk through those gym doors, the first 2 weeks will be the easiest. That’s when your motivation is the highest, you’re embracing the new muscle soreness combined with your new healthy nutrition choices. The hardest part will come when you need to stay motivated and committed 3 months, 6 months, or even 10 years later. If you don’t have a workout partner, or haven’t hired a coach, you need to create your own accountability partner- and a workout log is an extremely simple, yet effective way to do this.

Words don’t fully do justice in describing the amount of pride you’ll feel, looking back on 5 or 10 years-worth of workouts. You know in your heart that you put your blood, sweat and tears into achieving your goals, but with your workout logs, you have the tangible proof to yourself that you put in the time and effort to live a healthy lifestyle.

With it being “back to school season,” composition notebooks are everywhere in stores. I can’t recommend enough to buy yourself a notebook and begin charting your workouts daily, beginning as soon as possible. Years down the line, you’ll look back on your improvements with conflicting emotions- you’ll have a certain level of satisfaction seeing how much progress you’ve made, but you’ll also feel the pull of the future; knowing that you’re going to take your game to a whole new level with your future workouts improving your fat loss/muscle growth/strength gains.

That, is how lifelong fitness motivation is achieved.  

Yours in Fitness and Health,


Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

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