Why Everyone Should Try Keeping A Fitness Log

I’m not a New Year’s resolution kind of person. There’s something a little ridiculous about saying, “I’m going to make a meaningful life change … but not until January 1.” If you’re really ready to make a change, just make it.

And yet.

There I was last New Year’s Day, considering the year ahead and wondering how to get out of a fitness rut. Give or take time off for pregnancy, family crises, or work overload, I’ve been a fairly consistent exerciser for the past 20-plus years. But it had all gotten derailed when I was sidelined by a particularly virulent strain of ennui.

The result? I hadn’t exercised in months, and I felt horrible.

Enter my “2013 Fitness Log.”

Adopting the mantra that “Something is better than nothing,” I decided to keep a daily, running list of every exercise — no matter how trivial — I did. My goal was to do something each day. Now nearly 10 pages long, the single-spaced log serves as a reminder of what I’ve accomplished, fitness-wise, over the past year.

I won’t go so far as to call it impressive, but it is instructive.

Here are four benefits I’ve discovered of keeping a fitness log:

1. It’s irrefutable.

Every time I’m ready to fall into “I’m a lazy piece of crap” mode — which women are uniquely good at doing — I can look at my fitness log. Maybe I'm having an off day, but I can read through the 300+ other days when I was on and remind myself that, no, I’m not actually a slug.

2. It’s nonjudgmental.

I have a habit of downplaying my accomplishments, and it’s no different with fitness. But even though I vaguely remember thinking, at the time, that “those crunches weren’t very strong” or “that wall-sit was sloppy,” the specifics have faded. Now, when I read back over an entry from months ago — such as “April 14: 20 triceps dips, 50 donkey kicks, 30 calf raises, a plank” — I’ve forgotten what was allegedly wrong with my effort.

3. It’s encouraging.

My fitness log is full of not-so-remarkable entries — like “May 15: 20 squats” — but there are a few notable ones in there, too. So when I’m beating myself up for some real or imagined failure (exercise-related or not), I can zero in on an especially successful entry — including my favorite, “Oct. 20: Army Ten-Miler” — and get back on track.

4. It’s enough.

At least sometimes. Goal-setting is important, and it’s great to work hard at becoming stronger, faster, fitter, etc. But you know what? It’s also OK to take a step back once in a while and appreciate where you’ve been. A fitness log lets you do that. It’s a concrete, written testament to just how far you’ve come.

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