Journals are an incredibly valuable tool. Mostly because they help you honestly assess how much progress you’re making, and insofar as they do that, they also help you figure out whether what you’re doing is effective.

Since I often like to figure things out myself, even if I’m doing things the wrong way, my journals are a vital way for me to actually make progress.

This is a quick post about my workout journal. It’s tiny, which is great, because I can put it in my pocket when I do exercises, and easily protect it with a ziplock bag. I use a Field Notes notebook, with graph paper pages, to make it easier to keep my writing organized.

It has three major areas.


The first page is a workout calendar. It sometimes takes me a day or two to keep this up to date, but most of the times, this reduces my anxiety by helping me realize I’m doing more than I thought.

Things in parentheses are my lighter workouts. Each row is a week, and each column is a day.

Weightlifting tracking

The second page, and on, is the most important part of my journal, which is where I track weightlifting. (Please don’t look at the numbers too closely, I’m not all that strong!)

Along the side are the exercises I do, and along the top are the dates, as well as the start and end times; timing my workouts helps me take a consistent amount of rest between exercises.

As a time-saving technique, I do the exercises in an order that depends on which machines are free. So, for example, if the shoulder press machine is taken for 10 minutes, I do floor exercises and then grab it when it becomes available. This format helps me make sure I get everything done, even out of order, and of course that I do the right amount of weight and reps.

In order to track my progress over time, I go across the pages, and the leftmost column is folded over so I don’t have to rewrite it when I start a new page.


I also have a little reference area of exercises I like to do if I am not in the gym. It’s short right now, but over time I’ll add all the things I can do when I’m traveling, to keep everything interesting.