A fitness journal is an incredibly useful tool to help you grow along your fitness journey.
With a fitness journal, you have one place where you can neatly track everything related to your fitness practice and goals. Maintaining this type of record helps you chart your progress, measure improvement or regression, and make informed decisions when tweaking your routine to become more fit.
How to Make a Fitness Journal
Since each person has a different body and unique health goals, there is no single correct way to make a fitness journal. There are many fitness journal ideas out there. We recommend adopting the journaling practices that are most useful for you and dropping the rest.
If you’re not sure where to start, try out a basic three-ring binder set up. With a binder, you can insert and remove pages at your leisure. Instead of committing to a journal with a predetermined format or system, use a binder to try out different formats. We offer free printable fitness journal templates you can try—feel free to include them in your binder and use them as a starting point for your own journal system or template.
View fitness journaling as an experiment. As you chronicle your workouts over time, you might realize you aren't capturing all of the relevant information about your workouts or fitness routines. Conversely, you might find out you're tracking too much irrelevant information.
Changing the metrics you track is perfectly fine. That said, once you begin tracking a certain metric, record it for at least a few weeks to get a sense of whether it’s a useful indicator for you. In fitness, progress happens gradually over time. This means if you only track a metric a handful of times, you won't be able to properly judge if it was useful for you.
What to Track in Your Fitness Journal
Your Workout Stats
Every time you work out, be sure to log:
- Day of the week
- Start and finish times
- Set of exercises you perform
The date, day of week, and times will help you notice whether you perform better on certain days of the week or certain times of the day. Tracking this information is also crucial to measuring how often you exercise. Also be sure to track the exercises you perform. This not only helps you gauge the intensities of your workouts, but also makes it easier to split workouts into different muscle groups throughout the week.
Other information you include about your workouts will depend on how you exercise. Here are some examples of what you might track:
- Sets, reps, and weight levels for strength training exercises
- Total distance traveled while running or walking
- Average speed while jogging
- Average or peak heart rate while on a treadmill
- Time spent engaged in cardio
- Time spent stretching or doing yoga
- Number of circuits completed
- Resistance and, if applicable, incline level for cardio machines
Notes About Your Workouts
Numbers don't convey the whole story, which is why keeping notes about your workouts is important. At some point, your weight lifting numbers or total miles run might plateau. If your notes indicate that lifting weights or running feels easier over time, then you know you're still improving—even if it isn't reflected in the numbers. Also record any relevant details about your body or external circumstances. For example, weather has a major impact performance on outdoor runs. Hormonal cycles and minor illnesses also influence your body’s endurance and strength. Jotting down notes about any relevant factors will help you notice patterns over time. These notes will also keep you from drawing incorrect conclusions, such as thinking you’ve regressed when really it was an external variable that changed.
Your Fitness Goals
Without goals, it's difficult to determine if you're on the right track. Different goals should be set for different lengths of time. You should set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals related to:
- Processes—such as including new exercises or moving to more difficult progressions of an exercise
- Outcomes—for instance, lifting a certain amount, hitting a particular number or reps, or running a certain speed
- Body—such as losing or gaining a certain amount of weight
Examples of process-related fitness goals:
- Strength train 3+ times per week
- Increase cardio routine from 20 to 35 minutes
- Progress from knee push-ups to full body push-ups
- Foam roll after every workout
Examples of outcome-related fitness goals:
- Squat over 100 pounds
- Run a 7-minute mile
- Do 30 push-ups in a row
- Balance in yoga crow pose for 30 seconds
Examples of body-related fitness goals:
- Lose/gain 10 pounds in two months
- Improve flexibility to be able to do the splits
- Save calories by drinking black coffee instead of coffee with cream and sugar
- Decrease body fat percentage by 5%
We strongly believe in rewarding yourself for your accomplishments. When you integrate rewards into your fitness plan, you create incentives for yourself and keep your motivation levels up. Plus, rewards are just so darn fun! Use your fitness journal to plan out rewards for achieving a particular goal. Then take note of the rewards you enjoy on the days you earn them.
Keeping track of your body metrics will help you recognize whether you're gaining or losing fat and muscle. For some people, body metrics tie in closely with their fitness goals. Here are a few body metrics people commonly record to measure their fitness progress:
- Body weight
- Length measurements (chest, waist, hips, upper arms, thighs)
- Body fat percentage (using calipers, a body fat scale, or other tool)
- Calories consumed per day
- Body Mass Index
Time To Get Started!
A fitness journal is an essential tool that helps you easily determine what works in your exercise routine and what doesn’t. Tracking key metrics helps you progress faster toward your fitness goals and identify the factors that move you off track.
Not sure where to get started? Not to worry. We’ve created these free printable fitness journals to help you get started. Just a couple minutes of journaling after each workout will lead to major results along your fitness journey.
We hope these free printable fitness planner worksheets will inspire you to achieve your fitness goals!
Comments or questions? Leave them in the comments below.