We’re always advised to keep a track of the training we’ve done and while I think this is good advice it only makes sense if you use the information you’ve collected. Personally, I kept a training diary for a few years but never looked back at the pages full of hastily scribbled numbers so it was really a useless exercise. Eventually I just kept the programmes I’d written, followed them fairly religiously and didn’t bother with a training diary using the programme instead as a record of what I’d done. I think with a bit more thought I could have got much more use from my training log.
To make keeping a training log worthwhile you need to get use from the information and this is easier than ever now that everyone carries a computer around in the form of a mobile phone or tablet. Entering the weights and reps you’ve performed into a spreadsheet instead of writing them in a book allows you to easily create graphs to track the classic variables – tonnage, intensity and volume. The reason graphs exist is that they allow us to spot trends and anomalies more easily than when just looking at a load of numbers. If your average weekly tonnage or volume isn’t rising over time you probably aren’t getting as much from your training as you could. I run a four week periodisation at Bethnal green WLC so like to check that the volume has dropped sufficiently in week four. A graph of these and any other factors you think are relevant (average weight lifted, perceived exertion?) make it easy to compare your next training plan with the last one to check you’re planning a progressive programme but not over-doing the increases.
A written diary is still a useful tool but with all the data in a spreadsheet this can be used to record particular technical problems which come up, what was hard and what was easy in your training etc. A few specific notes will allow you to look back and see what you need to focus on for your next session or training programme without being swamped by tables full of numbers. For example I forget the technical drills I tell my lifters they need to work on during their warm ups but if they’ve made a note of it in their diary they can remind me and we can focus their warm up more effectively. This diary could also be used to note what you ate before training, if you had a nap etc and this information could be looked at alongside a graph of scores out of ten for your workout so you can spot trends and see what works for you.
We don’t need to keep a long list of numbers in a diary any more – graphical representations of these are much easier to follow and in concert with written notes you have a powerful tool to track your progress and make necessary adjustments to your training.