We assume that you’ll be hitting the weight room this summer with one goal: to get better than last season. Jotting down the details of each workout in a logbook is one surefire way to make sure you reach that goal. For the best, most efficient way to use a logbook, we hit up Colin Quay of Elite Athlete Training Systems and a member of the Nike SPARQ training network. He explains why tracking your workouts will improve your track sheet.
STACK: Why should athletes use a training log?
CQ: The main purpose for training is obviously to get faster and stronger. Having a plan will help you reach that goal. Training without a plan—not knowing how much weight to use, the number of reps you should be doing and what you’re trying to improve—is like taking a road trip without a map. Your main goal is to improve on what you did before; that’s called progression. Any workout without progression means you’re not improving, which means you didn’t have a very good workout. Being able to see how you performed in your last workout, as far as your weight and reps, means you can easily set a goal for your next workout.
STACK: Any other benefits?
CQ: Consistency. You need to make sure that you continuously overload your muscles and you continuously progress—or else you’ll plateau and not make any gains. You avoid plateaus by always improving, always increasing the weight or reps.
STACK: Should every athlete keep a training log?
CQ: Yes, regardless of the sport you’re training for. If you are strength training, working on speed or getting timed on resistance training, you want to make sure that you’re keeping track of what you accomplish each time. A log can help you reach any athletic goal.
STACK: What should an athlete track?
CQ: When an athlete starts a program, it’s good to start with a baseline in terms of height, weight and body fat-to-muscle ratio. You can always review progress in those terms. When working out, record the weights and reps you were able to perform at each weight for each exercise.
Rest is another important component of a quality strength training routine. Rest ensures that your body has recovered and gives your muscles time to repair themselves and heal so they are stronger than before. It is good to have a set day for rest to allow your muscles to recover.
STACK: Should athletes track their diet and nutrition, too?
CQ: It’s a good idea—at least until they start getting an idea of how many calories they eat in a day. That way, they can put into perspective how much more they might need to eat if they’re trying to gain extra weight.
STACK: Is there any downside to using a logbook?
CQ: No, as long as using one doesn’t take away from the workout. You want your workout to flow. You don’t want to have to stop all the time to record too much data. Just the basic weight and reps is sufficient. It shouldn’t be a huge task.
STACK: Can athletes use a regular notebook or should they buy a specifically formatted book?
CQ: The most basic form of a notebook is fine. A lot of people use an Excel file and make a spreadsheet or workout card. It’s really personal preference.