Record keeping is a requirement for assessing your progress over time. By keeping accurate records, you can assess your progress on all things health and fitness related. I find it very beneficial to go back over my records from time to time and see how far I’ve come e.g. 18 months ago my 1 rep maxes for squat and deadlift are now my current warmups 🙂
What to record
With regards to exercise I keep a record of all of my resistance training exercises including sets, reps and load. Sometimes, I will also include a rate of perceived exertion number to further clarify the status of that training session. As most of my heavy stuff is done with similar rest periods, I do not include these in my records. It would also be noted if any exercises were super setted as this can lead to increased fatigue on the second exercise.
When I did traditional cardio exercises more regularly (like running) I’d keep a log of how far I went and what time I did it in and strive to beat that next time. Nowadays, my cardio consists of things like kickboxing rounds, hiking and kettlebell circuits which are harder to quantify.
With regards to nutrition and physique changes, I recommend taking measurements bi weekly (and I like to measure the “trouble spots” weekly, normally abdomen for men and hips/thighs for women). How often you measure scale weight is a bit more variable. The reason for this is that weight loss/gain is not linear and some people can become a bit paranoid about fluctuations. If you are one of these people, I’d recommend weighing in once a week or so. (always at the same time of day and post bathroom for consistency). If you can detach yourself from the number, it is more accurate to take a 7 day rolling average. This means that you would weigh in each day but take the average of the previous 7 days. This can account for day to day fluctuations. Don’t forget to take pictures from time to time as well as these can tell a how different story from the numbers alone.
If you are tracking calorie intakes, then this data should already be kept in the app that you are using so there is no need to double up on records.
The last thing that I record (which is optional but can be beneficial) is amount of sleep. I use an app called sleep bot. You can set your target amount of sleep per night, use it as an alarm and also changes your phone to flight mode (to avoid those midnight phone calls from your drunk friends! :)) As sleep is a very important factor in exercise performance, fat loss and muscle gain, I believe it is worthy of recording.
How to record
There are a number of different options nowadays. Many people are highly against taking smart phones to the gym but with the variety of exercise tracking apps, there is a good argument that they can be very helpful. Some of the more popular apps are JE Fit & Fitocracy. Both have the ability to add your routines including rest breaks which can be very helpful. I however am an ex accountant so I love my spreadsheets. I input my data into the spreadsheet as I go or if I forget my phone I will write it on a notepad to add later. And then there is the trusty pen and paper. Absolutely nothing wrong with this method either, unless you are have terrible hand writing like me!
In summary, without proper record keeping you will never know how you have been progressing/regressing. Not all of the records will be 100% accurate but as long as they are comparable and repeatable then they are still beneficial. If you are not recording, these types of data now…START! You will be so glad you did when you look back in a few years time.