It seems to me that any program of self-improvement can be improved by tracking our activity. Weight training and treadmill walking are not “fun” and the need to stay motivated is apparent. Wouldn’t we rather be relaxing somewhere?
Too often, we begin a weight reduction program with high spirits, only to find “better things to do” after a few weeks or months. Similarly, our treadmill may become nothing more than a repository for coats and jackets.
We may begin counting calories with a dedicated zeal, but find it too difficult to pass up a delicious dessert with loads of empty calories.
Personally, I find it difficult to accomplish worthwhile objectives without journalizing my behavior. Maybe my id is in constant conflict with my ego, as I hover between what is productive and what presents lesser resistance – with apologies to Sigmund Freud.
My current practice is to keep a daily journal of the following:
- My weight to the tenth of a pound
- My blood pressure and pulse
- My aerobic exercise in minutes
- My resistance exercise in number of sets
- My breakfast calories
- My lunch calories
- My dinner calories
- My total calories
At times in the past, I did not see the need to document physical activity if it was for fun. An example was tennis. I burned lots of calories playing tennis, but this was incidental to the joy I found in playing. At other times, I kept records with more information than the list above – amount of weight, number of reps, my emotions, etc.
However we are “wired”, the need to record our progress for motivational and accountability purposes is generally recognized. Friends who tried Weight Watchers speak of a book to record “points” and other data. My YMCA has the means to post weights and reps for every machine. Bullworker provides instruction manuals and workout plans with their products, so that we may stay on track and perform the movements correctly.
Our “diaries” give us a record to review so that we may determine what is working well and what isn’t. For me, the key word is accountability.
Frank Zane is one of the greatest bodybuilders ever, though he was not a large person. He was Mr. Olympia 3 times, among other achievements. He recorded his workouts in a journal so that he could objectively see what was working for him and what needed more attention.
My point here is that no one ever outgrows the need for accountability, not even those who rise to the top of their field of interest. Frank is pictured below. At one point, his chest was 52″ and his waist was 29″. He was a school teacher.
Frank also kept a food diary. Here is an extract from his diary before a contest in 1980. It really doesn’t look too punishing to me:
“Woke up, had 2 cups of coffee, sweetened with aspartame and glycine. Then I ate 2 tablespoons milk egg protein powder, mixed with 12 ounces cottage cheese, with one cup of fresh strawberries. For lunch, one papaya, 12 ounces chicken and a lite beer. Late afternoon, 16 ounces of yogurt, 12 cherries, 16 pecans and a few macadamia nuts. For dinner, 16 ounces of chicken, one piece of rye bread with 4 ounces of cheese melted on it. Then before bed, 2 eggs Rheo way with another light beer….then went to sleep”.
If this seems like a lot of calories, it must be remembered that his workouts were most likely long and exhausting, especially pre – contest….and I don’t see any ice cream or cookies.
WHERE TO FIND JOURNALS
Here are a few reasonably priced and motivating diet and fitness journals for the goals and needs outlined above:
Journals are valuable so that we may attain consistency and….my favorite word, accountability. Hoisting a weight is not difficult; we can always use a lighter piece of resistance. Taking a brisk walk or using a treadmill or stationary bicycle is child’s play. There is nothing complicated about working out, as long as we abide by competent instruction. Let me hasten to say that I was thoroughly intimidated when I first entered a gym for bodybuilders at age 16. But I got over it.
The real issue and what separates those who progress from those who give up is in the motivational realm. It is easy to have fervor and feel virtuous when we first enter into a self – improvement plan. But how do we handle boredom, plateaus and the lure of those paths of less resistance?
Please don’t purchase any of the above journals from Amazon because they present a means to record your activity. You could do this with any piece of paper or on your computer. The journals contain encouragement and tracking advice. You will be able to see a permanent record for review as you progress. – and you will have the incentive to post information that makes you proud.
Please leave any questions or comments in the “Comments” box below. Or e-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Be well!