For many of us getting into the gym more often this year is the big goal. More workouts, more gains—goes the line of reasoning.

And so we look for ways to do things harder and faster and stronger, when we should instead be looking at how we can be training smarter with the effort we are already making.

Here’s how writing out your gym sessions (and the things related to the gym), in a workout log book will help you better crush your workout goals this year.

Let’s do this:

1. You will learn patterns and connections between the gym and your lifestyle.

It’s tempting and convenient to think that the way you sleep, the way you eat, and how you manage your stress plays no role in how things go in the gym. But that’s not the case. Not even close, in fact.

Take sleep, for instance. Sleep deprivation causes a heap of nasty side-effects beyond leaving you grouchy and unpleasant to be around—it compromises your immune system (making you more likely to miss workouts from being sick), it leaves you vulnerable to injury (more workouts missed from being sidelined), and also compromises your recovery and rejuvenation efforts (meaning it takes longer for you to feel ready to head back to the gym).

And that’s just one of the main lifestyle factors.

Tracking these things—with something as simple as just writing out how many hours of sleep you got the night before—helps shine a light on these factors. The key to making change is being self-aware enough to know that change needs to be made.

2. You stay focused on making progression in the gym.

How often have you walked into the gym, strolled over to your favorite exercise machine, and worked out as hard as you “feltlike” that day for no reason other than ignorance?

If you are like most gym-goers, plenty!

One of the most powerful aspects of having a workout journal is that you can design yourself a steadily progressing regimen that insures you are reaching a little bit further with each week.

This kind of progression is very important, and not just because it will help you to grown and to become stronger, and get ever-closer to your goals, however ambitious or modest they may be.

This attention to progression will also keep you wildly motivated. Burn-out doesn’t come from fatigue, or lifting too often (with limited exceptions—over-training and under-recovery are not the same thing even though their symptoms largely mirrior one another).

Burn-out comes from not seeing progress. When we stop seeing improvement we lose interest pretty quickly.

Writing out your workouts in a log book, and keeping a focused eye on progressing, will keep you motivated long after the whims and fickle motivation of “feeling like it” will.

3. It will teach you self-awareness.

One of the biggest mistakes athletes and gymgoers alike make is to make goals and create expectations that are unrealistic. While dreaming big is awesome, dreaming unrealistically is a motivation killer.

After all, what happens to most people when they get a sudden sense that they aren’t improving nearly as fast as they would like? Doubt. Discouragement. And usually, quitting.

Writing out your workouts, and seeing how long progression takes on paper, will help you to craft goals that are grounded in reality. And believe it or not, when we create goals that match how long it takes to actually progress, we are far more likely to stick to the program over the long term.

 

And really, that’s the whole goal.