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fitness journaling

The Power of Journaling: Tracking Your Fitness Mindset

“Your body and mind work together, so it doesn’t make sense for your journal to only track your body.”

You’ve probably heard about journaling before – tracking your exercises, weights, and reps from session to session. But, that’s not what we’re talking about today. Your fitness journey is about more than just weights and reps – it’s about you. 

Don’t worry, you don’t need to run and grab a second notebook and you can still use your favorite workout table to track your progress. Just think about adding some annotation.

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Your Mind, Your Muscles, and You

We don’t always think about physical health and emotional health together – but we should. When your emotions are in check, you’re more likely to keep up on your exercise routine and when you keep up on your exercise routine your emotional health is more likely to stay more balanced.

Working out helps to improve your self-image and confidence, it releases natural feel-good chemicals, and it helps to balance out your metabolism, which can also help you to feel more energetic and positive. 

On the other hand, when you’re feeling down it can be hard to bring yourself to do anything, let alone push your body to new limits on the track or at the gym. But, when you’re feeling like you’re on top of the world, breaking out the best workout of your whole fitness journey can come easy and make you feel even better.

None of that answers the question: why take up journaling?  

If you’re serious about your workout routine, you probably keep a journal of what exercises you’re doing at what weights and for how many reps. That’s great, but it’s not telling the whole story – and it’s not giving back all that it could be. Your body and mind work together, so it doesn’t make sense for your journal to only track your body.

Why Start Journaling?

There are a lot of reasons to start tracking more of your day than just your workouts. Setting an intention for your journal can help you decide how you want to go about it and when to journal. First, we’ll go through some common reasons to start journaling and then we’ll look at different approaches to journaling depending on what you want to get out of the experience.


This reason has to go on top so that you don’t stop reading. You’re probably on this website to get fit or get ripped – not to learn how to write about your feelings. So start journaling to prove us wrong if that’s what you want to do. But at least give it a shot. Who knows, you might like it.

Understanding Factors that Affect Performance

If you’re like most people, your mind has a mind of its own – and your feelings can affect your workout. Have you ever hit the gym and not been able to manage your target? Or, have you ever gone on a run and shattered your record? 

Either of those could have been because of what was on your mind. Or what you ate for breakfast. Or the sleep that you got the night before. It can be really hard to say. 

And, if all you keep in your journal is a record of your reps and weights, all you’ll have to look back on is a statistical anomaly. If your journal includes some more personal annotations, it can be easier for you to figure out what happened that led to that glorious lifting session or that bum run. 

We’re not suggesting that you try to manipulate your mental health to improve your workout. But, if you recognize trends like not lifting as well when you’re anxious about something, maybe you can make that day a jogging day instead. Or if you can really press when you’re stressed, make that day a lifting day.

Journaling for the Sake of Journaling

Your journaling doesn’t have to be in the same book as your workout tables and it doesn’t have to be for the same reason. Whether you have your workout in mind or not, journaling can do a world of good.

If you’ve never journaled before, you might not realize how much better it can make you feel. Just getting your feelings on the page can be a huge relief. You can also use your journal as a reference. 

Consider re-reading each week when the next week begins. You might learn a lot about yourself. One recurring theme for a lot of people is that the things that bothered them most in the moment were completely forgotten about by the next week or the next month.

How to Journal

How to journal depends on what you want to get out of it. Just remember that you’re not preparing a manuscript for publication and no one is grading you. If you start journaling with one system, you can change it whenever you want – combine systems or use more than one, whatever works best for you. 

This isn’t a homework assignment and it shouldn’t feel like a chore. Buy a diary, use an old notebook, write in the margins of your gym log, download an app, write emails to yourself, whatever you want to do.

How to Journal Out of Spite

Write on the backs of receipts or find that one partial spiral-bound notebook that you know is around there somewhere. Don’t bother dating your entries. After all, you won’t be keeping up with this for more than a few days. And, who knows, maybe you will – and if you do, you can upgrade your system. For now, consider a layout like this:

“HTBM said that journaling could help me workout, but I think that sounds dumb. I haven’t journaled since highschool when I sat next to Suzy Derkins. I wonder what she’s doing right now. Maybe I should call her. Am I wasting my life?” 

How to Journal to Understand Your Workout

If your main reason for journaling is advancing your fitness journey, you might consider keeping your journaling entries in the same place that you track your workouts. If you’re doing things like tracking your macros, all of that can happen in one book. Consider a layout like this:

“ 28.9.2023

6:00 A.M. Woke up. Made bed. Did morning stretches.

6:30 A.M. Ate breakfast (Cup of overnight oats and half-cup of yogurt. Total 107 carbs and 38 g protein.) Black Coffee.

7 A.M. Gym

*Insert your favorite workout table*”

How to Journal for Your Mental Health

If you’re more interested in journaling for the potential benefits for your mental health, you can take a little more narrative approach and be a little less specific with times and details. Or, if you were tracking details like diets and workouts, keep it up – either in a separate book, in the margins, whatever you want to do. Consider a model like this:

“September 28, 2023

I woke up early because I had a dream about my ex. I don’t remember much but it made me uncomfortable and I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I laid in bed until my alarm went off. I did my morning stretches but I forgot to make the bed.

I had the usual for breakfast but skipped coffee and got the year’s first pumpkin spice coffee on the way to the gym instead. I was warming up on the treadmill like usual but running felt really good, so I put on my favorite playlist and made today a cardio day instead of lifting. 

It’s probably all for the best because I’m helping my uncle cut firewood after work and don’t want to be too sore. Hopefully the fresh air helps my mood.”

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How Do I Know if Journaling Is Working?

Not everyone enjoys journaling and not everyone sees the benefit in it. And that’s okay. We don’t have stock in faux leather-bound snap cover diaries or G2 pens and it won’t hurt our feelings if you don’t become a daily journal keeper.

To find out if journaling is working for you, you might have to keep it up for a while. Try giving it at least two weeks, or maybe a month. If you don’t uncover some amazing insight about how you beat your best running record by eating a breakfast burrito instead of scrambled eggs and toast, maybe journaling isn’t something you need to do.

Maybe you never see how journaling helps your workout but you notice that you look forward to adding things to your journal or that a journal helps you keep yourself accountable to your own schedule. Those are kinds of successes too, even if they don’t necessarily translate to a heavier bench press or pedaling up that hill a little easier.

You Never Really Know Until You Try

Journaling costs nothing and it only takes minutes each day. It’s one of those situations in which you have nothing to lose but a great deal to gain. Make a scientific study of how journaling impacts your workout, or just go with your gut on whether or not it’s worth doing. But at least giving it a try can’t hurt.

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