The Top 4 Ways to Track Your Workouts

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*Pick one of these methods to track your workouts so you can make the most of your training.*

As a committed athlete who wants to get the most out of your training, you know it’s important to track your workouts.

You know that recording your workouts is paramount to making sure you’re improving over time, optimizing your recovery, and adapting your plan to your specific needs. You also love the added motivation to keep chasing new goals.

However, tracking your workouts can be a pain for several reasons:

  • It takes time — time that could be spent training.
  • There are endless options for how to track your workouts, and it can be hard to decide which is right for you.
  • It’s easy to forget to track your workouts.

Here are the top 4 ways to track your workouts that help solve these problems:

1. Paper and Pencil

Writing your workouts by hand is simple, easy, and reliable.

Many of the top coaches and athletes in various sports still track most of their workouts using a paper and pencil. This method doesn’t depend on electricity or a good internet connection. It also doesn’t have a learning curve, and takes almost no time. You can also customize your workout log in endless ways.

Here are several options for tracking your workouts with paper and pencil:

  • Marble notebook, spiral journal, or diary.
  • Folded piece of printer paper.
  • Sticky notes.
  • Graph paper.

2. Spreadsheets

Let’s face it, writing is a pain. Spreadsheets make tracking your workouts easier in many ways:

  • They’re simple.
  • You can customize them.
  • They’re easy to review quickly.
  • Most computers have great spreadsheet applications.
  • They eliminate the need for good handwriting.

Most spreadsheets can also be synced with your phone or shared with others with services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and Cubby.

Spreadsheets also do most of the math for you. With a table and a few functions, you can have your computer do in seconds what would have normally taken you 10 minutes with a calculator. As long as you don’t mind creating a bunch of different tables, functions, and formulas, you can program a spreadsheet to add your reps, sets, distance, time, and almost any other variable without using a calculator.

On the other hand, spreadsheets have a few downsides:

  • You can’t edit them while you’re at the gym without bringing a laptop.
  • They don’t always sync well to a mobile device.
  • They can grow to massive proportions and become confusing and hard to review later.
  • They often take a lot of time to create.
  • They’re ugly.

### 3. Calendars

This is one of the most underrated and easy ways to track your workouts.

You probably have some sort of workout routine you follow every week, or at least a general idea of when and how long you’re going to train (if not, you should).

If you’re working towards a race, photo shoot, competition, or just a personal goal, you need to be able to plan ahead. Using a calendar, you can schedule your workouts so you’re in top shape in time for the event.

Calendars have the added advantage of letting you schedule your workouts around other activities (i.e. the rest of your life). If you can schedule your workouts on a calendar, it makes it much easier for you to find time for your job, family, and other hobbies since you know exactly how long you have to train.

Here are several calendar options to track your workouts:

You can also make a calendar in a spreadsheet if you prefer.

4. Workout Tracking Applications

Workout apps combine most of the benefits of the aforementioned systems, while eliminating many of the negatives:

  • They make reviewing your workouts easy.
  • They often have exercise libraries with descriptions that help you perform the exercises correctly.
  • Some let you record your workouts at the gym (no more trying to remember your workout later).
  • They’re often easily shared with a coach or personal trainer.
  • They sometimes do a lot of the math for you.
  • They’re easily shared on social media.
  • Some have calendar functions that let you schedule workouts.
  • You don’t have to set them up like you do a spreadsheet.
  • They usually sync to your phone.
  • They’re (mostly) reliable.

Workouts apps also have a few problems:

  • They often cost money.
  • They sometimes have glitches, crashes, or are slow to load.
  • They often don’t offer enough functionality for all of your activities.
  • They often have way too much functionality which makes them confusing and complicated. 
  • They’re sometimes ugly.

Here are a few good workout tracking apps that capture the positives of technology, while mostly avoiding the negatives:

Fitocracy (Web/iPhone/Android, Free)

JeFit (iPhone/Android, Free) Fitness Builder (iPhone/Android, Free)

TrainingPeaks (Web/iPhone/Android, Paid)

Fitness Buddy (iPhone/Android, Paid)

Instant Fitness (iPhone, Paid)

Full Fitness (iPhone App, Paid)

### Which Method Will You Choose?

Tracking your workouts is one of the best ways to supercharge your progress as an athlete.

There are a lot of options for how to do this, but the best method is the one that you’re comfortable with. The only rule is that it must give you an easy way to review your progress over time (though it’s helpful to have a few other features as well).

No method is necessarily better than another — they’re all tools that have their pros and cons. The important thing is that you’re recording your workouts consistently, reviewing your progress, and adjusting your plan to keep you on track towards your goals.

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