First of all, I plan my workouts on a calendar that I stick on my fridge (get free printable monthly blank templates at calendarlabs.com). It helps to have a visual, tangible reminder of what I plan to accomplish each week. Nothing is set in stone — I switch workouts around when needed. It’s also very gratifying to mark through each day, knowing that I’m one step closer to my goals.
I also track each individual workout (mostly the strength sessions) in a notebook so I can look back at previous training sessions and see how much weight I lifted, the reps and sets, and how I felt during and after. This allows me to plan each workout out in advance, making sure there is proper periodization that is in line with my goals. I can also see patterns, as well as my progress, and keep myself accountable. Again, it’s a great motivator to see how far I’ve come.
It’s way too easy to overlook the small steps that lead to the bigger ones. We beat ourselves up when it takes longer to reach our goals than planned or we have a bad week in the gym. It’s important to take pride in what we’ve already accomplished. It makes it less daunting to face what’s to come. The confidence boost helps propel further action, which leads to results.
A food journal works in a similar manner. You see exactly what you’ve been putting in your mouth, and you’re less likely to eat things that don’t help you achieve your goals. You’ll think twice before sneaking a bite or two of your kid’s lunch or stopping for fast food on the way home from work if you know that you have to write in down. Whether you count calories and macros or not, studies show that you’ll lose more weight tracking via a food journal than if you don’t. We typically underestimate how much food we eat and overestimate how many calories we expend. A journal keeps you honest. Some people use their phone to take photos of their meals and snacks. There are also smartphone apps like Lose It! and Calorie Counter that are helpful and convenient for those who prefer electronic methods.
If calorie counting isn’t your thing, try this other visual method — a compliance grid. Post a weekly calendar broken down into meals and snacks for each day. Simply mark a check mark for each meal that was healthy and in line with your goals. Mark it with an X if you splurged or ate an item that was not-so-healthy. This method shows you at a glance how consistent you’ve been with your diet. Aim for 80-90% check marks and <10-20% Xs.
These simple tips can help you stay on track, even when life gets hectic. By tracking your progress in both training and nutrition, you can see not only how far you’ve come and all the successful steps along the way, but also ensure that you have a solid plan moving ahead.