Q | Should I keep a training log? What are some good options?
A | If you’re looking to make fitness gains, tracking your training is a helpful way to build self-knowledge and monitor your efforts. “Logging your workouts, as well as nutrition, is critical to seeing successful outcomes in health, wellness, and fitness,” says Meredith Butulis, DPT, MSPT, HFS, an instructor with Life Time Academy, a personal-training certification program in Chanhassen, Minn.
Information culled from your log — be it a notebook, activity-specific website, or smartphone app — can help you set goals, track your progress, and stay motivated and accountable.
Butulis stresses that “efficiency, ease of use, customization, and ability to share data with coaches are critical” when you’re choosing a journaling method. She offers the following tips for tracking successfully:
- Choose wisely. Select a journal or app that matches your activity, whether it’s long-distance running, cycling, power lifting, or swimming.
- Set your mark. Before you start logging, set realistic goals, outline your benchmarks, and take some baseline metrics (weight, body fat, etc.).
- Write it out. Use a log or app that provides space for noting how you’re feeling physically and mentally: Are you fatigued, stressed, hungry, unfocused? Butulis says these notes help pinpoint “what you need to work on outside of the gym to get the most out of time spent there.”
- Be specific. It’s great to count sets and reps, weights lifted, muscles worked, time, distance, heart rate, and calories, but depending on your goals, you may also want to track resting heart rate, pace, terrain, and intensity.
- Check in with yourself. After six weeks of workouts, evaluate your performance and look for patterns so you can tweak your workouts, goals, and benchmarks.
There are numerous apps, websites, and analog tracking systems designed for logging training information. Find our “12 Favorite Trackers” below.
Photography by John Mowers/Unleashed Productions
12 Favorite Trackers
1. What: Bullet Journal
Why: A system that uses shorthand notations to help users track everything — such as to-do lists and key dates — in one notebook.
How Much: About $20; www.bulletjournal.com
2. What: MapMyRun
Why: Records and logs GPS-based activities; includes 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon training plans; and syncs with more than 400 devices.
How Much: Free for IOS and Android, $5.99 for additional features or $29.99/year; www.mapmyrun.com
3. What: MapMyRide
Why: Allows cyclists to map routes, track workout data, log meals, and share information with friends.
How Much: Free for IOS and Android, $5.99 for additional features or $29.99/year; www.mapmyride.com
4. What: Adaptifier
Why: Tracks 13 key training metrics and provides charts and graphs to show your progress.
How Much: Free 60-day trial, then $7/month; www.adaptifier.com
5. What: iSwimTimes
Why: A swim log, stopwatch, lap counter, and swim-time converter makes this app popular with swimmers, coaches, and families.
How Much: $3.99 for IOS; www.go2telecom.net/go2telecom/Go2Telecom.net/iSwimTimes.html
6. What: JournalMenu
Why: A pen and paper for documenting their fitness journey in a customized logbook.
How Much: $8 and up; www.journalmenu.com
7. What: Runkeeper
Why: Tracks runs in real time, provides tailored plans to help you improve, and connects you with your running buddies to keep you motivated.
How Much: Free for IOS and Android; www.runkeeper.com
8. What: Nike+ Running
Why: Tracks routes, distance, pace, and time, and syncs data with other devices like your AppleWatch, and is lauded by users for its community-building features.
How much: Free Android and IOS ; www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/running/nikeplus/gps-app
9. What: Strava
Why: Cyclists, runners, and outdoor types who want to kick up their competitive spirit with themselves or strangers will love this app.
How Much: Free for IOS an Android, $5.99 for Premium Version or $59.99/year; www.strava.com
10. What: Jefit
Why: A simple app that let’s you log basics — like sets, reps, and weight lifted — and includes workout plans to achieve specific goals.
How Much: Free for IOS and Android, $4.99 for Pro Version; www.jefit.com
11. What: TrainingPeaks
Why: A fitness website and app for triathletes, cyclists, and runners of all levels. Tracks your training stats, creates plans, and communicates with coaches.
How Much: Free or $19.95 and up for premium access, for IOS and Android; www.trainingpeaks.com
12. What: Final Surge
Why: A great training log system for coaches, athletes, teams, and clubs who prefer a web-based option.
How Much: Free; companion app for IOS and Android; www.finalsurge.com