Many of us started out documenting our fitness transformation journey with a little notebook detailing every set, rep, and weight achieved during each gym session, but as the novelty wore off, we felt like we had a pretty good idea of how to proceed and ditched our written logs in favor of a rough mental idea of what we should be lifting or eating from workout to workout. Scores of peoples enter the gym with no clear plan at all, and wander aimlessly from machine to machine failing to make the most out of the limited time that they have invested in being there. But what if we got serious about the details and stats that are available to us? It turns out that winging it is only flying us towards failure, so I made a decision to look at the detail, and here’s your reminder to do the same.

Personally, I started out with the best of intentions as relates to writing things down, but after 25 years plus of training three time per week, I had evolved into one of those ‘rough mental plan’ guys. Despite my time and sweat, I was gaining weight and failing to add muscle mass. I wondered what the point of training was at all. Maybe I didn’t have the right genetics? Maybe other gym goers responded better to supplements than me? Then, I discovered the answer: Those who achieve their goals are the ones that document their aims, write down their efforts, and then take an honest look at the stats. After several weeks of doing the same, I was convinced: documenting our fitness progress is the sure-fire way to break out of a plateau, but  don’t take my word for it  this concept is backed by science.

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Those who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them

Work carried out back in 2007 by Dr Gail Matthews, as psychology professor at the Dominican University of California,  found that we are 42% more likely to achieve our goals simply by writing them down. It’s not a new concept, and yet only a minority of us adopt the idea. Think about an Olympic athlete for a moment. They already have specific goals. They don’t just want to run faster, they want to reach a set distance in a certain timeframe in order to win a Gold medal. The aim is clear for them, but are your aims just as tangible? Are you telling yourself that you want to lose weight without ever having a number of dropped poundage in mind? If so, now’s the time set some serious parameters if you want to reach the finish line. Logging your goals, and your workouts, will help with motivation levels. As you see your fat go down and the barbell weights go up, you’ll be fired up about making PR’s and less likely to skip a gym session or over endulge on treats.

Track Your Own Journey Instead Of Comparing To Social Media

Our fitness journeys were difficult enough when we were only comparing ourselves with all the other physiques in our local gym, but now we can’t swipe our phones without someone on social media showing us how easy it is to become the “best version” of ourselves. The problem with Instagram Reels and TikTok videos is that they are usually edited to ignore the discomfort and sacrifice that making positive changes makes, and the idea of becoming a “best version” is nice enough, but what does that actually mean? Don’t get sucked in by other people’s supposed progress on social media. Instead, download one of an array of fitness trackers. I user Under Armour’s “MyFitnessPal.”  They haven’t paid me to share that, and you can choose an app that’s right for you, but downloading an app will give you some numbers to work with, and will make sure that your path to success is clearer, eliminating vague plans and guesswork. You can enter your ideal weight goal, your preferred style of training, and the algorithm will spit out the stats on how many calories you should be eating per day, broken down to the macro nutrient level. If you only do one thing to document your goals, I recommend tracking your calories. You’ll be surprised at how much more fuel you are eating than you may have accounted for. And, welcomely, studies have found evidence that those who count calories as part of a weight loss program may lose up to 3 kilograms more than those who don’t bother to track them. The number of calories that works for you is something that can be tweaked by documenting your intake and being honest about the results after a weigh-in. Sure, an influencer on social media may tell you that they are staying lean by eating more than 5,000+ calories, but there might be other factors at play, and how do you even know if the figures they give are actually true? Trust your own numbers.

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The Devil is in the Detail When it Comes to Crushing Your Goals

As I became honest about the excess calories that I was consuming, I was able to see some fat drop off by sticking with my individual plan, and while we talk a lot about sacrifice as relates to becoming lean or strong, there’s an added advantage of logging your activities that allows for a little balance. I track my workout sessions on an Amazfit waterproof fitness watch. Again, I’m not paid to tell you that, and there are plenty of other similar watches out there, but it means that after I’ve completed a light 40-minute swim, I’ll get a reading that I’ve burned around 350 calories. Those 350 calories become a bonus, since I can add those to my daily intake and still be in an overall calorie deficit if I keep to my daily target. Tracking your calories will also prevent some of those other errors that we make when having a rough mental plan. Here’s an example: When I first started my 40-minute swims, I was less cardio vascularly fit, and after my first few swims the software told me that I was burning close to 700 calories. If I had stopped tracking at that point, I’d be in the pool forever and a day thinking that I had a bonus of 700 calories when it has in fact lowered to 350 calories over time. That might be a hard pill to swallow, but it is essential information that keeps me on track, and also demonstrates solid proof that I am becoming fitter thanks to my physical efforts.

Taking Accountability to the Next Level

Dr Gail Matthews followed up on her essential studies on the subject of documenting goals by attempting to find out how successful people would be if they didn’t just write their aims down for themselves, but also shared those targets with others. Matthews recruited 267 people from a wide variety of business and social groups and found that more than 70% percent of the participants who sent weekly progress updates to a friend were more likely to complete their goals. Finding an accountability partner could be the missing detail in your strategy for success, but it may seem a little scary or advanced for those that are still scrabbling around to find their old notebook. As for me, I’m still a work in progress, but I wouldn’t be hitting the PR’s that I’m making now if I was still relying on a rough mental plan.