One of the great feelings that comes with doing something consistently, whether that be exercising, eating right, or learning any other new skill, is the pride of forward progress. And one of the best ways to see forward progress is to write down what you were able to do at each workout.
A good log will have notes for: how much weight you used, how many reps or sets you did, how fast you went, and how you felt during &/or after the workout. Over time, you should see improvement in every area, and in every exercise.
5 Reasons for tracking your progress
1.) Confirm you're moving forward
Sometimes you need to find that little extra motivation when you're facing the prospect of another tough workout, knowing you're about to feel tired, sweaty, and probably sore the next day. It would be discouraging to think you're beating your brains in without making forward progress. But when you see your results, you'll know your body is getting something out of the effort you're putting in. And the more time that goes by, the more progress you'll see.
In addition, you'll see a consistent entry of dates, showing your consistent approach towards your goals. If you open your log and notice a large gap in dates, you'll know you're getting off track, and you can take the opportunity to correct your course.
2.) Pride and Motivation
Seeing how much weight you could lift when you first started, or how fast or far you could run, or how many sets you could do, can be a source of pride when you know how far you've come. It can also be a great motivator for even further progress - once you see the proof that what you're doing is working, you start to believe in yourself even more, and push yourself a little harder.
3.) Benchmarks for bad days and good days
Some days you'll struggle to find your motivation for working out. Maybe you don't feel well, or you're tired, or you've got other things on your mind. These are the days where your log will show you what is minimally expected of yourself. You know how much weight, or how many reps, you did last week and the week before, so you'll use those as goals for today's workout.
Other days you'll be in a great mood, ready and excited to dominate your workout. These days you'll look at what you've done over the last couple of weeks and know you want to hit those numbers and *then* start counting your personal records!
4.) Finding patterns
Are your workouts better at night than in the morning? Do your numbers get worse every time you do a particular exercise? Do your workouts get better, or worse, as the week progresses? Finding patterns in your workouts can help you make adjustments to your routines to better suit your body.
My log showed me that I perform better in night-time workouts than early morning workouts, so I shifted to evenings after the kids went to bed. Then, however, it wasn't long before I realized that I felt exhausted all the time, so I switched back to morning workouts. By working out in the morning, I'm giving up a little bit of top end performance, but I feel better throughout the day.
Bonus - if you're also tracking your eating, you might even find cross patterns, where you'll notice better or worse performance depending on what and when you eat!
5.) Knowing where to start
You don't want to waste your workout time searching for the right weight, or wondering how many of something you're supposed to do. This is especially true with cross-fit workouts, where you might go several weeks before repeating an exercise or routine. A quick glance at your log shows you what you did the last couple times you did a similar workout.
It doesn't really matter what method you use to log your workouts, from paper & pen to highly sophisticated computer program, you'll realize many benefits to keeping track of what, and how, you're doing. And you'll see that, just like hiking, small steps add up to great distances over time.