Friday, August 10, 2012

using Evernote as a fitness journal - part 1


using Evernote as a fitness journal - part 1


Part 1 - the Digital Spiral Ring Notebook: the simplest, fastest way of keeping a record of your workouts, what you ate, and how you felt.



Evernote is one of those rare, cream of the crop applications that is so useful - easy to use and ultra powerful - it's become the centerpiece of my digital life, and I've written about it more than a few times along the way.

What is Evernote (the super-short version)

Evernote is a free application you can use on just about any device - computer, tablet, and phone - which acts as your second brain. Jot down quick notes, take pictures, screen clips, articles from the web, scanned files - anything you want to remember goes into a notebook, which is instantly saved and sync'd to all your other devices, making it available to you whenever and wherever you need it.

Your notes are fully searchable, and can be sorted, tagged, and organized in whatever manner suits your fancy.


Check out the Evernote website for more information.

Method 1 - the digital spiral ring notebook

Remember way back when, about 10 years ago, when you took notes in a spiral ring notebook? It was so easy back then - you carried a notebook around in your backpack or briefcase, and it took about 2 seconds to make a note. Then, when you wanted to look up something you had written down, you simply flipped through the pages until you found the right note.


Maybe you had a different notebook for each subject in school, or for each project at the office. Or maybe you used a chronological order, lumping everything into the same notebook by date, and keeping your old notebooks on a shelf in case you had to look something up from an earlier time..

Evernote can act just like your spiral ring notebooks!



One Notebook - chronological style

Using a notebook like a journal couldn't be any easier. In fact, once you sign up for your free Evernote account, you're ready to go. Click the "New Note" button and start typing.

You could create a new note for each day, and simply type in your notes from that day.
  • Raisin Bran and toast for breakfast
  • Half a grapefruit for snack
  • Salad w/ grilled chicken for lunch
  • 20 minute walk after lunch
  • 5 pretzels in afternoon
  • Fit-20 Workout after work
  • slice of pizza, 3 wings, and large salad for dinner
  • *Bonus - it's not required, but it is very easy to add pictures to notes, which means you could take a picture of each meal & post it before you ate it..

Use today's date as the title of the note, and you're done. Evernote automatically saves as you type, so you can't accidentally forget to save your work.

Many people get overwhelmed when they start thinking about keeping track of stuff.
  • I'm not a computer-type; I don't know how to build a tracking sheet.
  • Do I need a spreadsheet with lots of categories?
  • How do I know what categories I'm going to need?
  • Am I typing too much, or not enough?
  • I don't have time to make a tracking worksheet.
  • I used one before, but there wasn't enough space to write everything in.
  • etc., etc., etc.

This simple method will work wonders for the vast majority of people. It's free-form, so you can write as much, or as little, as you want. You can write in specific calories counts, or just list the foods. You can write in how many of each set you did for your workout, and you can write a quick sentence or two about how you felt.

There are 3 primary reasons for keeping a journal:
  1. Motivation - From an eating standpoint, it feels good to look at your day's work (or even the last few days) and see how well you've been eating. This gives you a positive vibe about your next weigh-in, and an added incentive to not mess up today! From a workout standpoint, you can easily see how many reps you did last time, or how fast you went, and know that today you want to beat that number. Over time you can look back and see how much stronger and faster you've gotten, and gain motivation by knowing you're doing well and heading in the right direction.
  2. Accountability & Self-Realization - Writing down everything you eat forces you to pay attention to what you're eating. Suddenly those M&Ms from Suzy's candy jar count, and you realize how often you stop to "only have a couple." Many people find the desire to have a good journal day outweighs their desire to eat a few small snacks.
  3. Correcting Errors - If you're not having the success you expected, you can go back through your journal day by day to see why. Did you get all your workouts in? Were your meals a moderate size? Did you have any extra snacks? This is where you'll see those few M&Ms and pretzels repeated throughout the day, every day, and realize you've been eating 300 calories per day that you weren't counting against yourself. Boom - problem found, now you can fix it!
All 3 of these are addressed with a simple, spiral ring style notebook in Evernote.

Pull the Details Later

You can always go back later and pull details out of your notebook. Maybe you want to see a graph of your weight, or see a chart showing your calorie count by day, or how many times per week you've worked out. That's easy - all the data is in your notebook. Once you know what you want to see, you can take a few minutes to scroll through it and input the data you're looking for into a spreadsheet, then make that amazing chart with a downward-sloping weight line!

But at the beginning, on day one, you probably don't know what information you're going to want to chart..

For a quick, easy, available-everywhere journal that's more than enough to get you started on your road to health and fitness, Evernote is hard to beat.

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Have a specific question or need help getting set up? Leave a comment and I'll be happy to help!

Have a suggestion for anyone new to Evernote? I'd love to hear it!

(ps - I have no affiliation with Evernote, paid or otherwise - it's just such a good product that I'd recommend it profusely and without hesitation!)

-Chris Butterworth

update - please also see "Using Evernote as a Fitness Journal, part 2"

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