Want to Crush Your Goals Faster? Try Keeping a Fitness Journal.

Want to Crush Your Goals Faster? Try Keeping a Fitness Journal.

Get ready to transform your workouts and accelerate your progress.

By Alyssa Sybertz and Team PelotonUpdated November 6, 2023


Do you get workout decision fatigue? Maybe you’re overwhelmed about where to start, which classes you should take next, or what type of workout would serve your body best on any given day. There are just so many options, right?

If you can relate, you may want to consider using a fitness journal to enhance your workouts. Peloton instructors Marcel Dinkins and Becs Gentry are big proponents of the practice and often speak about how tracking their training in this way has helped them find athletic focus. We asked them to share their process and offer advice on how to make fitness journaling part of a daily workout routine. 

What Exactly is a Fitness Journal?

Journaling has long been a practice for self-care and reflection, and a fitness journal can work in a similar way. Yes, it can help you record the details of your workouts such as the exercises, sets, and reps you did on a given day, but it can do so much more than that too. A fitness journal can also help you create a workout schedule, track your fitness journey and goals, and act as a progress log of any challenges, concerns, and successes so you can optimize your results. 

In addition, a journal can be a space for you to record your thoughts and feelings before and after your workouts. This encourages mindfulness and can help forge a deeper understanding of your mind-body connection, allowing you greater insight into those days when you’re crushing it or the times when you just aren’t feeling it.

And, whether you’re starting a new exercise regimen or want to track your journey through your current routine, you may find it beneficial to jot down training tips or other helpful notes in your fitness journal, Marcel adds. She chose to journal at a transition point in her fitness: “I was done competing as a runner and wanted to strength train,” she says. “I followed tons of female bodybuilding athletes at the time, so I began to write down their workouts and take them to the gym with me.”

The Importance of Keeping a Fitness Journal

Keeping a fitness journal takes the guesswork out of your training and individual workouts. Not only does it help with the day-to-day planning and focus, but it can also help you get a better understanding of your workout habits, so you can make any adjustments and enhancements. 

Here are just a few of the ways a fitness journal could benefit you.

It Keeps You Accountable and Motivated

A fitness journal helps you maintain accountability. By mapping out a plan in your journal, you’re creating a workout schedule that suits your lifestyle and your goals. This can help boost your workout discipline and further reinforce your dedication to your fitness journey. Sure, there may be some adjustments along the way, but keeping a log of what’s working, what feels good, and importantly, what doesn’t, will help you achieve your goals in the long run. 

Using your fitness journal as a planner helps you stick to your training plan and ensures that you’re not neglecting any of the parts of the body you want to focus on. Bonus: It’ll also eliminate the downtime of searching through the endless list of classes right before a scheduled workout. Use those precious extra minutes to tack a five-minute strength or stretch class onto your stack instead.

And, over time, seeing how far you’ve come is the best motivation of all. Charting the increase in the distance you’re running, the weights you’re lifting, or even how many reps of a specific exercise you can do, will all help fuel your momentum to reach your personal best—and, maybe even set a new one. 

It Lets You Break Your Goals Into Steps

A fitness journal gives you space to break your goals into more manageable steps. For example, if your goal is to run a 10K race, you can start by breaking this down into running non-stop for five minutes, then increase to 10 minutes, and so on, building your stamina and strength until you reach that 10K mark. If you get stuck at any point, you can use your journal to identify any habits or see what else might be keeping you at a plateau. 

It Helps You Recognize Patterns and Trends

Keeping a regular fitness journal can offer a wealth of insight even into the smallest of details. Whether that’s discovering the best time of the day to work out, when you’re at peak energy, or even how your sleep affects your workout, these are all valuable clues which can help you anticipate and adjust your future workouts to set yourself up for success.

Becs, who started journaling when she was training for a marathon, finds it helpful to include a variety of information beyond just her workout plan, such as how she felt or what she ate. “My journal gives me clarity on what works and what doesn’t work for me in terms of rest, food, and intensity,” she says.

It Promotes Progress

Journaling can also help you advance faster, as you’ll be better able to recognize your strengths, as well as areas that need improvement. “I contribute my workout consistency to always having a plan and always being able to reflect on my progress,” Marcel says. “Without a formal coach present, I don’t believe I would have been able to do that without my fitness journal. It was my coach in a way.”

Keeping a fitness journal has even impacted how Becs and Marcel teach their Peloton Tread classes. “It allows me to reflect on the workouts I complete and feel gratitude for the program and my progress even when I’m exhausted, which are elements I encourage Members to remember when I teach,” Becs says.

For Marcel’s part, she likes to plan her classes similarly to how she plans her personal workouts: “I love to have classes build on previous classes so that you can see your progress,” she explains.

Essential Components of a Fitness Journal

Wondering how to create your own fitness journal? Creating an overall plan, setting your goals, and then adding in those day-to-day details surrounding your workouts is a great combination to chart your journey. And, just like with your workouts, the key to a successful journaling practice is consistency. 

Set Clear Goals and Milestones

Start your fitness journal by setting goals, milestones, and decide on a schedule that works for your lifestyle. You’ll want to keep things flexible so you can make any adjustments you need as you gain more insight, but a good blueprint is to decide how many days a week you want to work out, what areas you want to focus on, and what types of exercises you want to incorporate.

Marcel uses her journal to plan ahead, outlining the next four weeks of workouts at the beginning of the month. “I write out the gist of what I plan to do every day: upper body, lower body, running, etc.” she explains. “Then on the day, I’ll plan out my workout with the sets/reps/weights/rest I plan to do. I also annotate if I actually accomplished the full workout I intended and if I felt extremely good or extremely poor during a session.”

If you need more guidance on how to build out your workout plan, Marcel shares 12 tips for creating a routine you’ll actually stick to. 

Fundamentals To Include

You’ve got your fitness goals and milestones mapped out and your schedule in place. Now, for each entry in your fitness journal, you’ll want to start out with these details:

  • The date of your entry

  • Your workout start and finish times—or the duration of your workout

  • What exercises you did

Depending on the exercises, you could then record the following:

  • Number of sets or reps 

  • Weight levels lifted

  • Distance traveled

  • Average speed

You can also build out your fitness journal to track your nutrition and water intake. This can serve as a record of what you’ve eaten each day and the times you ate, plus how much water and any other liquids you’ve consumed. That information may help you identify how your food choices make you feel during your workouts, and, if you aren’t drinking enough water, how to stay adequately hydrated.

Fitness Journal Prompts

Once you’ve got your fundamentals down, you can start to add more entries about how you feel before and after your workouts. Here are a few journaling prompts to try:

Before Your Workout

  • What’s the goal of this workout?

  • What am I feeling right now?

  • What has been happening today?

  • Do I have any physical aches, pains, discomfort?

After Your Workout

  • How hard was that workout? (You can rank it from one to five)

  • Did it cause any discomfort or pain?

  • Was one side of my body stronger/weaker?

  • How do I feel about my performance today?

Tracking Workouts and Progress

If you choose to start your fitness journal with just the numbers, this can help you identify general trends and patterns but doesn’t really offer insight into why the results are that way. By adding in the journal prompts above or similar, along with those stats, you can start to get more granular with your progress tracking, delving into any challenges on a deeper level so you can troubleshoot blocks or barriers to your success. 

Reflect On Challenges and Achievements

Take a moment to reflect on your challenges and achievements. If you’ve reached a new milestone, write down how that feels so it can motivate you for your next milestone. If you’re facing a challenge, journal on what might be causing it and set yourself a strategy to try to overcome it. You can even write motivational messages to your future self in your journal.

Consistency is Key: Tips for Regular Fitness Journal Updates

While you may enjoy sharing your accomplishments on the Peloton Leaderboard, you don’t need to share your fitness journal with anyone else if you don’t want to. And, no matter what you decide to record or share, the most important step is simply that you update your fitness journal consistently. Here are some tips on how to develop a strong journaling game.

1. Stick to a Schedule

“At the same time every week or month, sit down and write out what classes you plan to take for the entire week or month,” Marcel says. “The clearer the picture, the better.” 

You can still make adjustments to your workout schedule, but it’s better to have it in place so you aren’t left scrambling at the last minute to find a class.

2. Choosing the Right Journal Format: Digital vs. Paper

As simple as it may seem, finding the right way to record your fitness journey is going to be instrumental in your journaling.

If you’re a fan of a notepad and pen, there are plenty of fitness journals you can buy, which include fun templates and journaling prompts. Or if you love to keep everything digital, there’s a huge array of fitness journal smartphone apps which offer similar templates, reminders, and can sync with other apps for even more data analysis. Prefer to keep things simple? You can always just use your Notes app.

It might be trial and error at first, but finding the right format for you will be the key to keeping up with your journaling—and it’ll help you enjoy it more too.

3. Start Simple

Becs recommends keeping it basic at first. “It doesn’t have to be a diary,” she says. “Start top line and informative.” That way you can get into a regular rhythm of updating before you worry about building in tons of detail.

4. Be Honest

If you’re having a tough day, that’s OK. If you’ve struggled with a workout or an exercise, own it. Your journal is your private place to reflect and vent as much as you like. The more insight you can give the future you, the better. 

5. Enjoy the Process

No one wants to feel like they’re doing homework. Your journaling should be an enjoyable part of your workouts. Light a candle, play your favorite tunes, do whatever you need to do to keep at it. After all, it’s a safe space for you to celebrate your wins and overcome your challenges. 

Trying to develop an exercise plan you’ll actually stick with? Read on for Marcel’s advice on building a routine that better serves you.


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