If you're serious about making positive changes in any aspect of your life, it's important to have a definitive plan. Psychologically, writing down your goals will make you more likely to achieve them.
The same goes for your exercise regime. Tracking how far you've come and planning what you need to do next time is the way to see results sooner rather than later. You can do this via an app on your phone or a document on your computer, or you can download templates online – just Google 'free workout diary templates' and hundreds of results appear. However, I prefer to do it the good old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. This gives you something tangible that you can take anywhere with you and add to when the need arises. Buy yourself a pretty notebook or grab a plain old one and decorate it with inspiring quotes and pictures. Then get to work.
What to write in your diary
As this will be your workout diary, the first things to track are your workouts! Note down every exercise you do, from the warm-up to the cool-down and everything in between. Then use this information to plan your next workout and decide how you're going to improve. For example, if you only managed 10 squats, aim for 12 tomorrow. If you ran 5 miles, try to run 5.5 next time. If you lifted 20 lbs, go up to 22 or increase the amount of reps.
Take a photo of yourself once a week and either print it out to stick in your diary or keep them all in a file on your computer. After a few weeks, you'll see how much your body starts to change. This will be a great motivation to keep going.
Also take your measurements every week. A cheap tape measure will do the trick nicely. Measure your chest, waist, hips and thighs and record the numbers. If you're a man who's trying to bulk up, you might also want to measure your neck, shoulders, biceps and calves.
Weigh yourself if you must but only do so once every week or two, at the same time of day. Personally I think scales are the Devil, for many reasons. For a start, if you're training then you will be building muscle and losing fat, but as muscle weighs more than fat the dial on the scale could quite possibly be going up instead of down. You can get obsessed with your weight and a one pound increase could incite a massive freakout and cause you to fall off the wagon. Also, we women will weigh more at certain times of the month due to water retention and whether we've given in to those pre-menstrual cravings. My advice is to ditch the scales and pay more attention to your measurements and how your clothes fit, but I know that some people just can't help having a little peek.
Also write down everything you eat. Good nutrition is key to achieving your fitness goals. It's easy to forget snacking on that sneaky slice of chocolate cake and then wondering why you're not seeing any results. By all means have a treat now and then, but making it a conscious choice and writing it down instead of scoffing it on a whim will make reaching your target a lot easier.
Leave a few pages blank for noting down things like reminders, daily energy levels and mood, hours slept and anything you find that inspires you.
A workout diary can begin on any day of the year. So why not start yours today?