In my post on New Years resolutions last week, I (strongly) suggested that recording your workout data could be a good idea. It’s been great being back in the gym seeing folks putting this into practice.
I therefore thought I’d pop up some thoughts on how to make this system work for you, and how to use the data to guide your decisions in the gym.
Recording your workouts: The Basics
Here is a list of what I feel are the basic variables that you should be collecting in your notebook:
1. The date: Well, duh…
2. The workout details: This should include:
- The rep/time scheme e.g. 21-15-9, AMRAP, ladders, etc.
- The movements e.g. deadlift, dumbbell push press, etc.
- The weights used for each movement, both prescribed and scaled (if scaled)
- Any scaling that you used for the movements e.g. weight, reps, bands (including colours), box height, etc.
- Your final score e.g. time to complete, number of reps/rounds, maximum load lifted, etc.
If you are doing this, I reckon you will get 80% of the benefit of keeping a workout log. All the information about your performance in one place for you to look back on and review.
But you could do better…
Recording your workouts: Gilding the lily
If you feel like gaining your WOD Recording Data Ninja Badge, then consider these ideas:
1. A narrative/commentary: How did you feel during the workout (compared to normal)? What was your form like? Any unusual aches and pains during the session? Did you PR? Any tips for “future you” on how to complete the the workout the next time around? Could you have gone faster/lifted more? Did you complete your reps/sets unbroken (without rest)?
2. The time of the workout: interesting to analyse for those of you who frequent both morning and evening sessions (also weekends vs mid-week)
3. How was your sleep the night before the workout? Number of hours, broken/unbroken
4. What food/drink had you consumed during the previous day? Volumes (blocks), macro-nutrient breakdown, timing, etc. You can get especially nerdy about this, if so you choose.
5. Your body measurements: Weight, % body fat, neck, chest, waist, hips, legs, arms circumference.
This additional data layer gives you a lot more variables to examine when looking at your historic performance (and predicting your future performance). In effect, you should now be capturing information on all performance affecting factors.
I’ve got the data. Now what?
The basics will allow you to answer these questions (and more):
- When did I last do a workout with [insert your least favourite movement here] in it?
- How regularly have I been training over the last few months?
- What did I lift the last time this exercise/movement/WOD came up?
- What is my 1, 3 & 5 rep max for each of the key lifts? What are my PRs?
- What was my ‘score’ the last time I completed this workout?
- What scaling did I use the last time this movement came up? Could I go up in weight/reps or down in scaling?
Adding the additional layer of information to your data collection will also allow you to answer these questions?
- Am I better (stronger, more stamina, etc.) at certain times of the day/days of the week?
- How does sleep affect my performance?
- How does what I eat affect my performance?
- How is my performance correlating with my body composition?
Using this information you should be able to guide your own decisions on, for example:
- When to move from Mr Yellow Box to Mr Blue Box
- What to go for the next time 5×5 back squat is programmed
- How to eat/sleep the day before your workout
- Which movements you should try and focus on in (and perhaps outside) the gym
I am a self-professed data nerd, and love collecting this information. Over the last year my own workout log has thrown up these interesting nuggets:
- My chances of picking up an injury during a WOD (especially a running/skipping WOD) increase significantly if I ate chocolate or cake (or chocolate cake!) the day before
- (Unrelated to the first one) I hate running and rarely programme it for myself. I will correct this in 2011
- Taking up to one week off training has no negative effect on my performance, but two weeks off does
- My strength is still improving in a fairly linear manner
- Lack of sleep kills me during a workout, more so than poor nutrition
Note: The image for this post was shamelessly ‘lifted’ from the awesomely named DataNINJA website here. If you are in the market for “a simple yet powerful data mining utility created by Rebecca Loiselle, Dylan McCarthy, and Matt Bishop”, then I feel morally obliged to recommend them.