Motivation Tactic #3: Log Your Workouts. Rate Your State.

This is the third in a series of at least five posts about motivating yourself. (See also Tactic #1 and Tactic #2.) This particular tactic takes a small time investment, but ultimately pays you back with a feeling of deep satisfaction and the reminder–in black and white–of the power of physical exertion to shift your state for the better.

If you aren’t already in the practice of logging your workouts, start doing it! If you aren’t in a regular exercise habit, I’m giving you a reason to start. Go do something NOW so you can come back and log it with this cool technique!

Of course there are many techniques (and even some software) for logging exercise. This particular example draws on Christopher Bergland’s great book The Athlete’s Way. He advocates keeping a detailed training journal as a way to see your mounting accomplishments and to deepen self knowledge of your behavior around exercise. The format doesn’t matter–if you love a spreadsheet, do it there. If you prefer a Big Chief notepad, that’s all you need. Here are some of the things you might track (and as example, a snapshot of my most recent activity).

  • The date, time, and how long – Sept 24, 11am, 50 mins total
  • The setting and weather– Stevenson, WA along Columbia River. Sunny and 80ish.
  • The specifics of what you did (distance, intensity) – 5 miles easy run with David
  • How you felt (physically and mentally) – Enjoyed the relaxed pace–nice to run and not push. My annoying backache went away as I ran. Scenery along the river was breathtaking. Made me wistful about summer’s end. Sweet to run with David.
  • What helped you get in a flow state – cycled through mantras to keep rhythmic breathing, drop my shoulders, and run smooth. Running in the gorgeous setting made me feel like I’m living right.
  • What derailed or deflated you? A little worry about it being okay to go slow. But short-lived! I did speed and tempo workouts earlier in the week.
  • Mood rating Pre-workout: -1 (a little antsy) . Post-workout: +3 (warm, laughing, ready for an iced mocha).

Note this last point, the Mood Rating. Bergland suggests rating your mood before and after a workout using a scale of -5 to +5 and adding specifics to each if it’s relevant (Pre-workout: -3 anxious about my deadline. Post-workout: +3 got perspective, feel more grounded, remembered a resource I can call). Bergland is confident that doing this will allow you to see a pattern, namely, you always feel better after a workout.

On Tuesday I went from a pre-workout rating of -4 to a post workout +4. Seriously! Nothing to sneeze at.

If you don’t struggle with motivation to get out the door, logging your training may still be a great tool, particularly the parts about what helps you get in a flow state and what derails or deflates you. Observing these patterns from the detachment of a journal gives you power over them.

Now get out there and DO something. Then log it.

One thought on “Motivation Tactic #3: Log Your Workouts. Rate Your State.

  1. Love this post Rachel! There is something about keeping track of your workouts. For my entire training career, I’ve kept track of all my workouts on a calendar with little colored smiley faces along with the details of the workout and then at the end of the year I tally it all up and pat myself on the back as I reflect on all my hard work.

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