If you were ever a cub scout, you probably know how it feels to get lost in the forest. I wasn't a scout, but I was in the army and spent a lot of the time running around in the forest, too, so I know how it feels.
The main thing about being 'lost' is that you have no clue where you are, how you got there, and - most importantly - how the growl to get back home!
You are pretty much doomed to run around in circles, and even though some might get lucky and stumble on the right path again, many don't.
And the gym is the exact same thing. What I'm talking about is the all-important log that every serious trainer should keep on their progress!
The log is a map for yourself which you draw as you go, and whenever you seem to be lost you just have to reach for your map (your log) and follow the trail backwards until you find where you took a wrong turn. It's that simple.
A proper log will show you what worked and what didn't. Got an injury? Go back two months and see if you've made any specific changes for that muscle group lately.
What did I do to get those terrific gains last spring, and what am I doing now that makes me not having gained diddly for the past three months? What can I do to improve my diet for this summer? I think you get the idea. Again, the log is the story of your success!
Format Of The Exercise Log
Your log should be in two parts: the exercise log, and the nutritional log.
The Exercise Log
Write down the exercises, the weights, and the number of set/reps. Write down your total time for a certain muscle group, and strive to push as much weight in as little time as possible (which is the formula for intensity!).
Also give yourself a grade, A to F, on how you felt versus how you did. Don't forget to make note of cardio work as well - how long you did, heart rate percentage, and amount of calories burned.
The Nutritional Log
Make note of the time you eat, what you eat, the amount you eat, and the total amount of calories taken in. Make note of everything - lying to yourself won't help you in the least, and certainly won't make that Twinkie you had for lunch go away! Don't forget to write down fluids, such as juices, milk and protein drinks.
The advanced bodybuilders might also want to make a few extra columns after 'calories', in order to put down the Protein/Carbs/Fat percentage of everything, in order to monitor the exact composition of your diet. (I don't use this except for when I'm dieting.)
It's also a good idea to bring out the old measuring tape and see how you're doing once in a while. Set a standard which you track every couple of months, like:
And just for tracking purposes, make note of your bodyweight.
Depending on how anal you are, you can track your progress through various graphs and locate weak spots as they develop early on in the game. This is all optional, but if you want to make sure you're not leaving anything to chance, this is definitely the way to go.
Seeing A Personal Trainer
An added benefit of a log is that when you're consulting a personal trainer (PT), you'll have a head start from having a log handy. That way he or she will be able to start you off right from the start - you'll save both time and money that could be better used for actual progress than initial monitoring!