Many of us have goals in our training. It may be an athletic goal, it could be to do that first chin up or often it’s simply to feel good and look better naked. Step 1 towards these goals in my mind is being consistent. You have to show up. Day after day. Step 2 might be tracking something and keeping yourself honest. This can vary depending on the goal but here are several ways that I have tried myself.
1 – The most traditional is probably the training journal. I have been writing down what I do in my own training sessions since about 2001. In the very least this is beneficial by looking at what you’ve done the last few days, weeks or months. Keep yourself honest and know how much weight was lifted and how many sets were done. If need be you can dig deeper and look back years. This may help you see what was successful in reaching your goal or, what didn’t work. The same goes for my clients. I would never dream of not recording what they are doing in the gym under my care. I have folders collecting that date back at least 10 years.
2 – Sometime this past March I decided that my body weight was simply getting too high. I was up in the high 240’s on any random morning that I hopped on the scale. In my mind this was simply too much. So, at that point I started using an app to track my food on a daily basis with the goal of dropping a few pounds and still maintaining my strength. Most of us know how to eat clean but the act of entering all of my food into the app kept me honest with myself on a daily basis as to what and how much I was consuming. The result was that I accomplished the goal within a few weeks and although I don’t use the app at this time I know it can help me in the future if needed.
3 – A few weeks ago I started using the MyZone heart rate monitor and app. I’ve used a heart rate monitor from time to time in the past but I do like the MyZone option better for two reasons; 1. It can potentially be displayed on a tv at the gym so you don’t have to constantly look down at your wrist to see your heart rate or guess which % of max you are at. 2. The app gives you a chart of how much time you spent at each percentage of your max heart rate when you are done, i.e. 7 minutes in the 60-69% zone. Aside from the fact that I’m a nerd and I just like gathering information, I realized by wearing the MyZone that during my resistance training I was working a lot harder than I thought and when I did my recovery days I simply wasn’t working as hard as I thought. After reading some of Joel Jamieson’s work he gives some specific guidelines as to how to promote recovery on your “off days”. It turns out that I was not working at a high enough heart rate to elicit the recovery that I was after. But, since using the MyZone heart rate monitor it has kept me honest and working closer to the level I should.
4 – In a similar fashion I have been tracking my Heart Rate Variability (HRV) for about 3.5 years (learn more here). Each morning I put on the heart rate monitor and wait for feedback. This, like the examples above, keeps me honest. Maybe you’re like me and there are times you want to train hard every day or you go through spurts of trying to convince yourself that you are tired and trained hard yesterday so you deserve the day off. Well, the HRV tracking can help you stay honest with yourself as to how much stress you are really putting on your body. I use the Morpheus app right now and it asks me how much sleep I just got last night and how would I rate the quality on a scale of 1-5. I’m not trying to lie. It keeps me honest and acts as a subtle push to get to bed earlier at night.
I know there are plenty of other apps and technology out there to play with and the truth is, most of the time I’m not in favor of gadgets or fancy things. However, I do believe there are certain times when you need to keep yourself honest and some of these apps, tracking devices, etc are going help you do just that. They can give you the feedback you need to see where you are at in relationship to where you want to be. The rest is up to you.
- Mike Baltren