My main focus is on weight lifting - the big five: deadlift, squat, press, bench and row - I also add in accessory exercises and try (really I do) to get 1-2 cardio workouts in.

My current approach to keeping a journal is writing down what my daily workout routine was, the temp, what I ate prior/during and how I felt afterwards. I'm following Wendler's 5/3/1 program - currently on 15 months of it (really getting great results).

My question: is there a better way to track my workouts than a notebook and pen - I tried various phone apps and they all take more time/effort than the notebook. I'd like to be able to view progress, mine temps, subjective info I track, etc.......any ideas? I will need to be portable, easy to use, able to be in the very cold, withstand a drop, etc........

Also - what information should I keep?

  • Your title and the question don't match. Your question in the text is "is there a better way to track info", your title is "what info should I track".
    – JohnP
    Mar 4, 2014 at 14:52
  • @JohnP - thanks - I modified both title and added to the question Mar 4, 2014 at 18:33

4 Answers 4


The "notebook & pen" is great from a "in use" perspective. As John says, the notebook or - as I prefer - index cards do better in the gym than smartphone/tablets. Both for the training program itself and for taking notes on weights, reps and effort.

However, for the other perspective, when you capture the context (sleep, food, subjective info) and want to analyze the training, I find the "Excel" like solutions to be superior.

Combining the two in a seamless way is difficult. My own solution is to capture the context in a Google spreadsheet combined with Google Forms and a dashboard, see below

Activity Dashboard

and to capture the actual workout through taking pictures of the index card or similar (see Notes from a Swim wo a picture of notes from a swim workout) and combining the two in a system like Evernote.

This way I can analyze unlimited by the constraints of paper (e.g. moving averages is tedious when done manually) and still have the raw data for individual workouts available if needed.


Tracking information is always a pain, because there really aren't any good apps for during, as you always have to be interrupting your workout to enter your weights, reps, etc. What I ended up doing was tracking food and sleep along with workouts in just a regular notebook or datebook, and then adding notes about how I felt if I had a particularly good or bad workout. I've had good success with the "at a glance" books that have a day per page for that.

Every few months, I'll go through and review things, and try and correlate any workouts with what happened the previous few days. "Oh, my 10 mile run sucked, but I only got 6 hours sleep the two nights before", that kind of thing.

Personally, I either like hand writing it or putting it down in an excel spreadsheet as Kneel suggests, but I rarely update anything but a throwaway notebook at the gym. I don't like sweating all over a touchscreen trying to update # of reps, worrying about a weight dropping on it, etc. A small (3x2) spiral is great, as that can get trashed and it's no big deal.

Some of the sports I do (Such as cycling) I use a powermeter which is great, and it records in a downloadable format with loads of data, and they have it for running as well, but nothing really great yet for lifting purposes.

  • +1 for good old-fashioned paper and pen. I experiment at times with different apps, spreadsheets, but the notebook has been a constant "master" for the data.
    – G__
    Mar 5, 2014 at 3:10

I am of the opinion that keeping minimal information is best. I track which exercises I did, and that's about it. I might add a few words of comment if it's really meaningful, but really it's just to track numbers and tonnage.


You can use an Excel file; this way, you can add as many columns as you prefer and as many rows as you want as well.

It's portable and you can open it on most platforms.

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