I was never athletic growing up. So when I first started exercising in college, I found it hard to stay motivated and keep to a schedule. After graduation, I realised that workout classes were the best option for me—sweating it out with an instructor meant I couldn’t slack off or just stop when I got bored. I went through intense phases of doing just one type of workout for a few months, then dropping it completely. There was the vinyasa yoga phase, the indoor cycling phase, the aerial barre phase—nothing really stuck.
At the end of 2015, I joined a high-end gym with tons of class options. My hope was that the high membership cost would motivate me to work out more regularly and try different types of classes. A friend who also belongs to that gym offhandedly mentioned that she kept a log of all her workouts, which helped her stay on track. And thus, my life-changing workout spreadsheet was born.
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The spreadsheet is nothing complicated. It’s a Google spreadsheet where I input the date, time, class name, instructor, and notes—for every single workout I do. I’ve been doing this since January 2016, and it’s completely revolutionised how I view working out. It’s not colour coded, nothing fancy, but I have different tabs for each year. And it’s easily accessible on my phone, so I usually update it at night—every night–when I’m catching up on emails.
There are a lot of ways to keep yourself accountable. In one study from Translational Behavioral Medicine, people who posted their weight-loss progress on social media lost more weight than those that didn’t share. And for some people, it’s all about the fitness tracker, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. But for me, this tracking system has been life-changing. My regular workouts help keep my mind clear, and I’m continually building strength and stamina.
I aim to go to six classes a week, and do my best to schedule them in advance, but I often have to change plans day-of and go to a class that works with my time constraints. Logging everything gives me an overview of what I’ve been doing, and helps me see when it’s time to switch things up. It also helps ensure I don’t over-train: If I’ve done a lot of high-impact classes within a short time frame, I’ll make a mental note to seek out more yoga or barre options. And if I jot down that I needed to use tons of modifications in a certain class to avoid aggravating my tricky lower back, I’m likely to look for something less daunting.
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I also add notes each time I take a class with a new instructor, which is inordinately helpful. Having a record of which instructors play the best music or are super encouraging means I’ll keep going back to classes I know I’ll enjoy. And if a certain instructor’s teaching method doesn’t work well for me, I can avoid those classes in the future. As simple as it sounds, it makes a huge difference.
I’m pretty Type A, so even the act of logging each workout itself feels amazing. And looking back on it helps me feel accomplished. In 2016, I made it to 256 classes, which is almost five a week. For 2017, I’ve logged 67 workouts so far, and I’m still going strong.
When I was younger, I never thought I’d be an active person. Even five years ago, it was totally unthinkable to me that I’d enjoy a Tabata workout or a CrossFit-inspired strength-training class. But thanks to keeping this spreadsheet—which takes under 30 seconds to update each time—I am feeling fitter than ever.
This article originally appeared on Womenshealthmag.com.
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