In the post Why I Don’t Measure My Workouts, I explained why I no longer keep data for my workouts. Just because I have my reasons for not tracking workouts, that isn’t a blanket recommendation for everyone. Although I like listening to my body and adjusting my volume and intensity on the fly without looking at a journal for guidance, there are certain cases when I would track workouts. Here are a few that come to mind.
- Personal Trainer – If I hired a personal trainer, it goes without saying that they should be tracking data. My expectation as a client is that not only would I be performing exercises in a safe manner, but progressing at a faster rate than I could by myself.
- New To Lifting – When you first start a training program, good data can keep you safe. Those intrinsic skills haven’t been developed yet. Tracking some numbers is good insurance.
- Return to Lifting – After a long absence, it is also a good idea to track your workouts until you establish a new baseline.
- Injury Recovery – Prevent pushing yourself too fast.
- Competitor – If lifting is your sport, then tracking your numbers is essential.
- Motivation – If numbers motivate you to stick with a workout and return to the gym then keep recording those numbers.
The ideal person who I think would get the most benefit from tracking workouts would be a young untrained lifter. When I recall all the dumb routines I used to do when I first started lifting, having meaningful data in theory could have saved me years of unproductive and unsafe lifting. When I say in theory, that means the beginning lifter not only needs to develop the skills to pick quality exercises and do them in a safe manner, but they also need some basic data analysis skills. They should learn to see when they are pushing things too hard, when they need more recovery time, when they need more intensity or when they need to change the exercises or sequence of exercises.
Data without meaningful data analysis skills has limited value.