Why workout logs and benchmarks are important

Ryan ODonnellhealth, instructionLeave a Comment

workout journal

A lot of times in our strength or skill portions of the class you’ll be instructed to work up to a percentage of your one rep max on a certain lift. Last week on Tuesday for example we worked up to 80-90% of our one rep max for snatch. A troubling trend I’ve noticed in the last several months are more and more people explaining to me at the beginning of the class that they don’t know their one rep max. This is totally fine if you’re newer to the gym, but I hear this from a lot of people who I would consider experienced Crossfitters and have been with us for a year or more. Even worse, is when we retest a WOD (like Jackie a few weeks ago) and people say, “I didn’t put in my score last time we did it.” So today I’m going to talk about the importance of tracking your workouts, some good tips for how to track them and also a couple of useful benchmarks that I feel all Crossfitters should know.
Let’s start with some reasons why it’s important to log your workouts.

1. It helps you track your progress.

Quite simply, how are you going to know that you’re getting fitter if you don’t have the data to back it up? Furthermore, it’s always rewarding to look back on how far you’ve come.

2. It’s great for beginners to help learn the terminology of a new fitness program.

One of the most daunting tasks for people new to Crossfit is the language. Push jerk, TTB, hang squat clean, HSPU, muscle up, AMRAP, EMOM, etc. It can definitely be overwhelming for someone who is just starting out. However, making sure you log your scores and even making a couple notes about the movements can help you remember the terms.

3. Taking good detailed notes can help you with future workouts.

Aside from simply recording your time, or the weights used take advantage of that space for notes in the SugarWOD app. They don’t have to be long, but simply adding “could have gone heavier” or “pushed too hard on the runs” can help you attack the workout differently the next time we do it.

What are “good, detailed notes?”

I’m not saying you have to write a short story every single time you log a training session, but I think you should include more than just your score on the WOD. Did you feel sick afterwards? Write it down. Was this workout particularly difficult? Why? Write it down. Was there a new movement you’ve never tried before? Write it down. Most importantly, make sure your scores and notes are understandable. I’ve told several people this in the gym before: it’s important to record your workout score so that if we repeat the WOD again in the future you know exactly how you did it and exactly what your score was for comparison.

Benchmarks I believe you should know.

1. CrossFit total: Max squat + max press + max deadlift.

We do a three rep total with our new clients in the private lessons, but if you don’t know your one rep maxes in these areas coming to open gym in the near future and finding them is probably a good idea. These are also great starting points because they can help you estimate loads for your other lifts. For example, let’s say you are newer to weightlifting and have never done a max front squat before, but the programming for that day calls for you to do 5×3 front squats @80% of your max. If you know your back squat max you can make a pretty good estimation of your front squat max. You can estimate your likely front squat max by taking 70-85% of your back squat. So, if you know you can back squat 100kg for a one rep max, then we can say you can probably front squat 70-85kg for a one rep front squat. Using those numbers we can find a good working weight for that strength session. Knowing your press max can help you do the same thing for push press and jerk. Of course, it’s great to know you’re one rep maxes for the the oly lifts as well, but start with these, especially if you’re new to weightlifting.

2. Aerobic benchmarks, running and rowing: 400m run, 800m run, 1,600m run, 500m row, 1,000m row, 2,000m row.

Just like one rep maxes will give you a great idea of how you’re progressing in terms of strength, these will let you know how much better your aerobic capacity is getting. These are by far the least fun to train, but they’re useful for other reasons than just knowing your aerobic capacity as well. I’ll explain using myself as an example. I know that my max effort 2,000m row time is 6:48. That’s me going all out and collapsing off the rower at the end. That means my 500m split is an average of 1:42, meaning I can maintain a split of 1:42 for almost 7 minutes. Now, if I see a WOD on the board that looks like this:

5 rounds for time:
15 power cleans
15 pull ups
500m row

I know there’s no way I can maintain a 1:42 split pace and continue to move constantly throughout the workout. So, I add about 8-10 seconds on to my split time and I would target a 1:50-52 pace for the entire workout (save for the last round of course!). If the WOD were shorter and had only had a 250m row each round then I would target a time faster than my 2,000m PR pace. I do the same thing with running WODs to estimate how fast each of my intervals should be, whether they’re 200m, 400m or 800m.

I wanted to add in that we will start to do rowing and running intervals in the CFC Endurance classes that I coach on Wednesdays and your target pacing will be based off of your 2,000m row and 1,600m run pace. So if you plan on coming to those classes, definitely hit those benchmarks.

3. Gymnastics benchmark: Max pull ups.

Personally, I think this is a very good benchmark. However, I know some people reading this don’t even have one pull up yet. If that’s the case, don’t sweat it. Do a max set with a band, or on the machines in the front of the gym or even a max set of ring rows. Just remember to write down exactly which band you used or how much support weight you used or how high the rings were and where your feet were on the floor when you did the ring rows. If you’re more advanced you can do the same thing with other movements, find your max set of HSPU, muscle ups or even a max distance HS walk.

4. Some of “The girls.”

I would suggest starting with Angie, Helen, Fran and Grace. If you look at the photo above, you’ll notice that the girls are divided into 4 categories: bodyweight movements, bodyweight + non-barbell weighted movements, WODs which incorporate multiple aspects of fitness and straight barbell movements. I chose one of my favorite WODs from each category, but you don’t need to do these workouts exactly. If you would rather do Cindy than Angie, go ahead. I think Jackie is a great WOD as well if you’re not feeling up to tackling Fran. I would definitely try to do at least one from each category, and eventually it’s a good idea to try all of the girls! The added bonus of knowing your scores on these WODs is that you’ll have an answer next time you’re traveling and meet a fellow Crossfitter and they ask you, “What’s your Fran time, bro?”

Thanks for reading, if you have any other questions concerning anything I’ve written here don’t be afraid to approach me in the gym or send me a personal message. See you around!

– Coach O’Dons

– Jenkins, Becca Borawski. “Coaching Tip: The Importance of Journaling.” Breaking Muscle. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
– Danielsson, Matt. “The Importance Of A Training Log!” Bodybuilding.com. N.p., 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.
– DeHart, Nichole. “Are You Keeping Track? – Invictus | Redefining Fitness.” Invictus | Redefining Fitness. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.

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