The "Plandsome" fitness planner

If you’ve ever been on the fitness wagon, you’ve probably dabbled in journaling and tracking. Mainstream wisdom says that recording things like your diet, workouts, and progress is the key to being consistent (and therefore successful) in your overall fitness goals.

Having the dedication to write every rep and scribble every nibble can help you stay accountable and disciplined. This can, however, sometimes feel like a chore.

As a beginner to weight loss, I sought inspiration everywhere. I always had the prettiest weight loss planner and the visual incentive was enough to keep me logging faithfully. But whenever I got bored with my flowery notebooks, I noticed that my likelihood to keep tracking my calories went way down.

One day, sitting at my desk where I worked at a newspaper, I noticed my graphics editor doodling in her sketchbook. I’m told that this isn’t unusual for artsy types, but my very-left-brained eye began to wander over her drawing and I recognized it for what it was: a list!

It was an incredibly attractive list of her chores for the day, complete with fancy fonts, swooshy watercolor background, and margin doodles.

“What is that you’re making, Mikki?” I asked.

She held it up proudly and responded, “This is my art journal. I make a list and decorate it every day. It keeps me focused on what needs to be done without being overwhelming and depressing.”

My fitness sketchbook

That’s when it hit me. Using the same outline week after week was monotonous and lame. If I made the design myself, I would love it. And if I loved it, I would stick to it. I ran out and bought a sketchbook and some Crayola markers on my lunch break, and started jotting down ideas.

By the end of my lunch hour, I had a beautiful page for my weekly fitness goals. On one side, I made a collage of pictures from the fitness magazines in my purse, and on the other side, a place to record calories, start and end weights, workouts, and rewards.

At the end of each day, I couldn’t wait to open my gorgeous sketchbook and log everything. I couldn’t wait to make a new tracking page each week. It was attractive, fun to do, and most importantly, it kept me accountable.

This was two years ago, and I still make a new page every week.

I’ve gone through several sketchbooks since and I love to look back at the lovely pages in them and see the progress I’ve made along the way. Now and then, I add something artsy between journal pages, like a measurement tracker or a dressed-up workout plan.

My friend Mikki does sketches and writes her favorite song lyrics between her lists. You might try a weekly progress photo or a healthy vegan recipe or meal plan.

Your fitness sketchbook

If you’d like to try art-journaling as a form of fitness tracking, I suggest starting today. The sooner you start writing down your goals, the sooner you can reach them.

More importantly, you’ll discover what it is you want to track.

When started, I tracked every calorie by meal, type of food, amount, and value. Later, I found that just the number was enough, and I stopped writing it down in favor of simply scanning it with an app. I still know how many calories I’m eating, I just don’t log it.

You might find that you love tracking this much detail. Or maybe you would prefer to write down the number of reps and sets for the moves you want to improve. Whatever it is, you won’t know until you start tracking.

The other reason to start now is to make it a habit. In the end, no amount of visual inspiration will earn discipline. That takes practice and dedication.

If you’ve never tracked before, here are my suggestions:

  • Track calories (or macros) that you eat throughout the day.

  • Write down workouts and measurements to compare your effort over time.

  • Set a S.M.A.R.T. goal every week and strive to meet it.

Write down EVERYTHING - not just your successes, but your failures. Especially your failures! If you struggle with binge eating, I recommend tracking your mood and activities before, during, and after a binge to get an idea of what triggers that particular habit.

Failure helps us avoid similar pitfalls in the future, so don’t skip these! Write down what you were doing before the binge, how you felt, and everything you ate. Then journal how you felt afterward and make a plan for the next time you feel like indulging.

Just as you let your discipline and dedication grow as you journey through those goals, let your style and layout evolve as you progress week by attractive week. Record, record, record, so that later, you can see how far you have come.

Your fitness tracker can be a unique and beautiful testament to the way you organize your mind to achieve your desires. Your unique body deserves a unique planner.

Make them both amazing!