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 personal diets, 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 is believed to help you stay accountable and disciplined when it comes to your health. However, as anyone who has ever done it knows, this can be a chore. That’s where graphic designers make their money.
Diet planners and printable workout schedules abound for those who need that little visual incentive to log their workouts, and are willing to pay. Although free versions exist through Google searches and Pinterest printouts, it could take hours of sifting through cheesy premade templates to find a layout you like, and after a week, you’re bored with it.
As a beginner to weight loss, I sought inspiration everywhere. I wanted the prettiest planner, the handsomest diet log, and some glittery stickers that said, “You go, girl!” And I paid for it! Whenever I got bored with my flowery notebooks, I noticed my likelihood to keep tracking my calories went way down. I would spend hours looking through hundreds of printable pages, searching for the prettiest one, only to click on it and discover it was unavailable, required a credit card, or didn’t track what I wanted.
I did this for years. I would track my goals a couple weeks, get so bored with the page I couldn’t stand to look at it, stop tracking, fall off the wagon, and then proceed to spend hours looking for a new journal or printout so I could track my goals again.
One day, sitting at my desk where I worked at a newspaper, I noticed my graphics editor doodling in her sketchbook. This isn’t particularly unusual for artsy types, I’m told, 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, swoosh-y watercolor background, and border 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 done without being overwhelming and depressing.”
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. Every now and then, I add something artsy between journal pages, like a measurements 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.
If you’d like to try art-journaling as a form of fitness tracking, I suggest starting right now. 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 I first 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 in as much detail. You might find that you love tracking this much detail. Or maybe you will prefer to write down the exact number of reps and sets for the moves you’re looking to improve. Whatever it is, you won’t know until you start tracking.
The beauty of fitness art-journaling is that if you want to change the layout, data, plan, or design, you can do it as much as you want without constantly abandoning and buying new (expensive) notebooks, or going through endless hours of template-sifting.
The other reason to start now is to make it a habit. In the end, no amount of visual inspiration will earn you discipline. That takes practice and dedication.
If you’ve never tracked before, I suggest tracking calories (or macros), workouts, and weight (or measurements). Also track goals for each week. Set one S.M.A.R.T. goal* per week and strive to meet it. Write down EVERYTHING - not just your successes, but 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.
Just as you let your style and layout evolve as you progress, let your discipline and dedication grow as you journey through those goals, week by attractive week. Record, record, record! So that later, you can see how far you have come.
Your fitness tracker, like your body, is a unique and beautiful testament to the way you organize your mind to achieve your desires. Just as you individualize what you put into your journal, your body is just as unique. Make them both amazing!