What was your workout last Wednesday? How did you feel? How many reps did you do?
If you can’t answer these questions, you might not be able to reach your full potential? The reason for this is that you might be underperforming, not using enough intensity, or pushing yourself too hard and not recovering well. If you are not able to recall what you have done and how did you feel last week, you need to change something. You need to start a daily journal.
Starting a journal
Many people say journaling has changed their life. People say they’ve become more productive, focused and have increased their overall well-being by being aware of their emotions, bad or good, and the trigger for those emotions.
When talking about sports performance in general, keeping a daily journal will give you a better overview of the day. It will provide you with an inside of your current level of performance, and all the variables that have directly and indirectly effect on it. Those variables sometimes can be overlooked since many athletes pay attention only to what is going on the training and whether they feel satisfied with their performance at the end of the practice. If the performance wasn’t at the excepted level, then we can say “It just wasn’t my day,” hoping that tomorrow will be better.
Keeping a journal will help you to zoom out. This means you are going to be able to see the big picture and all the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle. Sometimes is hard to “see the forest form the tree”, which means we are so focused on the training that we discard all the other things that have a considerable influence on our physical and mental well-being.
Simple things like number of hours you spent sleeping at night, time you go to bed and wake up, what you eat before and after practice, number of coffees, what you have for breakfast of before and after training, can help you identify the habits that contribute toward better performance and patterns that might interfere with your performance.
My new Daily Journal System
I am a huge believer in the power of a morning routine. It is something that puts me in the right direction for the rest of the day. And as part of my morning routine, I do a gratitude journal (need to be more regular with this), meditation and of course, coffee. Recently, I found out that when managing to squeeze in a short 20-30 minutes morning workout, my whole day is way better. And there are two reasons for that:
First, my will power gets depleted after all day at work moving and playing with my students. Therefore, sometimes it is hard to make myself do any physical activity. Second, my emotional and mental state is better due to the fact I have already done a workout. Of course, there is the fact that physical activity contributes to enhanced cognitive and mental abilities.
Although I would suggest everyone to start a morning journal, sometimes it can be hard to maintain such a habit and keep backing up to it every morning and evening. It required some effort and continually reminding myself until I found something that takes less than 5 minutes a day. Plus, it looks fun and kind of “customer friendly,” which makes you enjoying without overthinking what to put on the paper. In the end, no matter how good something is, if you find it hard and “unfriendly” for using every day, then it won’t work.
I road toward improvement
At the begging of every karate season, we set a goal we want to accomplish. And of course, one of the goals is “Successful season and good performance on the big tournament.”
Every big goal is comprised of small goals that accumulate over time, and this is how we come to the final destination. Nothing happens overnight. It is more of a trip, a process we go through. And in this process, it is crucial to start from the smallest goal and build upon it.
This is why you need to keep a journal. To track all your small wins and make sure you stay on the right track.
Before starting a journal make sure what is it the thing you want to change. Also, become aware of the potential problem and find a way to overcome.
The journal has a job to:
Become aware of the things you want to change (e.g. lower and faster stances, become more relaxed, work on a new kata, improve your power, improve your kicks, work on timing, etc.)
Identify the challenges you face on a daily basis that you might not be aware of and find a solution to those challenges (e.g. not enogh sleep, bad nutriiton, mental pressure, etc.)
Build consistency and commitment to make the actual changes;
Identify good and bad habits that support and hinder your performance;
Where to start from?
This way of journaling I have adopted recently from Michal Korzonek. He presents each day as a square where he puts all the activities related to the things we just mentioned.
Every month or two you want to focus on a different aspect of your practice. For this reason, what you put inside your square will change with time — different goals, different info., different way of a visual presentation by using symbols.
However, some general things such as wake up and bedtime, emotional well-being will stay the same.
Where to start from?
Let’s say that in the next 30 days a want to focus on my caloric input, try to spend at least 30 min a day pondering over various topics related to my blog and improve my relationships with others.
Step #1 – Set up your goas.
Take your time to think about the following:
I will improve myself by focusing on my diet and gaining more muscle mass;
I will improve my work by avoiding all the useless distractions and allocation more time for my blog post and reading.
I will improve relationship by engaging mindfully and with understanding in every conversation.
If you want to make it related to your karate performance, you can make slight adjustments:
I will improve myself by meditating and thoroughly planning every workout and paying attention to want a eat to make sure I am in the right weight category. (choose a visual sign).
I will improve my work by spending more time to warm up and stretching and include mental training to overcome anxiety during competition (choose a visual sign).
I will improve/maintain my relationship with my friends outside of karate by finding time to talk or spend time with them (choose a visual sign).
Have in mind that this is just an example. You should adjust according to your priorities.
- Date and day.
- What would I like to remember this day for? Sometimes we can have a challenging day. Therefore, focusing on something positive, even a small thing will give a sense of satisfaction. Do this at the end of the day.
- What do I want to focus on today during a workout? This will depend on the training phase. It can be technique, speed, mental power (visual racking “+” for meeting the goal and “- “for not meeting the goal).
- Workout/s – visual tracking: C – Conditioning, KF- Kung Fu, A – acrobatics (you can use the following or make your own: R- running, C– conditioning, H– High-Intensity Interval Training, K-karate, CO– Competition, ST-strength training).
- Wake up time.
- How do I feel upon waking up? One thing I highly suggest in to include HRV (heart rate variability) measurement for high-level karatekas.
- Meditation or Mindfulness practice – Visual tracking “OM” – if I do any Mindfulness practice. Usually, I dedicate 10 minutes in the morning.
- Bedtime (pay attention to the time you go to bed and how it affects your energy level).
- What food did I have that day – visual tracking: C – carbs, JF – Junk food (this includes any snack high in processed sugar), P – protein, V – vegetables, F – fat). If you follow any particular diet as part of your weight managing program (kumite competitors you might include more detailed information, e.g., number of meals, number of carbs if on a low carb diet, supplements, etc.).
- Emotional state. Just ask yourself: How do you feel? – Visual tracking: Full heart – feel great; half heart – could have been better; empty heart – no emotional balance.
- Energy level throughout the day (you can also focus on the energy level during your practice) — visual tracking: thunder symbol with a number, 1 lowest – 5 highest.
- Traveling that day – Here I am flying to Kunming, China.
These are so many other things you can track and include in the journal, including information that is closely related to your goals. Do not forget that the goals will change as you transition from one to another training phase (general preparation period or sport-specific period), from one to another stage in your life. The goals should align with your life priorities.
Michal Korzonek, the creator of this Minimalistic journal, suggest that before starting journaling you should ask yourself:
“What is the most effortless and intuitive way I could track my results in order to build solid consistency over time?”
The answer to this question will determine your dashboard (square). This will evolve with time, and the best way to start is to start small. Start tracking only a few things. Slowly increase and change the dashboard as you get more familiar and confident with your journaling skills.
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