The 1 essential logging truth

September 23, 2015 Training

98% of my logs and journals are now useless. Why? Because,

  • LOGS ARE CONSUMABLES THAT EXPIRE

Your logs and journals are like meat. They can be used only when they are fresh.

acrobolix_spoiled_log

When I was 18 I used to think keeping training and eating records would allow me to recreate my results any time later in life. Hey! I got results and had records of it, I knew what worked for my own body. Finally! It’s good to have the record! It’s like a recipe! Like baking a cake! Right? Wrong. Cake baking variables don’t really change and all the variables are known. Your body really does change and only a few of the variables are things you’re aware of. Your metabolism is a mystery and it changes. So does your life. And circumstances. And beliefs. And habits. And goals. Your hormones change big time. And your body’s ability to react to hormones changes big time. Ka-Boom.

fat_kid_fishing_domino_pizza

I liked fishing and eating Domino’s pizza as a kid. I wonder if logging my pizza eating would reveal anything useful to me today?

The whole notion of diligent long-term logging year in year out is that you will start sucking one day and won’t know why, and that somehow the data you collected from years ago will rescue you. That’s assuming you even log the right things in the first place. But it doesn’t even matter. The reality is you know what you need to do, so fucking do it. And someone might say: “Yes, but Juji, what if I kept some instructions for how to execute a certain skill? Technique follows certain unchanging principles!” That sort of technical information is similar to instructions on how to update your computer BIOS or make an origami bird. Indeed, it seems to stand the test of time… Or does it?

IBM5150

I dunno dude. Try looking for a BIOS update maybe…

You got rid of your old computer 10 years ago so why the fuck do you need instructions on how to update its BIOS now? Make an origami bird? That was like a 2 week phase you went through 2 years ago. Sure, the instructions for making the bird still work, but seriously. Face. Fucking. Reality. Those logged instructions are useless because you won’t use them, you don’t care.

origami_bird

So relieved I still have these instructions! They’ve really saved me!

I made an example out of the origami bird but the same is true for skills: the usefuleness of those unchanging technical principles expire with everything else you’ve ever written down. Why? Because 5 years ago I wrote down how to do a hyperswipe_msc_gainer tricking combo when I was 200 lbs. I filmed it. It was cool. I got what I needed out of that tricking combo. Now I’m 230 lbs and have new goals. The hyperswipe_msc_gainer served its purpose like the instructions for making that origami bird. I don’t do birds or that combo anymore. These logged instructions are now useless to me. Oh sure they’re still correct, but correct doesn’t mean useful. And for whatever possible reasons I may need to ressurect that combo or make that origami bird again or whatever-the-fuck, I have faith that the new experiences and revelations I’ve accrued since that time will crossover and provide me all the help I need to make that combo work again. I have faith in myself and my work and my brain’s capability to retain the most important information.

So, I wrote in the past that elites across all fields may keep training journals, and made an argument in favor of them over logs. I whole heartidly believe that journals are superior to logs. But training journals expire too! You may think your old thoughts from 4 years back may be the spring board you need today to jump start further progress but the reality is that 98% of it is as worthless as all the other crap you logged.

Peeking into old journals is good for consolation, memory lane, nostalgia. More or less like a comforting stuffed animal toy. My wife is much more comforting than a stuffed animal toy, and so she is much more comforting than my old thoughts when I was an inexperienced 22-23-24-something year old. If she was gone tomorrow and I needed help to overcome the grief, I would definitely not be looking into my old journals when I was the aforementioned inexperienced 22-23-24-something year old. I’d be writing NEW things, and through the process would understand that the very process of writing itself is what provides me the most value, not what is written.

[All my journals, it was the act of writing that mattered, not what was written.]

So if your training/eating/whatever logs and journals are older than 1 year they’re useless now. If you’re an elite athlete then anything older than 2 months is useless. No, really. Think about it: how many elite athletes out there do you think there are who regularly and diligently study their training logs from years and years and years ago looking at reps, sets, weights, calories? Give me a fucking break. They’re elite for god’s sake! They’re trying to solve recent, much bigger problems that stand in their way of very big success. Harking back to training logs of their youth will tell them nothing because that was small time. Those were small problems.

track_athletes_keep_logs

To prepare for this race, they looked at training logs from 6 years ago… Yep. Sure. Uh. huh.

Why? Why am I saying this? Because I’m doing you the favor of helping you save your GOD DAMN TIME. You’re probably logging all sorts of shit because someone told you that you should. Hell, I have preached several times in the past the dogma of logging virtues. Look, I’m in this with you, I’m guilty too! So let me speak of all this for myself as well. Do we even think what we’re going to actually use the data for when we write it down? The reps, sets, weight, calories, thoughts, feelings, whatever, anything, ever? Listen, the unchanging important things: the important things we learn and discern, you and I both know them! Just like our login passwords, we memorize them. If we rationalize that we need all the data to do the right thing down the road we’re being fools. We know what the right things are and we will remember them. We know what the fuck we need to do to get back on top. So let’s not be pussy log misers digging around in ancient data for details and events that can’t possibly be relevant to us anymore!

So look, logging and journaling is NOT an exercise in writing down what we did to dig into it years later. Instead, logging and journaling must be an exercise in organizing our thoughts and feelings and data about a problem that we want to solve right now! Much like a math problem we don’t know the answer to yet but want or need,

math_problem

This. I can’t keep it all in my head at once. Gotta post it up.

Hard-as-balls math equations get left up on chalk boards for weeks. They are a log of the most recent caliber: these seemingly impossible equations do not reference basic algebra, those are known. The most recent work of importance is there to be seen and considered as one passes by them everyday in hopes that soon one will take that 100th look at it again and have a grand epiphany. This “equation being left up on a chalk board” thing is all about the next step. Much like the log boards on walls across gyms in this world:

crossfit_whiteboard

This is what you’ll do next. Fill in the blanks.

The 1 essential logging rule demands us to identify and take the next step toward a goal. And when that goal is achieved, the lessons learned, the next step is taken. The things we need to work out of our heads, let’s get the paper and the pen and map it out, like solving the math problem, we’re trying to make sense of the seemingly dissonant shit in our brains.  Logging and journaling is not an exercise in writing down what we did for later, it is an exercise in figuring out and organizing the thoughts and feelings and details about what we are doing now: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So we can use the magic of external RAM (paper or a .txt document) to turn that dissonant shit into sensible order and actions and steps that will improve us right now! So let’s get over data accumulation logging habits and get exactly what we need out of logging. Let’s learn a new way to log. We need some rules. See the other post I just published, The 2 critical logging rules.

13 comments

  1. Jake Hinga says:

    Juji, do you ever look back into your logs for other people? Like if you have someone you are coaching or helping out with and they have a similar problem that you ran into years ago and also struggled with. Maybe to look back at what worked for you then if you’d forgotten or to reference how to help someone back then?

    • Jujimufu says:

      I don’t forget problems I had if I’m reminded by someone else’s similar problem. If they are having a problem I’ve not encountered I wouldn’t know where to look with my log data for any sort of help. Also, most of the things that have been most troublesome to me, I end up writing about. The things I wrote most passionately about are things I have had the biggest problems with. I hope this answers your question. 🙂

  2. Matt says:

    Juji, holy shit this article. I love it! Thank you for the inspiring thoughts and ideas! This reminds me a lot of the article you wrote about being friends with Antoine Vaillant. How he (apparently) has a shit memory and is constantly living in the moment and constantly pushing for what’s next. That article explained him/the inspiration for in the moment living, this explains a methodology. It’s badass man, I love it. Thank you.

    • Jujimufu says:

      That’s an interesting connection you made there. Didn’t think of it that way. Actually all the drafts I had made about the article about Antoine had a part about the way he plans. I call his planning method “pink paper planning” because when he was entering his first bodybuilding contest, he scribbled out his contest prep diet messily on a pink sheet of paper with a sharpie pen. Then he just followed it. Won. And then kept winning. While other people are out there sitting there hatching out these long winded master plans, he would just write all of his shit down on a scrap sheet, the essentials, that he was going to do for that moment in time, and then he just did it haha.

  3. Hunter Walters says:

    I’m glad I read this article, because earlier I found myself pouring over all of my old training and nutrition logs from over the years, trying to find the “secret formula” I had back in the day. This article really spoke to me and made me realize what the real value of logging is; Progress! I did well in the past because I was focused on what I had to do in order to improve the task at hand. You’re absolutely right. Logging has always been the means by which I’ve sorted out the garbled mess in my head. Thanks, Juji! No more digging around in old logs staring at useless data for me. It’s time for goals, objectives, and progress!

    P.S. I’ve followed your work since 2005. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you become increasingly successful and gain notoriety for doing what you love. Your philosophies and advice have made a crucial impact on my own training over the years, as I find myself battling through the midst of the “inexperienced 22-23-24-something year old” stage you referred to. I’m truly grateful, man.

    • Jujimufu says:

      Thanks Hunter, it means a lot to me. I value feedback on my writings more than any of my videos. Writings are more personal for me, and my readers are more valued than my viewers for me. Anyone can watch a 12 second Instagram clip their friend tagged them in to view. Not just anyone is going to sit and read something for 8-15 minutes though… So I appreciate it!

      Also, the mid 20s suck man. Hardest time of life. Everyone I’ve spoken with agrees. Late 20s life is sooooo, so, so much better man. My head and heart are so much clearer now. I would say the biggest difference is less fear. In mid twenties there is more fear. Fear of money’lessness. Fear and confusion regarding status. Fear of direction. Fear of adults. Late twenties there is almost none of that. It’s the sweet spot where you’re still young enough to have ambition and health to do shit with zeal like a 19 year old, but you’re old enough and well established enough where adults treat you like an adult and you learn to treat adults like equals instead of your masters. In terms of logging, I used to log things out of fear mostly. Fear of forgetting or fear of “losing” something… That’s another fear I got over in my late twenties. You got a lot to look forward to, life gets better man. 🙂

      • Hunter Walters says:

        You really hit the nail on the head with the early to mid 20’s thing man. I’m glad to hear from someone that’s been there that it does eventually get better than this. Just the idea of not being like “Oh shit, what if I’m going to college for the wrong thing and I can’t get a good job?” or some other random fearful thought like that, is awesome. Just gotta keep on pushing through and learning. Thanks a lot for the encouraging words and taking the time to reply man!

  4. LeesDragon says:

    Man Jon, talk about deep and mature material. This article definitely has more of an air of wisdom and experience about it than your previous articles many moons ago. Through the writing style and the content I can literally “see” as well as feel your journey over the years and how you’ve progressed mentally.
    It rocks man!!! It’s a totally different experience from reading 20-something year old Juji articles. I’m so glad to have been able to accompany you on your journey from the very start up until now. It’s magical seeing you grow, and growing with you.

    Strong content in this article. Almost too strong tbh. It’s almost like you’re telling us to break free from the chains of what we’ve grown accustomed to, to make room for further progress and gains we didn’t even consider.
    I’m definitely going to have to marinade on this article a few more times over this month.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Jujimufu says:

      Thank you Lees! As I’ve gotten older I may write with more vindication because I’m writing against things that have harmed me, stolen my time, wronged me, confused me, or outright fucked me up. Logging has stolen so much of my time I’ll never get back, and yet almost nobody realizes it themselves that they’re losing their time to it too. Instead, you got these 40 somethin’ year old grizzled powerlifters who are acting all fucking macho because they have spiral ruled notebooks stacked to the ceiling in some odd part of their house with logs from their 25 years of training. Like it’s a mark of diligence and duty. And young 20 year old Juji saw this and thought it was “the right thing” to do, that it was “manly” and “hardcore” and “disciplined” … Now I just see it all as fucking stupid. I wasted hundreds of hours of my life writing shit down I don’t give a fuck about that would never help me or interest anyone.

  5. Banji DeMayji says:

    great article. so true

  6. Benjamin says:

    I find just logging the sets, reps, and maybe a couple words about the intensity of the set to be a benefit.

    I completely agree that the logs aren’t going to be useful at any other time in your life; At least as far as modifying your current training goes. But one benefit that I didn’t see you touch on in this article (if you did, I apologize; Very tired today) is that it can be really encouraging to look back and see how far you’ve come.

    Logging this info is shorter than my rest time between sets and for someone with an overactive mind like myself, having something easy to do during a rest period is a good tool to ensure that I’m resting long enough.

    In summation, logging can be useful in moderation. It can get out of hand very easily, though.

    • Jujimufu says:

      I used to say the same thing myself, that logging gave you motivation looking forward when you see how far you’ve come. I find this can be true for journals, wish lists, goals lists, things of that sort that might be categorized as “logging” but feel that deriving motivation from reps/sets/etc that were once logged is kind of a peevish.

      Videos / photos / and real proof of victory are more valuable. Imagine Mr. Olympia “writing down” in his log book that he got 2nd place last year but got 1st place this year. But there was no evidence, proof, pictures, videos of what happened. Only that he wrote down “I got 2nd last year, and 1st this year.” And that he derives motivation and encouragement from that logged data… Seems a little weird doesn’t it?

  7. Jon says:

    So far my logs have been beneficial in the fact that I can look back at them, and cry at how much I was squatting BEFORE I started cutting 🙁

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