How Taking Notes Can Improve Your Workouts

Whether you’re studying for your molecular chemistry exam or attending an important meeting at work, excellent note-taking skills can come in handy. Knowing how to quickly put pen to paper can help you organize ideas, retain information and problem-solve on the fly. Naturally, these skills will translate to other areas of your life the more you practice them. In fact, you can even use note-taking to improve your workouts.

From understanding your own body to taking a more systematic approach, taking notes can teach you many things. Here are a few lessons that often translate from your notebook to the gym.

1. Preparation Is Key

When it comes to taking quality notes, preparation is key. Yes, you’ll likely be learning new concepts and writing down new information each time. However, each point builds on the one before it. Therefore, you must build familiarity with the material by revisiting it often.

At the gym, your workouts build upon one another in much the same way. It takes years of hard work and consistent effort to build a strong, muscular body. If you let a week go by without working out, you won’t build on previous workouts. Consequently, you may find yourself back at square one.

2. Don’t Overdo It

Although some people feel they should write down every word a teacher or employer says, it’s best to keep notes short and concise. Doing so will teach you how to prioritize information and prevent you from burning out.

Likewise, it’s important to avoid overdoing it at the gym. Sure, you may be able to pump out a personal best, throw in some cardio and spend a few hours working out on Monday. However, you’ll likely pay for it in torn muscle fibers, rhabdomyolysis and other serious injuries.  Pace yourself and slowly increase your workload to protect your body and accomplish your goals.

3. Go for Visuals

When you were still in school, you may have gotten in trouble for doodling in class. Yet, new research suggests that visuals may improve retention time. By adding a picture to something you’re reading, you can boost your retention from 10% to 65%, even after three days. This picture superiority effect proves that your brain processes words and visuals differently. Thus, adding a few doodles to your notes may actually be helpful.

In the same way, you might rely on diagrams, workout videos, calendars and other visuals to improve your workouts. Study photos of muscles, ligaments and tendons to learn more about your own body and how it might grow or break under pressure. Watch informational videos with lots of visuals. Buy stickers and a calendar to track when you trained your legs, arms, chest, back and shoulders. Odds are you’ll remember more information and train smarter as a result.

4. Speed Is Essential

Speed is an essential part of effective note-taking. Whether the speaker talks quickly or simply covers a lot of material in a short amount of time, you need to know how to jot down information in a flash. As you practice increasing your speed, you’ll learn to quickly decipher information and translate it into your own words so you can understand it later on.

Of course, speed is also a key element of many workouts. For runners, pushing the pace can slow muscle fiber loss after age 25, increase fat burn, build stronger bones and tendons and improve balance. For those in contact sports like football, speedier players also have an obvious advantage and will be considerable assets to their team.

5. Organization Matters

Taking notes also teaches you the importance of organization. As you compile information in your notebook, you learn to organize both your thoughts and the physical work product. Do you consistently write questions in the margins? How do you highlight the most important points?

Of course, the key to organizing them — and keeping them that way — is to use a consistent format. Doing so will make learning more linear and methodical.

You can use this same approach to organize your workouts. Create a training plan and stick to that routine for a few weeks. Consider tried and true methods for achieving success. What has worked for others in the past and is their approach worth a try? Design a routine and test it out on your body. Having an organized schedule will help you stick to your plans and increase your chance of success.

6. Find Your Style

There are a handful of different note-taking methods you might use to jot down information in class or on the job. For instance, the Cornell method consists of a larger note-taking area on the right, a small cue column on the left and space for summaries at the bottom. Meanwhile, the outlining method involves indenting to organize points and their relationship to one another. While any note-taking style may prove useful, it’s best to find one that makes the most sense to you and continuously use it.

Regarding workouts, you must also find your favorite kind of exercise and dedicate yourself to it. If you enjoy pilates or yoga, attend these classes a few times each week to see results. If weightlifting is more up your alley, make that your go-to workout and show up to the gym regularly. Regardless of which style you choose, you must use it consistently before noticing changes in your mind and body.

Commit and Engage

From an early age, taking notes teaches you how to commit to something and fully engage yourself with it. Jotting down information while someone is speaking trains your brain to focus on the task at hand, problem solve on the fly and soldier on.

Of course, these necessary skills translate well into the world of health and fitness. By committing to a routine and sticking to it, you can cultivate lasting change in your mind and body and build a healthier, stronger you. Thanks, high school biology!