Word of mouth, quite literally

Written by New York Times | Updated: May 31 2009, 06:19am hrs
When it comes to getting the most out of your fitness programme, it may not be the number of reps you crank out or the amount of weight you heave.

The secret to success may be a whole lot simpler just write it down.

Personal trainers have long had their clients track daily calories, log workouts and weigh themselves on a regular basis. But now research suggests that this advice actually leads to more weight loss and greater progress.

Accountability is must

Jotting down your workouts and meals helps keep you on target, experts say, and thanks to new technology, its easier than ever to do.

People who actually write it down, especially with nutrition, do better, said Clayton King, a Sherman Oaks-based personal trainer.

Last year, Kaiser Permanentes Centre for Health Research found that people who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight and consumed fewer calories than those who kept no records, just because they wrote it down.

Likewise, women who monitored their steps with pedometers walked more than those without them, according to a 2005 study by the American College of Sports Medicine.

And recent research out of Brown University suggests that people who weigh themselves daily are more likely to keep off the pounds.

It comes down to accountability and keeping track, either with a friend or fitness professional or just some sort of accountability. Thats a really big thing in starting and staying on a fitness programme, said Trey Blaubach, a Long Beach-based personal trainer.

How much should you eat

Writing down your food intake, trainers agree, is crucial to any weight-loss programme. It may be difficult to determine whether youre burning more calories than you consume if you dont consistently track your meals and snacks, they say.

Janel Bilal, a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Carson, requires her clients to track their calories by writing down what they eat, how much and at what time. The food journals provide more than just a glimpse into nutritional health.

Its going to allow me to see not just what theyre eating but what theyre aware of, she said. It shows me what we need to work on.

The same is true of exercise.

Count your steps

Personal trainers often take copious notes during a clients workout, noting the number of repetitions and sets, the amount of weight lifted and the tempo. People who work out on their own can benefit from this same sort of rigorous record-keeping. The ability to review past workouts lets you measure progress and spot trouble areas.

Keeping track of everything allows us to really be thorough and analytical in identifying whats working and whats not, Blaubach said.

And writing down results isnt just for the beginners. If you plateau, your trainer or yourself can change the workout, King said. A workout log can go as in-depth as you need it to. The more information you have, the better to find out whats wrong and whats working.

In fact, keeping a workout journal may be even more important for hard-core fitness buffs. A detailed account of your workouts can help doctors and trainers diagnose exercise-related injuries and aches, Blaubach said.

Just a click away

These days, high-tech gadgets and online resources make it easier than ever to keep track. Online calorie counters and fitness logs let you record results from any location, and many sites will analyse your nutritional intake and caloric burn. Pedometers, heart-rate monitors and GPS-based distance trackers allow users to chart their workout progress in real time and over the long term.

For the tech-savvy

Gardena resident Lauren Yee, 28, credits her 20-pound weight loss in part to the bodybugg, a device that measures motion, exertion and body temperature to calculate the exact number of calories burnt.

Users keep the bodybugg strapped to their arm throughout the day and upload the information to a computer to chart their weight loss.

Although Yee had tried Weight Watchers and its calorie-based point system, shes had more success with the high-tech bodybugg.

I really like using it, because in Weight Watchers, I didnt have something to keep track of how many calories I was burning, she said. With the bodybugg, its more precise. But you dont need to get too fancy, trainers say. It can be a pad of paper, King said. Just keep track."