Using an athlete’s journal is a powerful way for fencer’s to improve their fencing. Truly, really, the usefulness of this tool is difficult to overestimate. We’ve written previously about the amazing benefits of using a fencing journal, which to summarize are as follows:
- Celebrate your progress
- Take an analytical look at your fencing skills so you can improve
- Track your opponents
- Track your competition performance
- Set goals and make plans to achieve them
- Make note of connections with teammates, coaches, parents, etc.
- Reflect on your fencing journey
All of that sounds really great, but thinking about those blank pages staring up at you can be enough to have many of us just close the book again and keep on going as we have been. To help you out, we’ve created this guide to get you going with your fencing journal, because it’s something that we really do believe will benefit fencers.
How to journal for fencing
Note that these steps are flexible – the most important part of this process is for you to personalize it. If something doesn’t work for you, then don’t hesitate to try it another way. And always realize that the way that you start off doesn’t have to be the way that you do it forever – be flexible enough to make changes in journaling so that you can constantly adapt this tool to work well for you.
1. Choosing the right journal
The first step in the process is getting the right journal for you. Today’s tech can offer you a great deal of opportunities to have access to your journal from anywhere, in addition to the traditional and very useful pen and paper version.
● Electronic tablet
If you’ve got a tablet, you might try Evernote, an app that will allow you to write directly with a stylus onto pages within it (so handwritten, which can be nice since it lets you draw diagrams etc.). You can then organize them, title them, and upload relevant files and even photos. There is a small monthly fee for extra storage, but this is a fantastic tool as you can access it from literally anywhere – the web on a computer, phone or tablet.
Pro: Can go anywhere & it’s easy to get things organized.
Con: If you’re not used to a tablet, it can be a big learning curve at first.
The great thing about a binder is that you can print off pages to fill in for various items – ie competitions, goals, etc. Don’t be trapped in the traditional large format three ring binder, but look for smaller sizes that will transport more neatly. The other great thing is that you can clip in all kinds of information, like programs from competitions or handouts from your club.
Pro: Lots of structure to let you just fill in your journal info.
Con: Can be bulky.
This is perhaps the most common style of journal, and there’s a reason. It’s portable, simple and super customizable. It’s a great way to get started with a fencing journal as it’s just so straightforward! Add stick on tabs if you want to separate the journal into sections, or just start today and go chronologically if that makes more sense. Use colored pens, stickers or staple in souvenirs like ticket stubs or pictures to liven it up.
Pro: Easy to get started, simple and elegant.
Con: Somewhat limited and can offer too little structure.
2. Commit to writing regularly
A journal is only worth what you put into it, which sounds a lot like fencing in general! Commit to writing weekly at the very least, or more often if you’re a serious competitor. Don’t get out of the habit when competition season is over. There is always something worth jotting down. After a while, writing will become a habit and very intuitive so you won’t have to work so hard to push the words out.
3. Organize your entries
This is a BIG deal when it comes to creating a fencing journal. You need to be able to find your writings in the future if they’re going to be of any use. You can also organize it in a strictly chronological order, however that can be a bit overwhelming as important information can be lost in the shuffle. Keep in mind that you don’t have to stick with any one organizational method forever, so if you start with something then you can always make changes!
Here are some basic sections that are good to start with.
Short term, mid range and long term, plus action steps to get you there.
● Training notes
Progress, coach’s instructions, things you’re struggling with. Update this at least once per week.
● Workout notes
Especially if you do additional workouts. Include here length, number of reps, body measurements, etc.
Because fencing equipment is so complex! List things like manufacturers that you liked, fixes that worked for broken equipment, etc.
Quotes, fencers you admire, etc. This is a great spot to keep track of memorable moments that made you happy to be a fencer and to record your experiences of club events or things that just made you feel great.
● Competition notes
This is where you note what happened at a given competition, from opponents to officials to quirks of the venue. You’ll find these tremendously helpful in the future! Be sure to make notes quickly after you compete so that you don’t forget important details.
4. Don’t give up on it
This is the MOST important part! Spotty journaling isn’t so helpful because you don’t know what happened between entries. Make yourself write just a bit to keep in the habit if you’re struggling to keep it going.
5. Reflect back as you move forward
The other super important part is to look back on old journals. Whether they’re from a few months ago or years ago, you’ll find that old journal entries are a treasure trove of incredibly powerful information that will help you to improve your fencing today.