Read part 1 of The Physician’s Guide to Fitness here and read part 2 here.


Step 4: Using Journaling to Reach Your Fitness Goals

Let us concretely ritualize the mindfulness practice into a tangible form.  We will turn back the clock again for another timeless tradition. I encourage you to start journaling either as a morning or an evening ritual just like meditation.


When I say journaling I mean actually writing down on a notebook with a pen. Journaling adds a kinetic commitment of organizing our thoughts, emotions, and goals into physical existence. By doing so it is an opportunity to create your own mental sanctuary to remember your present moment, what you’re happy about, what you’re sad about, and what kind of future you want to build.


Journaling is a very respected ritual among the most successful leaders throughout history. Lets do a case study with Marie Curie. Madam Curie is known for her discovery of radium, polonium, nuclear radiation, and beta rays that earned her reputation as the Mother of Modern Physics.


In 1906 her husband Pierre Curie tragically passed away by a street accident, three years after the couple won the Nobel Prize for physics. During the following year the widowed Curie wrote a mourning journal to express her deepest anguish over the death of her love.


When you compare her Curie’s entries to her later ones, there is a difference in tone and resurgence of hopefulness in continuing the research she had been conducting with her husband. Overcoming her grief she won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911.


Curie was quite the celebrity in her time not unlike a modern day rock star. Unfortunately her public image was mixed with supreme level of sexism that caused her great stress and professional challenges. To instill some measure of control of her genius mind constantly trying to over-analyze, the scientific community casting doubt her way with false controversies, loss of her husband, and raising her children, she kept several detailed journals to organize her personal life in addition to her research.


Her stressors were multi-layered and deeply tormenting much like how any high functioning person with a demanding career may experience. The early 20th century was a far less forgiving period in terms of stress management without many outlets for fun or available counseling resources especially for women. Madam Curie utilized a very simple practice to keep her life in check and push forward for her legendary accomplishments.


This is just one among the many examples of famous journals such as Meditations written by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Try to be in their skin back in time before they were immortalized.


They were just people like you and I going about their lives trying to make sense of the world by either securing some semblance of individual peace or connect with the hearts of their compatriots. They experienced the exact same kinds emotions that challenge us today and wrote it down to keep their hearts and minds together. For our health and fitness we will do the same.


I have tried different forms of journaling over the years and the most consistent format I have stuck with is the one introduced by best selling author and entrepreneur Tucker Max. There are some additional elements I have added afterwards.


Tips I Follow For Effective Journaling:


  • Every morning I write 5 entries. 1) How I’m feeling 2) Three things I’m grateful for 3) What I wish to accomplish that day


  • The very front of the journal has my long-term goals that I read out loud afterwards. 1) The body measurements I wish to reach 2) The amount of money I wish to save 3) Career goals 4) Personal relationships 5) Spanish


  • The goals have specific deadlines and quantities because the practice is meant to visualize my future in detail. This is inspired from Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.


  • This is a good outlet to start a sleep journal if you’re finding Step 1 difficult.  You can log the hours and the part of sleep that was difficult whether it was falling or staying asleep.


  • The entire practice takes only few minutes of my day which is why it has been so easy to commit.


  • It is up to you to decide what format to use. You can choose do this in the evening and write five things you are grateful for or ten things that are distressing you. You can even take a long free-form writing. The key is to keep it very simple enough for you to commit everyday.



This is the subjective part of your fitness SOAP note. Much like taking an HPI, it gives an opportunity to take a soft inventory of the day and centering your scattered attention back to your core.


In addition this exercise will start building your habit for documenting your metrics on nutrition intake, weight lifted on your reps, and body measurements during your transformations. In essence you are starting a patient chart on yourself.


When you take time to think of all the things you are grateful for and write it down, it will rewire your brain to start seeing advantages in every situation at all times. Our narratives whether it is spoken or written can shape the very fabric of our own reality. With this power you can start envisioning your future.


Write down the body shape you want, the kind of fitness knowledge you want to learn, the confidence you want to gain, the fun you can have from being fit, and the overall life you have always dreamed of.


Why Is Journaling So Important to Your Fitness Goals?

The reason I am taking such a long road to prepare your mind for your fitness is because it is the only force that will make or break your goals. Odds are you have all tried all sorts of gimmicky diet and training with poor outcomes.


Had I started out talking about calories and training frequencies like everyone else you would have either ignored it or given up in 2 weeks. With so much pressure with our careers and past fitness failures it’s natural to have doubt and disbelief.


The brutal reality is you will always feel that way. However you have to remember you possess the top 20% brainpower and the top 10% grit of the planet. Mastering our minds and habits will lead to tighter waists and broader shoulders and then some.


Arnold Schwarzenegger started off as a humble bodybuilder in Austria. He visualized himself winning on stage, becoming a movie mega star, succeeding in real estate, and running for governor in precise detail.


The young Kobe Bryant declared that he would win multiple championships and become one of the best NBA players of all time. He obsessively mapped out every possible move on the court day and night by picturing those moments in his mind.


Now it’s your turn. Commit yourself to owning your destiny. Next time anyone asks what you want, you can stop saying “I don’t know” and say “I know exactly what I want and what I’m going to do.”


Resource: Mate by Tucker Max and Geoffrey Miller, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill


Donghyun John Kim

Donghyun John Kim

DO, Founder of Doctors of Steel

John Kim is a Family Medicine Resident and founder of Doctors of Steel. John is passionate about helping medical students and physicians achieve fitness and work-life balance. Learn more at