If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’ve been working with a trainer. We talk about my goals, he sets me up with new exercises, and I use a lot of colorful language working my way through it. There are limits to what I’m willing to do, however. One of them is using pen and paper to mark a sheet that stays at the gym so my trainer — let’s call him MATT THE MANIAC — can check my progress. While I understand he needs to see my progress, I think it’s just as important (if not more so) for me to see it when I want to see it, not just when I’m at the gym working out. Sometimes I need the motivation when it’s 7pm at night and I’m at home on the couch thinking, my god this is comfortable I think I’ll just take the night off and eat this entire bag of chips and maybe a beer yes definitely a beer screw the gym and pass the nachos. It motivates me more to be able to see at any particular moment of weakness that I’m making small gains, even if it isn’t showing on my body yet. So I did what I do best; I bastardized a Google form that allows me to record my reps, ratings and notes and drop them into a lovely spreadsheet of awesomeness. A few days ago I finished tweaking it and shared a shot of it and got a surprising amount of feedback from friends who were really intrigued with what I had done.
Really? This is new for some people? Huh. Okay.
So I thought I’d give you a peek behind the curtain. I do two basic types of workouts — a strength training routine and a cardio program, and I alternate between them every day. I also have some additional torturous add-ins that I do when I’m feeling particularly feisty. There are times I also want to journal how the workout as a whole went, so that’s part of it too. I want credit for all these pieces, so I created a form with sections and, depending on which workout you choose, it sends you to that particular section.
Once in that section, you can choose the equipment, document the relevant information (duration, weights, reps, etc.) as you go through the routine. Once you’re finished with that section, it asks you if you want to do something else — and then gives you all the same options as you got at the beginning, with the one additional option of noting how the entire routine went (I was tired, I was pissed, holy shit my body hurts and I REALLY HATE YOU RIGHT NOW MATT. Just as an example.). If you decide you’re done, you choose finish and submit your data.
This isn’t terribly difficult.
Almost as beautiful is the backend (Heyoooo!) where all the data lurks, just begging you to look at it obsessively (my precioussssssssssssssss…). Because there is a lot of data there, I tend to go and make things easier to grok by using color. Also, I love data and color. Shut up, I do what I want. Anyhow. Fair warning: when you submit data, it will wipe out any formatting you’ve done in those data cells. Not really a problem, because I have color at the top and the bottom for easier eyeballing, but don’t try to solve it, because you won’t get anywhere. Trust someone who has already wasted that time for you. Keep in mind that if you decide to go back and tweak your form and add a couple of form fields, those corresponding data columns will show up to the right of your last existing columns — which is a bit confusing if you aren’t expecting it — but no worries. Simply drag the column(s) to their correct location in your existing data. Google remembers the connections, even if you don’t get it in exactly the right spot. Which is a nice thing for those of us who misplace things. I still recommend testing it once you’re happy with it, just so you know everything is where you think it’s supposed to be.
Next step is sharing it with Matt the Maniac who, since I was a lunatic and gave him access, can now view it whenever he wants, like if he’s sitting on the couch watching the game and he sees a particularly painful collision on the field and he thinks my god that looks like that hurt I think I’ll just add a couple new exercise suggestions for Robin while I sit here and eat this entire bag of chips and maybe a beer yes definitely a beer and pass the nachos. More realistically, he can make notes on things he sees, or in those places where he sees I’ve stepped up my game, as well as where I may be slacking. (Praise is definitely, DEFINITELY motivational, Matt. So are nachos.) I’ve even added functions and macros on the data within the spreadsheet so that I can calculate things like cumulative distance climbed on the Jacob’s Ladder, or how long I’ve run on the elliptical. What can I say? I told you, I like data. Whatever it takes to stay motivated is fair game in my book.
And that, in a nutshell, is what I’ve been doing, hacking Google forms to be my workout bitch. (Yeah, I’ve pretty much given up making this post even semi-safe for dear readers. Sorry for ending your delicate innocence. Go voice your concerns to my mother. She shares them.) The other super nice thing here is that Google has recently released a brand new version of forms, and it is seriously kickass slick and sexy. The UI (user interface, for the two people who will read this because they follow me on Instagram for my adventures with LoveJunkie and have no idea what it is I actually do) is so much nicer and yes I realize that it’s weird that I notice things like this but let me tell you, it really makes a huge difference when you use it.
The old version overwhelmingly relied on clicking on dropdowns which isn’t horrible if you’re filling out a form on your laptop but, if you’re on mobile, it’s an entirely different experience. On mobile, you scroll through choices, click on your selection, and then you *had* to click Done in order for your selection to be saved — FOR EACH PIECE OF DATA I HAD TO ENTER. That’s 4 things I had to do for a single set. A. Single. Set. Ugh. The new interface allows me to touch, slide, release — and move on. It’s a beautiful thing and eliminates so much agony I can’t even tell you ZOMG. Entering measures of duration required three separate drop downs; worse, if I did 50 minutes of cardio, I had to go all the way through 0 through 50 to get there; I couldn’t just scroll back 10 clicks to get to it. In the new version of forms, however, now I just type in the numbers and move on to the next point of business. ZOMG.
They even put thought into what the new shortcuts look like on my phone. Excuse me for a moment while I wipe away these tears of joy.
So Robin, you say, this is great and all, but it’s kind of hard to grasp all of this by blogpost. Man cannot live by descriptions and screenshots alone. And I just want you to know that I hear you, friends. Which is why I’m embedding a copy for you to walk through, in case you have nothing better to do tonight. Feel free to add data and kick the tires, but please remember this is a copy of something I made for my own personal use, so there’s definitely some colorful NSFW language for, you know, motivation. Access at your own risk. I find my working out goes more quickly if I’m using something with a little sass, and so the voice of my “workout app” is pretty much authentic Robin2go. You know, the tone and voice that my institution of higher learning might raise an academic highbrow to if it was used in something that has their branding on it.
There you have it! My own compulsions laid bare for the world to see. Honestly, I’ve used Google forms for a ton of lifehacks. You might just find you’ll want to do one too. And to that I say, Boy howdy, yeah!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do a cardio workout and leave some colorful notes to amuse my trainer.
UPDATE: A number of you weirdos have inquired about obtaining a copy for your own use. I’m totally happy to accommodate, because lifehacking is awesome and people should do tons more of it. Here’s the collaboration link to the actual form that I’ve made open to collaborators. It will require you to opt into “try the new Google forms” — but I’ve already told you why you totally should, so DUH — and then you can click the icon of vertical dots in the upper right corner and select “Make a copy” and hack away. The only thing I ask is if you don’t change the original form since it’s up there for this post, and I still want people to be able to walk through it. But have fun and please let me know how it goes. I’d love to see what you guys do with it!