Measuring Your Fitness Progress
The bathroom scale won’t tell the whole story.
If you have recently started a new fitness program, getting back into exercise, or trying to look better for the summer season, your chances of meeting your goals drastically improve if you monitor your workouts, diet, and measurements. Simply weighing yourself on the bathroom scale isn’t going to cut it, and more than likely, make you frustrated.
The reason weighing yourself isn’t a good indicator on your workout progress is because your body weight is only one of many factors of your fitness level, and often misleading. We have become so conditioned to believing your weight is a good indicator of your fitness level, when in fact, it is not. There are many other variables which make more sense to measure. For instance, if you have incorporated strength training into your workout regiment, you’ll end up increasing your bone density, which will drive the scale in the wrong direction. In fact, two people who are the same height and weight can look completely different. Someone with high bone density, more muscle, and less body fat, would look much more fit than the other who weighs the same, but doesn’t work out or eat as well. We aren’t saying that the scale has no purpose, but we are saying, it shouldn’t be the only progress indicator. You could become very frustrated if the scale doesn’t budge, even though you look and feel better.
So, if the scale doesn’t tell us the truth, what does? Unfortunately there isn’t one answer to this question. Progress needs to be measured on a few different fronts. Below are a few things you should be measuring to get a good idea on how you are progressing. Obviously your fitness goals and objectives are important factors and need to be considered. For example, if you are looking to gain muscle, your caloric intake, protein, and amount of weight you are pushing would be higher than if you were looking to lose weight and increase endurance. Speaking with a trainer and nutritionist would be a good way to get started, get realistic goals, and understand your progress measurements.
Tracking Your Progress:
- Don’t Track Progress on a Daily Basis: We want to measure long term results and we don’t need to measure every day. We recommend starting with once a week. Fridays are typically a good day since the weekend for many might include over indulging on food, missing workouts, and a bit of partying.
- Take Pictures: Taking pictures provide a great way to see results that you typically don’t see looking in the mirror each day. Once a week, take a front and side profile picture. Try to stand the same distance and with the same posture for each photo. Take your photos in your underwear. Wearing clothes won’t provide accurate readings for your progress.
- Take Measurements: You’ll need to go out and get a cheap measuring tape, one that tailors use to take measurements. Each week, measure the following locations on your body, making certain they are in the same place each week. Here is a link to the type of measuring tape you will need. https://www.amazon.com/Dritz-Tape-Measure-Sewing-Product/dp/B003YNGLEO. In addition, here is a good photo to use to indicate where measurements should be taken: https://gymjp.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/btmeasure1.jpg. You can create a chart similar to this one to keep track of your measurements – https://wordtemplatesbundle.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Fitness-tracker.jpg.
- Neck – Measure half way up from your body to your head.
- Shoulders – Place both arms down at your side and measure at the widest point from shoulder to shoulder
- Chest – Measure all the way around your body by lifting your arms, placing the tape within your armpits, and adjust to be just above the nipples. Lower your arms to take the measurement.
- Bicep – Measure the same arm each week at the largest part around the bicep.
- Waist – Use your bellybutton as a good indicator and to stay consistent.
- Hips – Make certain you measure at the widest point.
- Thigh – Find and measure the largest part of your thigh (on the same leg). Look for a body mark such as a freckle to use as a placement indicator.
- Measure Your Body Fat Percentage: Measuring your body fat can be the trickiest and least consistent measurements taken from home. If you are currently severely overweight, you may want to hold off on measuring your body fat and start with the measurements and pictures. However, for about $10 you can purchase a body fat caliper. Here is a cheap one for sale on Amazon. They typically are not the most reliable, but as you get better at using them, they can be beneficial. Another option is to have your physician measure your body fat composition every six to nine months.
- Measure Your Food Intake and Diet: Measuring your caloric intake is important. Rounding off and guessing leads to frustration and excuses. Of all the measurements and progress indicators, measuring your diet, is one of the most important. There are a few things you need to measure. The first is the number of calories you have each day. You want to set a caloric goal, with a fixed number of calories each day. This number will vary depending on your goals. Speaking with a nutritionist or researching online is a good place to start to figure out how many calories you should be eating each day. Another option is to use a calorie calculator such as the one on this website –https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-many-calories-per-day or http://app.livestrong.com/myplate/. When you find that sweet spot, it is essential every calorie is counted. I’m talking about even jotting down those 3 jelly beans you shoveled in your mouth before bed! The reason it is so important to measure your calories is because to lose weight you’ll need to burn more than you take in. As you advance in your measuring capabilities you’ll want to breakdown the percentages of protein, carbohydrates, and fats you eat. Again, depending on your goals, the percentages of each will vary. Do your homework, there are plenty of online resources to help guide you with diet breakdowns.
- Measure Your Workouts: The reason you measure your workouts is to keep track of your progress, but also to give yourself short term goals of increasing your weight, reps, and sets. Have a plan, goals, and an idea on what you want to accomplish. These small steps help you reach your goals. Use a workout tracking template such as – https://cdn.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/Images/workout-log.gif to help manage your workout tracking. SPEAK WITH A BALANCE TRAINER TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR WORKOUTS AND WORKOUT GOALS!. An easy way to measure your workouts is to create a schedule with similar workouts each day for 8-12 weeks. Once your workout cycle is complete, you can adjust or change it for the next 8-12 weeks. If Monday is Chest and Back day, write down the exercises, amount of weight, reps, number of sets, and rest in between sets. You’ll perform the same workout for the next 8-12 weeks on Monday, allowing you to see the progress you make during that time frame. Do the same for your other workout days. If you change your Chest and Back workout each week, monitoring progress will be much more difficult.
Overall, the main objective is to be as detailed as possible, don’t cheat, and set realistic goals. The progress measurements you take are not just to show results, but to also push you to make the gains you want. There was a lot of information covered in this article, and the amount of time and effort you put forth can be drastically reduced if you sign up for a few sessions with a personal trainer. They can educate you on your workouts, help with measuring your progress, and provide a great form of motivation. Another great tip is to workout with a buddy. You can help each other take the measurements, push through the workouts, and hold you accountable for showing up each day. Best of luck!