Tracking Your Fitness Progress
If you are hoping to achieve great results with your new fitness program then you will want to keep track of the progress you are making.
Keeping a daily record of your progress will enable you to not only see the progress you are making, but also give you a resource to look back on when your fitness program seems to have hit a slump or plateau.
It should not be a surprise that those that track their progress are more likely to stick with their fitness program and achieve their fitness goals.
The following are 10 tips to help you get started taking action:
You don’t need anything fancy to get started on your fitness program. Sure, there are tools available, but don’t let worrying about what to use put you off starting your new fitness plan right away.
Instead, start with a notebook. This is the perfect place to write down everything you’re eating, and to keep track of your weights and measurements. Keeping a record of your mood and how you feel that day can be valuable.
Monitor Your Heart Rate
Intensity is the key to getting the most out of your workouts. A really easy way to measure whether your workouts are intense enough is to use a heart rate monitor. These look like a watch and will give you different pieces of information that you can use to track your workout intensity and the progress you’re making.
Seeing your resting heart rate get lower and lower over time will show that you’re making more progress towards your fitness goals. Try to measure it first thing in the morning, as it’ll naturally get higher during the day. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, simply count how many times your heart beats in one minute and note down the results.
Check Your Weight
To help get an accurate reading, make sure you weigh yourself at the same time of day (in the morning before you eat or drink anything).
Weigh yourself weekly or monthly instead of daily (because some efforts will take time to show up) and, above all else, don’t let it get you down if there isn’t a noticeable difference every time.
Once you know your weight, you can work out your Body Mass Index (BMI). This is the measurement doctors will often use, but remember it is only a starting point. There are far more accurate measurements, because BMI doesn’t take into account your build (you could be very muscular, but show as overweight on this measurement) but it’s a useful place to start.
To calculate your BMI, simply measure how tall you are, weigh yourself, and then head on over to an online BMI calculator (or use an app). Here’s a quick calculator for you to use: http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm
The Scales Can Lie
Weighing yourself can be a good indicator of progress, but it isn’t the only one. Make sure you use your scales in combination with other tracking methods. Scales alone aren’t completely accurate, for a few reasons:
- Sometimes our body retains water, which can temporarily add to our weight on the scale.
- When we build muscle, we might weigh more, because muscle is heavier than fat.
- A common complaint of individuals starting a fitness program is that they have gained weight instead of losing it. Remember that you will be building muscle and losing weight; however, it may not be apparent when you look in the mirror or on the scale until you have been following your program for a period of time.
- The food we eat on a day-to-day basis can also add to our weight.
Monitor Your Body Fat
To get the best idea of how you are progressing, you need to measure your body fat. Your weight takes fat and muscle into account, but your body fat percentage shows you specifically how much fat you have to lose.
According to the American Council on Exercise, these are the average body fat figures:
To measure your body fat, you’ll need to use a tool like calipers. These are very affordable and easy to use – you simply compare your measurement using the tool to a body fat chart. You can also get an accurate reading from DEXA scanning, but this will cost a lot more. As with your weight, try to do it consistently at the same time each day.
Determine How Much Body Fat You’re Losing
Once you know your scale weight and your body fat percentage, you can work out how much body fat you’re losing. To work out your body fat percentage to see how much fat you still have left to lose.
For example, if you weigh 170 lbs., and you have 33% body fat, simply multiply 170 by 0.33. This shows you actually have 56.1 lbs. of body fat. If this number goes down each week, this shows you’re burning fat, even if the scales don’t show much progress on their own.
Taking measurements of specific areas is also a great way to see if you’re losing fat, and all you need is some measuring tape! Start by measuring your waist to hip ratio, as studies suggest that more fat stored in these areas can increase your risk of heart attack and other health problems.
To get the best measurements, measure your waist, without clothing, at the narrowest point. Then, measure your hip at the widest point (around the top of the buttocks). The tape should be fairly tight resting on your skin. Now, take your waist measurement and divide it by your hip measurement. The number you get is your waist to hip ratio.
Women should keep their ratio below 0.8, and men below 1.0.
Other useful measurements include:
A device like a FitBit makes it very easy to track your weight loss progress. It can track things like how many steps you take each day, how much distance you travel, how many calories burned and more. This will make it a lot easier to ensure you’re getting enough exercise compared to the number of calories you’re taking in. The FitBit community will also help to keep you accountable to your goals.
Look How Far You’ve Come
Take a photo of yourself before you start and periodically.
You can just look in the mirror; however, many of us look at ourselves through rose colored glasses or very critically. You will begin to see even subtle changes in your appearance.
Those subtle changes all add up. You’ll also start to notice the changes in the way your clothes fit. Even a small change can make a big difference to your motivation!