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Tracking Your Progress
Why track your Progress?
Whenever you're making a change, especially a new lifestyle, it's a great idea to track your progress. It's a great way to quantify your changes, and see what kind of difference the change is making on your life. Keeping track of the impact of exercise can also help boost your motivation to continue your new habits. It allows you to see how well you’re doing, providing a morale boost to keep going. This feedback can help your change to snowball when you see your progress. In combination with good Goal Setting, you can easily know how far you are to reaching your goals, and help you to set new goals to keep your change going.
How to Track Your Progress
Depending on your goals, you may want to track your progress in different ways. If you just want to look and feel better, you’ll experience your changes differently from a person who wants to drop down to 5% bodyfat. Therefore you can choose different ways to measure your changes based on what is best for your lifestyle. Exercise affects not just how you look, but also how you feel. By keeping track of visual and non-visual indicators, you can get a full picture of the wonderful benefits of working out.
You’ve probably heard of a Food Log, but this one is a little different. Take time everyday to write down your mood and how you’re feeling. Exercise has been shown to boost mood with both short-term and long-term effects. By keeping track of generally how you’re feeling at different times throughout each day, you can gain insight into non-visual effects and benefits you’ve been reaching.
If your goal is to slim down, they're no easier way to track than by the way your clothes fit you. With no tricky measurements or setup needed, just feel and maybe write down where your clothing is loose or tight, and see how that changes throughout your exercise regimen.
Photos are one of our favorite ways to track your progress. There’s a reason all of those ads use “Before and After” photos to sell their products: it’s quick, easy, and very apparent. You look at yourself everyday, which makes it harder to see change over time. By taking Progress Pictures every week or two, you can easily have a side by side comparison to see the difference in how you look over time. If your goals are fat loss or muscle mass gains, photos can do a great job helping you see your fitness journey. Try a couple of different angles and poses in the same place and lighting to see the full effect that you might not be able to glance at in the mirror.
Keeping track of what and how much you’re exercising can help you see your progress in terms of capability. Whether it’s going faster or farther, doing new exercises, performing more repetitions or sets, using heavier weights, tracking what you do can be a great indicator of how far you’ve come.
White photos and general clothing fit are great, if you're looking for something a little more precise, taking body measurements can be a great option for you. Using a piece of string, soft tape measure, or a specially made body tape measure, record the circumference of various body parts, flexed and relaxed, to track muscle mass gains, as well as fat loss.
If your goal is to get rid of unwanted body fat and gain muscle mass, then body composition is a great way to track your progress. By seeing how much of your body is composed of Lean Mass, and Fat Mass, you can see how close you are to reaching your goals, and can make educated decisions on what types of exercises to perform. While there are many ways to gain these measurements, the most viable options are through a Bioelectrical Impedance Monitor, and Skinfold Calipers. Many gyms have a Monitor available for use, which works by sending a small painless electrical pulse through the hands or feet, although it is not incredibly accurate. Skinfold Calipers are fairly cheap but require correct skill and technique to receive accurate results by measuring the amount excess skin and fat in various locations on the body, which translates to a certain body fat percentage.
How NOT to track your changes
The scale can lie, friends. Your weight measures everything that’s in your body at a given point in time. Sure that includes unwanted Fat, as well as your bones that (mostly) remain the same weight, but it also counts Muscle which is changing from your new exercise routine. Don’t forget, muscle weighs more than fat, so your weight might actually increase depending on what you’re doing. Your weight also includes Water, Food, Bodily Waste, and more, which can cause that scale to tell you drastically different numbers at different times of the day and different days of the week, depending on what you’re eating.
If you do want to weigh yourself, do so no more than once a week, on the same day of the week, at the same time of day, first thing in the morning after you use the restroom. This would give you the most accurate reading but again, take that number with a grain of salt, since you can’t really know your body composition through it.