The Best Ways To Accurately Track Your Fitness Progress
Do you ever wonder why 2 people who appear to be doing the same thing have drastically different results?
They both workout regularly and eat well yet one guy is lean and muscular and the other is, well,… just average.
What is it that sets them apart?
Honestly, more often than not it comes down to this…you can’t know what you don’t track.
This means you can’t know if you’re;
Losing weight too quickly
Gaining weight too quickly
And much more
A lot of your ultimate success in your quest to change your body will come down to your ability to train and eat consistently with one goal in mind at a time.
More than this it comes down to your ability to understand your situation and make tweaks based on the feedback your body is giving you.
This might mean increasing or decreasing your calories, tweaking your gym routine or allowing yourself more time to recover.
Whatever it is you’re not going to know unless you track your progress.
How To Track Your Progress
For the best results you want to build a complete snapshot of how you’re progressing using multiple different data sets.
This will allow you to not only understand what’s happen but also to identify the possible causes.
If when weighing yourself, you notice you’re losing weight too quickly you can then review your food diary and see why this is happening. Chances are you’re eating too little and you can easily fix this.
If in the gym you notice your performance is suffering one day, then you can quickly review your previous workouts in your training diary to see if it’s a trend or a one-off occurrence. Then based on the data you can decide what to do next, if anything.
For this reason, I recommend you track 5 different stats at varying intervals for the best results.
Weight Yourself Daily & Take A Weekly Average
There’s a growing trend of fitness gurus saying that you don’t need to weigh yourself or that you shouldn’t weight yourself, because “you’re not your scale weight”.
Firstly, you are your scale weight.
There’s no way you could not be, that weight on the scales is what makes your physical body, like it or not that weight is you in a literal sense.
Get over it, move past it and work to change it.
However, this doesn’t mean the number you see on the scale is the sum of who you are as a person.
This being said, for a lot of people the reality is that your weight is more closely linked to how you feel than you’d care to admit and stepping on a scale (although a strong visual reminder) is not going to change that.
Working hard towards your goal will change it.
The key is to treat the scale as a tool, a piece of equipment in the same way you do weights in the gym or your running shoes.
Use it to inform your fitness journey not your character.
With this in mind, this is how you want to track your weight for the best results.
Weight yourself every single day.
Do it first thing in the morning in the same conditions;
Wear the same clothes each time
Don’t eat or drink anything until after
If you consistently make a bowel movement upon waking up then weigh yourself after otherwise do it before
Record your weight daily and take a weekly average to see how you’re progressing.
Realise that weight change is not linear, and your weight can change (often by quite a lot) from day to day. This is why you take a weekly average to get a more accurate picture of your weight.
Record Your Body Measurements & Track Changes
Body measurements allow you to see things the scale doesn’t show.
When losing fat you want your waist to reduce in size whilst maintaining the size in the rest of your body. This indicates fat loss with minimal muscle loss.
When building muscle you want your waist to increase as slowly as possible whilst seeing slow but steady changes in the rest of your body. This indicates muscle gain with minimal fat gain.
At least once a month but every 2 weeks is preferable as it gives you a more accurate picture of how your body is changing.
Take measurements using a flexible measuring tape at key parts of the body;
Waist – around your torso inline the your belly button
Chest – around your chest just above your nipples with your arms by your side
Shoulders – around the middle of the shoulder with your arms by your side
Arms flexed – around the peak of the bicep
Arms relaxed – around the largest point
Thighs – around the largest point
By keeping notes of the changes at key points of your body you can determine if your diet and training programme is effective.
You can also see if one body part is growing a lot faster than others and whether this is likely to lead to an imbalance.
It’s important to make sure the measuring tape is pulled firmly but not too tight, that you’re breathing normally, and the tape is not twisted.
Take Regular Photos For A Progress Snapshot
I don’t know about you but there have been more times than I care to count where I stood in front of the mirror and sworn I look exactly the same as I did 4 weeks ago.
It’s like my mind is playing tricks on me.
I feel like nothing has changed.
If you’ve felt the same, then you know what I mean.
Whether you realise it or not over the course of every single day you see yourself in the mirror or reflections over and over again.
Some is purposeful i.e. getting ready in the morning, other times not so much i.e. catching a glance of yourself in a shop window reflection as you walk past.
All of this means that you are taking in the small day to day changes in your body a day at a time, creating a flowing narrative where you are just you.
In other words, it’s very hard for you to objectively recognise the accumulation of small differences in your body over time.
This is where photos come into play.
Taking photos monthly offers the biggest comparison but again you could take photos fortnightly if you want to track your progress more closely.
Take photos in the same conditions each time for consistency;
The same clothes
The same lighting
The same room
Taking photos of a few poses is useful but at a minimum you want a full frontal photo including the lower body.
Great for side by side comparisons especially to remind you of the bigger picture and how far you’ve come when you’re feeling like you’re not making any progress.
Use whatever camera you have that can take a clear, consistent photo. For most people their mobile phone will fit the bill.
Keep Food Dairy
Nutrition plays a huge role in your ability to make and sustain progress in your pursuit of changing how you look and feel.
Key to effecting these changes is controlling your total calorie intake and the macronutrient ratios that make up this calorie intake.
Problems arise when you trying to estimate your calorie intake, eyeball the food your eating and generally guess at things.
This is especially true for beginners or those without much experience in counting calories.
Everyday you need keep a food diary and closely track what you eat.
Using an app like MyFitnessPal or something similar to plan what you’re going to eat in advance, making sure it fits your calorie and macronutrient goals.
By keeping an accurate food dairy not only do you ensure that you hit your calorie and macronutrients goals which are the cornerstone of your progress but you can also see where you’re going wrong if you discover you’re losing or gaining weight too quickly.
To make your life easier you should try to;
Eat the same things often
Shop in advance
Prepare meals in advance when possible
Write A Training Journal
The key to getting stronger, building more muscle and then retaining that muscle mass in a calorie deficit is your ability to consistently apply progressive overload.
Progressive overload is the act of continually putting your body under more stress than it is used to. You can do this by;
Increasing the weight lifted
Increasing your reps
Increasing your sets
Decreasing your rest times
However, if you’re not keeping a detailed workout journal of each of your sessions then how do you know if you’re applying progressive overload?
The short answer is you don’t and that’s a problem.
Every time you do a workout you want to update your workout journal.
There are 2 ways to do this;
Use notes on your phone
Create a google sheets document
Use a small notebook
There are pros and cons to each so ultimately, it’s up to you.
However, I find using a diary is nice because it allows you to flick through and quickly compare previous workouts.I also use google sheets to store all my data in an easily accessible place.
There’s no clearer sign you’re making strength and muscle gains than consistent progressive overload in the gym and the easiest way to see if you’re doing this or not is by comparing your workouts.
A training journal is also the perfect place to note if you’re feeling fatigue, sleepy, injured or any other circumstance that might affect one workout but not others.
Tracking your progress is about using all the tools you have at your disposal to give you as complete a picture of possible.
This allows you to know exactly what’s happening and why it’s happening, which in turn gives you the knowledge you need to make changes as and when necessary.
The 5 key ways to track your progress are;
Weight yourself daily and take a weekly average
Take fortnightly measurements of key body stats
Take monthly photos to get a side by side comparison of the progress you’ve made
Keep an accurate food diary to ensure your hit your calorie and macro goals
Keep a detailed training journal to make sure you’re apply progressive overload