Keeping a track of your progress is what separates the men from the boys, pros from the rookies, and winners from the losers. You’ll never find a person who has made progress in their fitness journey without keeping some form of a journal of their growth.
If you don’t know where you’re coming from, where you’re right now, and where you want to go, how do you expect to make headway? Just hoping and pleading with the God of gains isn’t going to do you any good if you want to achieve the physique of your dreams. As someone rightly said, “that which gets measured gets improved.”
How Noobs Track Progress
The ones that are a little serious about their New Year’s resolutions do set goals and make an effort to track their growth. They usually track their improvements using this template:
- The beginner-to-be decides he wants to lose weight.
- They randomly cut back on their diet and go for jogs.
- The rookie jumps onto a weight scale every day until the day they lose a few kilos.
- They call their friends and throw them a party.
- Check their weight the next day and find out they are back to square one.
- Leaves hope and buy bigger-sized clothing.
Cons of Not Tracking Progress
No Data to Judge
If you had to judge a striker’s effectiveness in football, you’d look at his prior performance and his stats. Could you do the same calculations for your fitness journey? If you’re shaking your head right now, you need to go back to the drawing board and get your priorities straight.
Gathering data can help you in two principal ways:
Most people go to the gym, pick up their workout program cards, and go through the motions without figuring out if it caters to their specific needs. Almost every rookie follows the same vanilla training program where they perform 10-12 reps and three sets of five different exercises.
If you don’t track your progress, you’ll not be able to determine if you’re going in the right direction. All the hard work you put into your workouts will go to waste if you’re not on the right path. The key here is to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t and take corrective measures as soon as possible.
Let me describe a discussion I frequently have with people who are trying to lose weight.
They: “No matter what I do, I can’t lose weight. It’s because of my bad genetics.”
Me: “How many calories do you eat in a day?”
They: “Not many.”
Me: “What are your daily macronutrient goals?”
They: “Do you think yoga is a better option for me to lose weight?”
Not only do people have no idea about the nutritional values of the food they eat every day, but they also try to run away from the hard task of tracking them. If you’re having trouble designing your own diet plan, taking the help of a trained professional will help you save a lot of time, money, and hard work.
Are You Even Getting Stronger?
Progressive overload is the name of the game if you want to build strength and muscle mass. If you don’t keep a record of the weights you lifted and the exercises you performed, there is no way you can remember them five weeks down the line.
If you do 10 reps of barbell bench presses every Monday, you’re going to be stuck at that if you don’t come up with a plan to increase the difficulty of your workouts. Keeping a track of your workouts isn’t as hard as it might sound. You can note down the volume and intensity of your workouts in the notes app on your phone.
Scales Don’t Tell The Whole Story
Most people rely on weight scales to keep a track of their fitness progress but scales aren’t like Shakira’s hips – they can lie. Weight scales can especially be misleading for people who train with the goal of gaining muscle size and strength.
You might not drop weight the same way if you prioritize resistance training as compared to the guy who runs 10 miles every day intending to lose weight. Heck, some people gain size and lose weight without the scale budging a single centimeter.
Over-relying on the weight scale and checking your weight every day will do nothing more than discourage you. The best way to track your progress is to have a variety of tools under your belt while focusing on doing things the right way.
How To Track Your Progress Like a Pro
Body measurements are one of the best ways to track your progress. If you lift weights and eat the right diet, you will tend to lose weight while retaining your muscle and body weight. The needle not budging in the right direction could make some beginners anxious.
Tracking body compositions in multiple ways can help subside doubts about their progress. The key here is to not tack your metrics every day. Select a day in a week where you’ll go through the entire body measurement process and stick to it.
Our bodies are complex machines and not tracking weight on a day-to-day basis will help avoid the unnecessary jitters arising from watching your bodyweight fluctuate every day. Bodyweight can be like stock prices if you track them multiple times every day. It’ll be something else in the morning, evening, and night.
How To Take Body Measurements
Nothing can beat the old-school way of tracking your progress. The exact body measurements can tell a lot about the physique than just the weight. Knowing that a person has 19″ biceps, 50″ chest, 28″ thighs, and 30″ waist paints a picture of the individual in your head. On the other hand, only knowing that he weighs 200lbs leaves everything up to your imagination.
You should take the tape measurements at the same time every week. Take the circumference measurement at each of these spots:
Muscular symmetry is an essential part of bodybuilding and something that Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke about on length. Taking weekly body measurements will also help you determine what part of your body needs extra work so you can craft that perfect physique.
A picture is worth a thousand words and even more so if you’re a fitness enthusiast. Any serious lifter who wants to transform his physique will need to take progress pictures. The best part is that it is a rather straightforward process, and unlike the tape measurements, you could do it on your own.
Stand in front of the mirror and take a picture. Then take a quarter turn just like a soldier would and click a photo. Take another quarter turn and take a picture of your back. That’s it, you are done. Click pictures in the same poses once every week at the same time of the day.
After you have all the pictures you need, store them in a folder and look at them once every month to check if you’re going in the right direction. It is also the reason why you’ll see most pro athletes posting their progress pictures on Instagram weeks before a competition.
Having a V-taper or a spare tire comes down to your body fat percentage. Measuring your body fat percentage is a great way of knowing if you’re on the correct path. A fat caliper is the cheapest and the easiest way of measuring and keeping a track of your body fat.
The trick here is not to rely too much on the exact body fat percentage number (as no test is 100% accurate) but to check if it is trending in the right direction. You should keep a keen eye on whether your body fat is dropping month on month or if it is staying unchanged.
If you want to make any type of fitness progress, your first step should be to know how many calories (and the macronutrient breakdown) you eat on a typical day. If you need help with planning your diet and food intake, our calorie and macronutrient calculators will help you get started.
After you’ve figured out your caloric requirements, you need to find quality food sources for your daily fix. No matter how hard you work out or how good your recovery plan is, you won’t see the desired results if you don’t stick to the right diet.
Counting calories might sound like a lot of work but it isn’t as hard as some people think it is. Most people eat the same type of meals every week. You don’t have to track all your meals every day. A diet based on the data of a few days is ample to help you design your nutrition program.
Apps like MyFitnessPal make the calorie counting process even easier. Their giant database allows you to enter the food and portion size you ate and it’ll do all the heavy heavy lifting for you. MyFitnessPal also has a barcode scanner that tells you the macronutrient values of a food item just by scanning the label.
Tracking calories also makes you label-conscious. You’ll find yourself checking the nutrition labels of food before putting them in your cart. After some time, you won’t have to open your spreadsheet to figure out if something fits in your diet or not. You’ll be able to make a decision just by looking at the labels.
Think of it this way, your body fat (the result of your diet plan) is the stone you’ll be using your hammer and chisel (body measurements tools) on to carve the physique of your dreams.
Not having a plan and tracking your progress is like driving cross country without a map, compass, road signs, or landmarks to use. How do you know you’re going the right way if you have no idea where you were or where you’re headed?
If you want to achieve your desired results, you need to follow everything mentioned in the article to the minutest detail. You don’t want to be the person who does ordinary work but expects extraordinary results.