One of the best motivators for continued effort in your health and fitness program is tracking your progress!! Seeing the numbers going in the direction you want is so rewarding and helps fuel your fire for future success. Watching your body transform and taking note pushes you even further. There are so many ways you can track your progress, some good and some not so good. Let’s lay them out… The WORST Ways to Measure Progress Stepping on the scale! This might be surprising to hear because this is the most common way people check to see if they are letting their health go… while standing on the scale every now and then for a little peek at your number helps to see if you have been eating too many office treats lately, it’s not a good indicator of whether you are losing fat or gaining muscle. Reason- The scale only shows you weight, it does not decipher whether that weight is coming from fat, muscle, water, bones etc. You could lose one pound of fat and gain one pound of muscle and still have the same weight on the scale! This makes you think you have not had any progress, when in fact you have made great progress! BMI (Body Mass Index) This is a very limited way of tracking your progress or to determine whether you are in a healthy range because, again it doesn’t take into consideration your body fat percentage. For example, an athlete with very little body fat and a lot of muscle may weight more than the determined “healthy” BMI for her height. Does this mean she is out of shape? No! It is an error in the system. Your doctors may use this tool, but for your own progress reports don’t worry about this method. The BEST Ways to Measure Progress Body Fat Testing Your body fat percentage is the ratio of fat to total body weight. This allows you to see if you are in a healthy range (see photo attached). This is something the scale cannot do. Knowing your body fat percentage also allows you to see progress of fat loss and muscle gain. Sometimes our bodies will put on muscle faster than it loses fat, this will show up as weight gain on a scale, but through body fat testing you can see that you are moving in the right direction. Types of body fat testing (most accurate to least accurate):
- Hydrostatic- “gold standard” in body fat calculations, expensive & not easy to find but the most accurate.
- Bod Pod- again, expensive and not easily accessible, but a good alternative to dunking in water
- Skin Fold Measurements- have a personal trainer trained in caliper testing do this for you.
- BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis)- a super smart scale that uses an electrical impulse to determine the density of your body mass, thus calculating your BF%. Make sure to step on the scale at the same time and under the same circumstances (just woke up, just went to the bathroom, not on your cycle, before working out etc.) or it can affect the outcome.
Girth Measurements This is the easiest and most convenient way of checking your progress. All you need is a measuring tape and a piece of paper and pen to write down your numbers! While measuring your girth is not going to tell you your body fat percentage, it will tell you if you are shrinking or growing in your trouble areas. Fat takes up more space than muscle. One pound of lean muscle is smaller than 1lb of fat. For example, you could lose one pound of fat and gain one pound of muscle and still be the same weight on the scale, leading you to believe you aren’t making any progress… when in fact you are doing awesome! Measuring your girth can show you this progress that you might not be feeling in your clothes or seeing on the scale just yet. Measure the same locations on your body once a month to track your progress. (Shoulders, bicep, chest, waist, hips, thigh, calf) How You Feel This is actually my personal favorite way of tracking progress because I am not a big numbers girl (while it is fun to see the numbers going in the direction I want). I like to track my progress by how my clothes are fitting, how I look in the mirror and better yet how I feel! When it comes down to it, being in shape and having a healthy body has less to do with a number as it has to do with feeling and looking great. Some women may prefer to stay so lean that they have a 4 pack and shredded shoulders, when others simply want a tight tummy and arms strong enough to pick up their kids and be able to feel great in a sun dress. We all have different goals so set yours and then watch your body transform. The best way to do this is to get down to your skivvies (or bare it all) and stand in front of the mirror… take a look at yourself and see how you feel. A way to track your progress is to write down or journal how you feel, what improvements you see and what improvements you want to see next time. Never walk away from the mirror without thinking positive things about your body, even if it’s complimenting your cute toes or sexy collar bone. Every time you look in the mirror throughout your efforts, acknowledge your improvement and decide on which areas you want to focus more on. Never put yourself down in front of the mirror. There is always room for growth… love your body for what it is right now, while working towards what you know it can be. Tip- ladies, do NOT stand in front of the mirror during “that time of month”… spare yourself! 😉 No matter which form of tracking your progress you decide to do, make sure you do it on a consistent basis (every 2 weeks or every month) and do the measurements at the same time of day and under similar circumstances to get the most accurate results.