Tracking Progress: Is there a best way?
Updated: Apr 8
If you're a regular or semi regular exerciser it is important that you have goals and targets to reach and good ways of tracking your progress along the way. It helps to keep you motivate and on track when everyday life crops up and feels like it's taking you off track.
I have never been a big fan of the scales. Perhaps because I haven't always had the most healthy relationship with them myself. There is just this sense of doom that comes over me when I even think about stepping on the scales and have spent years going to get my pill telling the nurse not to tell me what the numbers are. I feel like I am forever disappointed with the answer even though I'm not sure what I want the answer to be.
I'm not ruling out using the scales all together, what I would say is that muscle weighs more than fat and if you're consistent with your training you'll be losing fat but not necessarily weight. Muscle weight is not bad weight. I also always recommend to my personal training clients that they leave it around 4-6 weeks between each time they step on the scales. This allows for general fluctuations, weeks of missing exercise or having slip ups on any meal plans.
This is something I suggest to my PT clients. One of the best ways for them to track the change in their body shape and size is through regularly taking their body measurements. I always suggest they take the same measurements from the same places and aim for a similar time of day and day in the month. Again aiming for every 4-6 weeks this will help show progress even if the scales don't seem to be shifting. The tape measure will be able to show where your body is still leaning out alongside you building muscle mass.
Another way to track progress without fixating on weight or changes in your body is to look at how your ability and strength is improving. Whatever exercise you're doing, over time it will require changes and tweaks to make sure that the body is being pushed during each workout. Personal trainers design sessions around all of your previous workouts and are able to make subtle changes to movements, sets, reps and time to constantly challenge their clients.
If you're going it alone, try adding in 1 or 2 extra reps, add an additional set into your session. Try and hold your plank for 5 more seconds. These subtle changes will allow you to see just how much you can do when you push yourself to work harder.
Are you a Fitbit nut like me? If so, why not up that 10,000 step count? This is a really simple way of knowing that you're doing that little bit more movement every day, especially if you're someone who's always hitting your 10,000 steps.
I recently upped my own, I figured I really had no excuses not to do it and given I had such an active career as a PT it should be easy for me to make the extra steps up. It also shows me that I am capable of doing that little bit more each day. These sort of changes are really subtle but are a good way of making yourself accountable to move more.
Look Where You Started
If you do train with a personal trainer, get them to go back over some of your earlier workouts. I find it really helps keep clients focused and motivated when I remind them of where they started. It is really easy to lose sight of those early day sessions when 5 tricep dips were killer and a plank hold was 10 seconds at a push. When you can see the progression you can believe there are more improvements to come.
Everybody progresses differently and often through injuries and other issues people can take longer to learn movement patterns and have the confidence to try different things. Any PT will tell you those are the most exciting people to work with, those transformations are by far the most rewarding and the hardest worked for.
So next time you step on those scales and wonder why you're not seeing what you hoped for, take a minute and think about whether that is the best way to show you just how far you've come.
Wherever you are in your fitness journey, keep going, you're doing great. If you're thinking it's time you started one I promise you won't regret it.