How do you track fitness and measure progress? The easy (and often discouraging) answer is the scale. Most people have one in their bathroom and can weigh themselves daily without much time or effort. Maybe this works for you – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I know a lot of people that it doesn’t work for, which is why I’m diving into ways to measure progress beyond the scale.
I like to think that your health and fitness are more than just a number. I’m also someone who can see dramatic fluctuations over the course of a day depending on how dehydrated I am or if I ate something I’m sensitive to, so I know that I can’t trust a scale to be my end-all-be-all. Take for example that I weigh the same today as I did 4 years ago in college when I was only running. Today I can dramatically outlift my 21-year-old self. I can outrun her in distance and speed. I have noticeably more muscle. But if I was looking at the scale, it would look like I’ve spent the last 4 years in the same place. So what are some other ways to see progress and know you’re getting fitter and healthier?
- Take progress pictures. Open up instagram and search any fitness hashtag – you’re guaranteed to see a plethora of before and after pictures. How motivating would it be to have some of your own? You don’t have to post them for the world to see (unless you want to, in which case, go you!) but they can be a powerful tool to keep you motivated and ensure you’re on the right track.
- Time yourself doing the same workout once a month. This will work for class-style workouts like spinning, crossfit, HIIT, orangetheory, etc. It’ll also work for running if you pick the same route each time. You might not see progress each and every month (we all have bad days) – but overall you should see your times getting faster. You may also notice yourself bouncing back from the workout quicker or getting less sore. If not, it may be time to look at your eating and sleeping habits or evaluate how hard you’re really pushing yourself.
- Start a lift cycle. Test for your 1 rep max for a certain lift (back squat, deadlift and bench press are all good places to start). Then start a cycle to get stronger at that lift, working on it for a few weeks (depending on which cycle you choose) and retest for a new 1 rep max at the end of the cycle. Again, if you don’t see progress with a routine like this, it may be time to look at your eating and sleeping habits.
- Check how your clothes are fitting. Tighter in some spots and loose in others? Could be a sign that your workout is working (or not working) for you.
- Track your motivation and energy levels. How do you feel? This can seem more arbitrary, but if you journal your energy level and feelings toward your workout, you can see progress this way as well. Higher energy levels and getting to the gym without struggle? You’re making progress.
This list is a simple compilation for the average gym-goer. Of course, there are more invasive/expensive/complicated measures for fitness like VO2 max, body fat percentage testing, etc. I’ve never tried any of them but I’d like to one day. For now, I’m going to continue enjoying the journey and keeping an eye on where I’m at my own way. If you’ve tried anything you really loved, comment below!
How do you track fitness and measure progress? What milestones have you celebrated along your journey?