We are all in a constant state of improvement. Be it, losing weight, gaining muscle, or improving our cardiovascular health and well-being. We may feel and assume that we've made progress, simply from the time spent in the gym. But how do we really know?
Keeping track of our progress is one of the most important things we can do in and outside of the gym. This is typically overlooked by people who just hit the gym to lift weights and get "gains" -- all without keeping track of the weight they used or reps they performed. Furthermore, most don't keep track of their own individual weight, food consumption, or take pictures of themselves to chart visual progress. By doing this, it will be mighty tough to tell if one is making any progress whatsoever.
It only takes a small amount of time to prevent this from occurring, however. Even tracking the smallest of things will allow individuals to know when to increase weight, show if they're over-training, and if their diet and overall program is a smart choice. It doesn't take much time and won't cost much (potentially any) money!
Tracking progress will help in a myriad of ways:
Are You Getting Stronger?
Looking to gain strength? If that is a goal of yours, then you'll need to track your workouts to be able to identify whether you are in fact, getting stronger. It's also key to increase the reps and overall weight on an ongoing basis. More weight = more results.
Not sure how to gradually increase? Follow the example below:
Week 1 – Weight you can perform 4 sets of 7-8 reps
Week 2 – Add 10lbs. for 4 sets of 5-6 reps
Week 3 – Same weight, but perform 9-10 reps
Week 4 – Add 10lbs. for 4 sets of 5-6 reps
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Results In Better Workouts!
One of the biggest reasons one should track their progress is because it will actually improve each and every workout.
Knowledge is power. Knowing how many calories you need to consume, how many calories you need to burn, how far and fast you need to run, and what weights you need to lift during your workouts will allow you to be more focused.
Continue to challenge yourself -- results will come.
Ditch the Scale
Scales are not the be all, end all, in terms of fitness progress. Many people focus too heavily on how much weight they've lost. When they see that they haven’t lost any weight, gained weight, or aren’t losing the weight quickly enough, they tend to give up.
What they may not realize, is that even though they haven’t lost any weight, they may have lost inches on their tummy, or even better, some body fat. Strength and resistance training tends to blast the inches, with cardio blasting fat.
So, how should you be tracking? Here are a few ways:
- Take Photos
A very easy way to track your fitness progress is to take photos of yourself.
This doesn’t just mean taking a before and after photo, as fitness is an ongoing program. Technically, there shouldn't be an after. Keep it going! Instead, take photos of yourself every month or every quarter to see the changes in your physical appearance.
To get a more accurate view of this, be sure to take your photos in the same attire, same place, in the same light and at the same time. Notice the word 'same'? The slightest of changes, such as lighting could change the appearance of your body.
- Take Measurements
Why measure your waist, when you can do your whole body? Be sure to include:
- Track Your Food
As well as tracking your body, you will need to track what you eat. So many people blame genetics for their struggle to lose or gain weight. However, genetics is not to blame.
It is just as important, if not more, to measure how much and what you are eating, than going to the gym and just working out.
It isn’t just about how many calories you're consuming; it is also about the quality of those calories. Unprocessed food is what will give your body the vitamins and nutrition it needs to repair muscles, builds muscles, give you energy and more. Processed foods are what we like to call “empty calories” because they carry no real benefit.
As we said earlier -- knowledge is power. Use this knowledge to keep track of not just your workouts, but you!