One thing you see plastered on social media, and other outlets for fitness, are stories of people’s great success and amazing transformation.
People who have the quintessential side-by-side photo where they went from a size 22 to a size 4…
The new-found bodybuilders who went from flab to six pack abs…
Rather they have lost 100 lbs. or maybe they went from being scrawny to being ripped – they all have one thing in common.
Fitness gurus and workout enthusiast alike all track their progress. If you are serious about losing weight and/or gaining muscle, you need to start tracking your progress today.
How can you know if you have improved if you don’t even know where you began?
Tracking your progress and gains is far more than just knowing your starting weight and your goal weight. You might see an increase of ½ pound on the scale tomorrow morning, but that could be muscle gain.
Tracking your progress entails tracking your entire workout routine, your food, your weight, body mass, body fat percentage and all other aspects of your fitness journey.
While this might sound like a detailed list, tracking these items – and more – is the ultimate way to success with your fitness goals and journey.
Why track your progress?
The answer to this question is simple…
Bad habits are easier to break when you track your progress. Not only will you be able to see how far you have come, you are also able to see the roadblocks that could really be detrimental to reaching your fitness goals.
Do you ever find yourself doing great all week – you have been working out and losing your weight – then you have one cheat meal on Sunday and somehow you have gained it all back?
How can you work out all week long and then eat bad one day and it all goes down the drain?
Well, did you actually eat more than you think you did? Did you eat it at the worst possible time? Are you actually not burning as many calories during your workout as you think?
We all have one of those moments. It seems like no matter what you do, you always gain the weight back. But, tracking can help with that.
By tracking food and fitness goals, you are able to see what makes the biggest impact on your fitness journey – positive or negative.
Tracking your progress is also vital in knowing if you are actually getting stronger. It is easy to get comfortable with your routine workout and number of reps.
You might be repeating the same workout and not even noticing – while this is not bad for you, at least you are still working out, you do come to a point where you will not progress any further. (Read This: 7 Ways to Get Stronger without Lifting Heavier)
Tips for Tracking
So, before you go stepping on the scale each morning and making a mental note of your weight, study up on these 7 ways to measure your workout progress and track your gains:
1. Take photos of yourself regularly.
The mirror and our eyes can be deceiving. You see yourself every day – even if it is just in passing – and it can be near impossible to notice physical changes in yourself.
For example, it can take around 2 weeks to notice weight loss in yourself. It is especially hard to notice changes when you only have your memory of the old you for comparison.
However, by taking photos, you can periodically make a side-by-side example of the old you and the new you. But, don’t just continuously take pictures of yourself as it can be discouraging if you expect to notice a big difference each day.
Instead, try taking a photo once a month or even quarterly to notice the changes in your physical appearance.
2. Track your body fat percentage.
This step is a lot more important than standing on your scale – tracking body fat is essential whether you want to lose weight or gain muscle.
The ideal percentage of body fat varies based on your gender and your body style – athletic, acceptable, obese.
You can measure your body fat percentage using a body fat caliper or another body fat measuring machine, which can often be found at your local gym.
3. Make a workout diary.
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to track your progress and gains is to track your workout.
By tracking your workout, you can ensure that you stay on track to meet your goals and that you continue challenging yourself.
Start by preparing your workout routine – list out your proposed workout, reps and equipment in your workout tracker. Keep up with this almost as an accountability partner, reminding you what you are supposed to be doing at the gym that day.
Next, keep track of what you actually did at the gym that day. Make note of the amount of reps you did and what equipment you used. Not only will this hold you accountable, but it will show you areas where you need to improve and ensure you are making progress.
4. Check out wearable trackers.
If manual tracking isn’t your thing – or you are just tech-savvy – try investing in a wearable tracker. Items such as a FitBit or Apple Watch will track your steps, heartbeat, calories burned throughout the day and more.
This data is then sent to your phone where you can easily access it and look back at your log. Oftentimes, wearable trackers often offer a feature that will allow you to track your food diary within their app.
Wearable trackers are great for those who do a lot of cardio – such as running – as they will track calories burned during the exercise as well as track the distance you walked or ran.
5. Track your measurements.
In addition to taking pictures, numbers are a great way to track your progress. The scale can be a little deceiving as it will not measure pounds of muscle gained, but measuring typically doesn’t lie.
Rather you are looking to lose inches or gain them, measuring different parts of your body is a great way to track your progress. Measure areas like your shoulders, biceps, neck and check weekly if you are looking to build muscle.
Use these measurements to track progress, notice trends and find ways to continue improving your exercise methods.
6. Play dress-up in your closet every once in a while.
One tell-tale sign of weight loss or muscle progression is the fit of your clothes.
Some people choose to keep clothes they know they would not or could not wear and keep trying them on until they can, or it could simply be just putting on something you haven’t worn in a while and seeing if you notice a difference in the fit.
Try giving yourself an allotted amount of time to make that item of clothing fit the way you desire, then periodically try it on to see if your workout methods are working so far.
7. Use the bathroom scale.
While bathroom scales should not be used as the only source of tracking your progress, they can be a great tool when used in combination with the other tracking methods discussed in this article.
Even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, it is still important to track your weight so that you are aware of all the specifications of your body.
Your weight can be used to determine your workout routines and eating habits – all of which factor into your workout progress and gains. So, every once in a while, step on the classic bathroom scale and make a note of the number it reflects.
Working out can be tough enough, especially for someone who is looking to go from scrawny to ripped and tone. Why make it even harder on yourself by only wondering if your efforts are paying off?
By tracking your fitness progress, you will better be able to gauge your effectiveness and sustain your motivation to continue on. Tracking your progress will give you insight as to what works best for your body – both in diet and in exercise.
Seeing the progress will motivate you to continue and will also help you see areas where you can improve. It will also help point out patterns – such as the days or workouts that you seem to slack on the most. This insight will help you find ways to beat that dreaded guilt of missing your gym day.
Tracking is important both in weight loss and in muscle gain. It is important to track your food and workout progress to ensure you are maintaining healthy habits all around.
The fittest health enthusiasts did not get to where they are today by just hoping that what they were doing worked. They did not simply cross their fingers that they were actually doing the correct amount of reps for that day. They did not spend years just hoping that they were building muscle and waiting to see the results.
They tracked their progress and their gains.
Author bio: My bio: Steven Sander is a writer, blogger and fitness enthusiast with a particular love of hockey. He lives in Los Angeles, California and enjoys spending time with his family and on his motorcycle when not writing.
He writes at Honest Hockey and Garage Gym Builder. He can be found on Twitter here. If you want to talk health, fitness, or self-improvement, don’t hesitate to get in touch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org