Tracking Your Fitness Journey: Three Effective Methods for Measuring Progress
Whether you are brand new to fitness or a seasoned veteran, how do you know whether you are actually progressing? There are many different ways to measure progress, but here are 3 tried and true methods that I prefer to use with my own clients.
Benchmark fitness testing
There are no shortage of benchmark fitness tests online. You can also make up your own. For example, you can gauge your progress with a simple squat test which could be used to measure strength, endurance and form. Squat in front of a mirror so you can see your form, watching yourself from the front and the side. Over time, your form will improve, and you will feel stronger.
How you feel is the greatest measurement of progress. You can determine increased strength, flexibility and endurance by challenging your body.
Pick one exercise and perform it regularly. Are you able to perform more reps than last month? Are you able to add weight? Does the exercise feel easier? Tracking progress this way focuses on what your body can do, not how your body looks.
Here are a few examples:
Plank. Add more seconds each week. Can you hold a plank longer?
Push-ups. Add more reps each week. Can you do one more push-up than the week before?
Burpees. Add more reps each week. Do the reps get easier?
Your challenge could be something larger, like attending a 5K every year or signing up for a spin class. You can compare your overall progress from year to year by noting if these events feel easier or harder to do. Did you beat last year’s 5K time? Did you run more than you walked? Use fun events in your life to challenge your body.
Regardless of your reason for measuring fitness progress, blood pressure is an important indicator of health. It also can show how your fitness progresses because blood pressure is an indicator of heart health, and it’s affected by exercise, nutrition and stress. As you work out more, your body grows stronger—as does your cardiovascular system. Your blood pressure can show decreased heart and chronic disease risk.
Measurements & BodPod assessment
Most people are familiar with using measurements to measure fitness progress. Circumference measurements are a simple way to measure progress you make with your fitness programming. For example, if your weight goes up, but your clothes fit better, you can guarantee that you are losing fat and gaining muscle mass, effectively showing that you are making good progress in your fitness. Using the scale alone can be deceiving and isn’t always the best measure of actual progress.
Body composition testing is also a good measure of fitness progress. Seeing your body fat percentage decrease can tell you that your program is progressing positively while a stagnation can indicate a change needs to be made. Sometimes that progress is a psychological progress where you learn how to maintain your fitness while pulling back with your training to allow the body to rest.
Progress pictures help you see the difference in your body from week one to week eight (or however long you want to track your progress).
Keep the angles, time of day, and light the same for all progress pictures. Daily weight fluctuates, so a photo of you first thing in the morning will look different from one taken after you’ve had a meal. Lighting also affects how your body looks in an image. Bad lighting can create shadows and hide your progress. It's also easier to see differences when you wear the same clothes (or the same outfit) in each progress picture.
When you take the photos, store them away for later. Don’t compare photos from three days ago to now. You want to compare pictures that are four to six weeks apart.
Tracking your progress can be as simple as keeping a journal. Logging your workouts doesn’t have to be complicated. You can use a notebook and pen, digital notes on your smart phone or an Excel spreadsheet.
Write down the exercises you performed and the number of sets or reps. If you completed strength exercises, record the weight you used. If you ran a mile, record your time. Be sure to include how you feel after the workout. Were the exercises challenging or easier? Do you feel energized?
Your journal is also a great place to track your diet. Exercise alone won’t help you see results or feel stronger in your skin. A healthy diet is necessary, too. By paying attention to your eating habits, you’ll know if you’re missing out on nutritious, whole foods or discover your own thoughts around nutrition, wellness, health and exercise.
Track your mood or your sleep and see how it impacts your workout—are you able to have better energy when you are sleeping better? Or maybe your sleep and mood have improved because of your fitness. Either way, journaling can be helpful in monitoring your fitness progress.
Tracking your fitness is just one of the ways you can monitor progress when it comes to health and wellness. Anyone can benefit from tracking fitness, regardless of experience or fitness level. Beginning with a commitment of just 4-6 weeks is a great way to start and watch your health improve as a result.
All content of this blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this blog.
Kelly Sherman, MS, NC, CPT, is a licensed nutritionist specializing in empowering women to reclaim their health by cutting through misinformation and ditching the diet culture. She has a master’s degree in nutrition and is degreed in exercise science as well as a certified personal trainer. With over 20 years of experience in the field, she combines the best of both nutrition and exercise sciences to best help her clients reach their potential. To nourish is to flourish!