Stop Looking at the Scale, Part 2: Other ways to Tell if you are Progressing
In my last article, I explained why looking at the scale constantly is not a true indicator of weight room andand also, how to properly weigh yourself. In this article I will go further and explain some other ways in which you can measure progress in exercise. The good thing about these is that if one measurement seems to plateau, there are several others which may be improving. This means that just because one part of your isn’t excelling as quickly, does not mean that the whole machine is broke. Listed below are a variety of things to measure when looking at fitness progress as a whole.
How much weight you are using
It is very important to keep records of the weights you use during exercise. Not only will writing help you remember what weight to use, it will also push you to increase those weights. To measure progress with a weight room journal, record weight room numbers (weight used, repetitions done and sets of each exercise) and once some time has passed, look back to past workouts and compare the numbers on various exercises from past to present. You will immediately be able to tell if you have gotten stronger and on which exercises.
How quickly you are moving
This refers to how quickly you move while doing cardio vascular exercises. This can be assessed by looking at distances covered on each piece of equipment you use or from how far you go outside. To measure progress, give yourself a 1 Mile test every 2 weeks. In a 1 mile test, you walk/run a mile as quickly as possible taking minimal breaks. The idea is to compare how long your mile takes with how long it took before. This mile test should be done at the beginning of a workout when you are fresh. It can be done on a track, treadmill, elliptical or even a bike. If you are training for longer distance exercise, then the 1 mile test can be turned into a 2 mile test or a 3 mile test.
How much energy you have in the tank
When first starting an exercise program, most people lack the energy to cruise through an exercise session. Pay close attention to how you feel after various activities such as exercise and day to day stuff. As you move through an exercise program from week to week, progress will manifest it self in your energy levels. You will soon notice that walking up 3 flights of stairs with a book bag doesn’t get you out of breath as much as it used to or that running for 20 minutes no longer makes you feel sick afterwards. Increased energy levels both during exercise and during the day will show up sooner than some of the other indicators of progress.
How clothes fit
Even when scale numbers do not change, your body is changing. It may be building muscle at the same time as burning fat. Pants will start to feel loose if you are doing something right. This may take a while depending how quickly other things are progressing.
How much you like exercising
Most people that start exercising do so because they are trying to correct something with their physical status. Usually, when we have to work for something, the process is not as enjoyable as the outcome. Exercise is no exception. It is hard, time consuming and can take much discipline. However, if you stick with it long enough, it will become much more bearable. Pay attention to how you feel as you’re getting ready for each exercise session. Becoming more positive about physical activity is a huge indicator of progress.
How long your breaks are
How long of breaks do you take between sets of an exercise or between different exercises? Most general fitness exercisers wait until they catch their breath or until they feel physical ready. If you are exercising the right way, these breaks will get shorter as you get into better shape. What used to be a 1-2 minute break has now shortened itself to 30 seconds. If fatigue isn’t forcing you to take breaks anymore, then it is time to look at the first progress indicator I mentioned. In other words, increase your weights.
How sore you are the next day
Generally speaking, the start of an exercise program brings much muscular soreness the day after exercise. As we get into better shape this will taper off. Sure, even the most advanced exercisers get sore after workouts, but it is much more bearable than those first 2 weeks of exercise. Training for general fitness will see soreness taper off as individuals get into better shape. Compare how sore you are after the first day back from a break to how you feel 5 weeks into a program.
Incorporate all of these indicators of progress into how you assess your fitness levels from month to month. Just because a scale number isn’t constantly changing is not a reason to lose all hope. However, if progress isn’t indicated by any of the above, then it is time to reassess your fitness program.