Mirror, Mirror… why do I look exactly the same as I did last month even though I exercise religiously?
When it comes to our bodies, we are notoriously hard on ourselves. We measure the effectiveness of our fitness program only by what’s left to be done, rarely stopping to offer a pat on the back for what we’ve accomplished so far. That’s why it is critical to track the results of your fitness program. If you don’t, how will you know whether you’re stuck in a dead-end gig, or whether you’ve finally nailed the perfect fitness plan?
Now, by “track your results,” I don’t mean consult the mirror, or ask yourself whether you’re pinching more or less love handle than you did last month. We have unreliable memories when it comes to what we used to look like. The only way to accurately measure your results is to literally take measurements and keep a written record. It requires very little math, I promise.
Here’s What to Start With:
- Take a “before picture.” Whether you want to pose in snug-fitting clothes or strip right down to your birthday suit is up to you. Snap a new picture monthly, or wait every few months to compare.
- Take your measurements. This you’ll want to do at least once a month.
- Hop on the scale. This comes last because weight is only one factor, yet it’s commonly mistaken for the end goal. Muscle weighs more than fat, remember. If you’re on the right program, you’ll be gaining muscle mass while you burn fat, so you might gain weight as you get fit!
Taking Your Measurements:
Simply monitoring your inches can be a good way to determine progress. You’ll need a measuring tape (fabric or pliable plastic) to do it. You can measure some or all of the following, depending on your goals:
- Arm (middle of upper arm)
- Shoulders (span)
- Chest (middle of chest)
- Stomach (right above belly button)
- Hips (middle of glutes)
- Thigh (six inches up from top of the knee)
- Calves (middle)
When you measure yourself, be sure to wrap the tape around tightly enough that it lays flat against your skin, without pressing into your skin. Get a feel for your method so it stays constant each time.
What About Body Fat Percentage?
There are several different methods to figure body fat. This website can help you easily calculate it, and the margin of error is only a few percentage points. You’ll need to take your measurements to use it. You can also use this calculator to get your BMI, or body mass index. BMI gauges body fatness based on weight, sex and height.
It’s Not Just About the Numbers
The real measurement of your program’s success will tally more than fat lost and muscle gained. You’ll want to consider how it has improved your strength, endurance, energy level, metabolism, mood, and many other things.
Don’t buy into the stigma people have given to weighing and measuring, though. Some believe they’ll get so caught up in number-crunching and will stop seeing the overall health picture. But measuring your body regularly is a good, healthy way to gauge the results of your program, as well as celebrate your progress. That regular check-in also helps you stay focused and accountable in your plan.
How are others measuring their fitness programs? Stop by the No More Bacon “Results Show,” where Ryan—who has lost over 100 pounds—weighs in for the week and pinpoints a few bad habits that could mar your progress.