The ‘perfect’ way to track your fitness journey is actually quite simple: it’s just a matter of taking note of everything that’s important to you.
In my career I have observed that one of the most detrimental things to a person’s fitness journey is when they fail to realize that there are MANY indications of health and fitness.
So if you’re not really interested in weight loss, you’re wasting your time by stepping on the scale to determine your success...
If you’re interested in goals like booty building, you need to start taking muscle mass measurements instead!
Despite the presentation of the fitness industry being very aesthetic and weight-loss oriented, there are so many types of fitness goals to achieve.
And that means that there are so many opportunities for you to celebrate your successes!
My goal with this blog is to help you become aware of a more inclusive and organized form of tracking your fitness goals.
To help you track all aspects of your fitness journey, I will be going over:
- How to tell if you are making progress
- Types of progress fitness professionals look for
- How frequently to measure progress
- Fitness log example
To prevent from getting side-tracked, I will also be linking relevant information throughout (instead of ranting)-I will recap all of these links at the bottom!
Now let’s get started on your perfect fitness log…
How to Tell if You’re Making Progress
When tracking progress towards health and fitness goals, there are two main aspects to consider: how to track body progress, and how to track mental progress.
Physical Fitness Progress Indicators
When you plan to track body progress, you need to look at indicators of physical fitness.
This means that you are looking for multiple ways that the body has changed during the course of your training.
That is going to exclude how you feel about yourself and your confidence levels.
Physical fitness indicators are tangible objective measurements-I will go into more detail later with examples of physical fitness indicators and how to track them.
Fitness Mentality Progress Indicators
Fitness mentality progress refers to how your mindset changes during the course of your training.
If you are on a truly healthy fitness journey, you will find that your mental health will also benefit from your training.
Fitness mentality progress is less objective than physical progress and it is usually not at all tangible.
It might help you understand better if I explain my own process of tracking progress with my clients…
Types of Progress Fitness Professionals Look For
Measurable Physical Changes
Measurable physical changes are progress measurements that come with a numeric value (as opposed to visual).
Here are my top 3 physical changes I track in my clients, and my preferred method of doing so…
There are also things like scale measurements, but I am not fond of the scale.
As you can tell, I favor the DXA Scan for body composition measurements because of the ability to distinguish exactly what type of weight the body is holding, and where.
Your DXA Scan results will also be able to reflect your most accurate Resting Metabolic Rate (caloric needs) based on your body composition.
DXA Scans are becoming increasingly available for everyday fitness enthusiasts-I use BodySpec for my DXA Scan needs as it is affordable and accessible!
Visible Body Composition and Postural Changes
Visible body composition changes are the changes that we observe in progress photos that are sometimes not reflected in other measurements.
An example would be if your weight on the scale had stayed the same, but your progress photos look very different.
Or when your posture obviously improves, but you don’t want to go to a spinal specialist to measure how many degrees of spinal alignment you’ve improved by.
So many changes can be visible in just a few pictures!
For example, here are the 3 angles I ask my clients to take progress photos for, how to get into them, and what I look for in each photo…
You might be surprised to realize how much can be observed from just your standing posture-I go into A LOT of detail about it in my blog: What Does Your Posture Say About You?
Improvements in performance and stamina
Performance improvements are progress indicators that need to be tested at strategic times, with respect to the body.
This means that you shouldn’t be looking for strength PR’s every week.
I’ll go more into the frequency later.
For now, here is a simple list of common performance improvements that I keep track of during my client’s fitness journey:
- Building of strength by notating increased weight lifted
- Improved recovery by monitoring heart rate and break times
- Increased stamina by recorded improvement in time spent under tension
- Decreased duration of muscle soreness post workout
- Enhanced flexibility and mobility by ability to access certain positions
- Developed stability and observed control over every part of the movement
Depending on the client, there can be more or less performance indicators that I track but on average I find these to be the most universal.
Increased energy and improved moods
If you’re on a balanced fitness program, the first improvement that you should notice is an increase in daily energy and better moods.
This happens for a few different reasons:
- Exercise releases endorphins which make you happy. The right amount of exercise won’t overwork or fatigue you-it will simply make you feel happier.
- A healthy fitness routine will help to condition your metabolism and permit you more energy. Having more energy is enough to improve your mood on its own!
- Getting on a healthier diet will help you detox your body of food additives that are known to be addicting and cause depression.
- You feel proud of yourself for making a commitment to yourself and your betterment!
Now this is where the measurements become less tangible: you can’t literally measure your happiness or energy levels.
My recommendation is to do reflective journaling to keep track of this.
Reflective journaling is simply a journal entry in which you reflect on how you are feeling and what may have contributed to that.
A good example would be a journal entry that says,
“I’ve stuck to my goal of eating 3 cups of vegetables a day for the past 5 days and I’ve noticed that I feel lighter, less groggy after lunch and more patient with my coworkers.”
You can then use this to reflect back and observe patterns in how you are affected by different health and fitness habits, affording you both opportunities to:
- Use a past journal entry as motivation to return to a lost hbit
- Customize your fitness journey to what you observe has worked best for you
As a coach, this is something I keep track of for my clients.
During every session I ask them:
- “How has your energy been this week? Have you been experiencing any fatigue, brain fog or lethargy?”
- “How have your moods been? Do you feel even and in control, or have you felt a little overwhelmed?”
For me this is relevant because fatigue and depression during a fitness program can be some of the first symptoms of:
- Imbalanced Nutrition
- Inadequate Sleep Habits
- Thyroid Dysfunction
Changes to self-confidence, self-talk and self-efficacy
For many reasons, it is important to me that my clients have a fitness journey that is as beneficial to their mental health as it is their physical health.
The most significant ways in which your fitness journey can affect your mental health are detailed in this Fitness & Mental Health blog.
Because of this, I also take note of how my clients seem to talk about themselves and their behaviors.
(And my clients know that I am also super quick to correct their negative self-talk…lol!)
All of my sessions have a “No negative self-talk rule”,
and oftentimes, I give my clients homework of affirmations or journaling to help them improve their mindset about their body or their fitness journey.
A great example of this is a client I’ve had who had been struggling with controlling a tendency towards binge eating behavior…
She would do good eating healthy all week, but slip up a little on the weekend and have an enormous sense of shame as she told me about it afterwards.
Instead of reprimanding her for slipping up, I asked her to work on her sense of shame in allowing herself a fun night out with her girlfriends.
“If you’re going to go out to have fun, I don’t want you thinking about eating healthy-I want you to enjoy yourself and I want you to work on not being ashamed of that.” I told her.
For almost 6 months we worked on preparing her for her fun nights out every few weekends: we would have our little pep talks of “This is a night for fun, not for dieting-the point is to enjoy yourself.”
Gradually over those 6 months she not only started shaming herself less for her indulgences, but she also started indulging less-she just naturally started feeling less and less of a desire to overdo it.
The point at which she came to me and said,
“I had some wine and takeout with some girlfriends last night but it was no big deal-I made sure to drink plenty of water after.”
“I did so awful last night: I had like 800 calories of this and that.”
was the day I put a big star in her book for goal achievement.
She’d had a mindset level up.
How Frequently to Measure Progress
Weight loss measuring
If you’re looking for general weight loss, you’re going to be measuring progress using a simple scale.
My recommendation is to keep a journal or notepad where you will record your weight once a month, right after you’ve finished menstruation.
(If you do not menstruate, simply pick one time of month to record.)
I recommend only measuring weight once a month because your weight will fluctuate throughout the month (especially as a woman) and it may disrupt your motivation to adhere to your fitness program.
If your weight does not go up or down within 1-2 months, you can consider yourself to be in a “Plateau”.
Check out last week’s blog to learn how to deal with a plateau.
Measure muscle gain
For the average person, measuring muscle gain is best done with a DXA Scan or Bioelectric Impedance.
No matter how you measure, muscle growth is a slow process: most people can only gain up to 2lbs of lean muscle mass a month.
Considering that, I recommend measuring for muscle gain every 3-6 months-maybe even once a year if you know you grow slower.
Muscle growth is a more complex process with weight loss so consult with a coach about what your fitness program needs to help you build!
So when I am considering “measuring performance”, I am talking about maximal performance tests.
Examples of this include:
- Strength PR Tests
- SAQ Assessments
- Endurance Tests
These are not workouts where you see if you can push a little harder-they are supervised tests designed to determine your limits by pushing you to them.
They are strenuous, and they usually require training beforehand and recovery time after.
Because of this, I recommend doing intensive performance assessments once every 6-12 weeks.
This is going to vary depending on your level of conditioning, type of training and nutrition, and the skill that you’re trying to improve performance on.
Measure performance progress by simply keeping a log of things such as:
- How far you can run without needing to stop
- Maximum weight you can lift for 3 reps
- How fast you can run 100 meters
***Mindset tip: I love encouraging my clients to set and work towards performance-based goals because they are more about what your body can do instead of how it looks.
Measure moods and mindset
As mentioned above, you should monitor your mental health along your fitness journey using a journal.
I recommend journaling 1-7 times a week to keep track of:
- Daily energy levels
- Types and evenness of moods
- Perception of body image
- Personal self talk
- Eating mentality and behaviors
- Confidence and pride in self
- Priority of self and self care
This may serve as another indicator of your own progress, or it may help you see that you need the assistance of a mindset coach or mental health professional to achieve your goals.
Either way, it is important (and respectful) to be aware of yourself-especially when you are trying to challenge and change yourself!
Fitness Log Example
Now to help make this information more cohesive, let’s look at a potential client and how I might keep track of progress during her fitness journey.
Let’s name this client Beyonce (hey, a coach can dream!) and let’s point out some key things about her and her fitness goals for the next 12 months…
- She wants to gain lean muscle mass and in 12 months she can realistically gain 10-24 pounds of muscle.
- She wants to learn to run faster when sprinting. With proper nutrition and performance training, this can also be beneficial to the muscle building goal.
- She needs lifestyle balance counseling. Beyonce is a boss and a mom and a goddess-she needs a flexible fitness program that includes space for work and family and fun!
- She’s been struggling with her self-talk. This is normal and everybody struggles with this from time to time but it’s nice to keep track of!
- She wants to improve her daily energy levels. It’s tiring to be such a boss babe but some adjustment to the diet, sleep and lifestyle routine can correct that.
This actually sounds just like my typical client-lol!
Okay so now that we have a general idea of what we’re doing for Beyonce, let’s look at measurements, frequency and some notes for her fitness log…
Having a set schedule that defines when you will be checking for progress is not only practical-it’s respectful to your mental health because it prevents the anxiety of having to think of everything all at once!
All you have to do is reflect and take notes, follow your fitness program and watch the results flow in!
What’s the takeaway?
There are so many indications of success on your fitness journey: the perfect fitness log is the one that includes all the indications of success that are important to you!
Visit my website to set up an appointment to get help with putting together your perfect fitness log!
Here’s a recap of some additional information that was sprinkled throughout:
- Learn more about How Telling Your Posture Is about you and your health!
- Get into a healthy mindset by learning about how your Fitness Journey Benefits Your Mental Health!
- Get right with these Female Nutrition Basics at the beginning of your fitness journey.
- Help yourself overcome your Fitness Plateaus!
- Struggling with time to commit to your health and fitness journey? Try out H.I.I.T!
The progress you’re tracking and how you do that is specific to you and your journey.
Make it a priority to keep track of your come up so you can use it as future motivation!
This article was written by Elexis Smolak CPT, CNC, WFS founder of Adapted Fitness and Integrative Health and Fitness Specialist for Women. Learn more or schedule a virtual coffee at AdaptedToYou.com