You are more than the number on the scale. Standing on the scale does not always feel great. Let’s be honest – sometimes it downright sucks! Starting a health journey with regular exercise and better nutrition habits yields results over time. But if you are looking for ways to measure your progress other than constantly stepping on that daunting bathroom scale consider tracking the process before the product. Process goals are great to measure short term progress while remaining patient about the overall weight loss.
Can I let you in on a little secret? Your weight is only a small indicator of your health. It usually tells us very little about how fit or strong or healthy you are! There are more important metrics that paint a clearer picture of your hard work. Here are 6 ways to measure your fitness progress that doesn’t include the number on the scale.
- Track the frequency of a healthy habit. Choose an easily applied behavior such as eating vegetables with every meal, consuming appropriate amounts of H2O, or meditating. Tracking how often you can complete a positive healthy behavior in 30 days can be a great way to see success towards your fitness and nutrition goals. Many clients tell me that when they workout – they tend to crave healthier options throughout the day.
- Measure that mobility! Not to be confused with flexibility, mobility is the degree to which your joints can activity move through a range of motion. It’s critical to performing complex movements such as a squat and increases the amount of weight that a person can lift in a safe manner. When beginning a new exercise routine, some movements may be limited based on a person’s mobility. Take the time to complete functional movement screens and track improvements in your overall mobility from month to month. Improved mobility is usually a sign of better exercise sessions (e.g. reduced pain and soreness)
- Get your sleep. Did you know that going to bed and waking up at the same time each day increases productivity and overall health? Be mindful of how much time you spend at night getting quality sleep. Set a bedtime and a wake-up time (yep even on the weekend) and see how long you can adhere to that sleeping pattern. Research strongly suggests that exercise produces better quality and duration of your sleep. You may see different effects depending on the time of day you get your sweat on.
- Climb those stairs and jot down how it makes you feel. Are you huffing and puffing? Are you using words like “exhausted” or “energized” to describe how activities of daily living (ADLs) make you feel? ADLs are things we do every day like walking to the mailbox, carrying the groceries, moving boxes, or playing hide and seek with the tiny humans in our lives. Exercise generally makes these things easier to manage. Suddenly chasing down the toddler on that new bike or reorganizing the basement seems like a less intimidating task.
- Track your workouts by logging the number of exercise repetitions, mile time, or the weight on the barbell. Start right where you are and write those numbers down. First session was 4 pushups? Completed that one-mile walk in 20 minutes? Perfect! Progress means that pushup count will eventually become 8 or 12 in a single set. Soon you will be doing a 13-minute jog. It can be done with any type of exercise or the entire workout. Tracking your program will tell a story about your strength, perseverance, and determination. You will want to throw the scale out on trash day.
- Check the fit of your clothes. Grab those jeans from the back of the closet and give them a try. A well-fitting pair of pants can be a great way to measure your progress. Body composition changes as a result of exercise and nutrition. It considers your height, weight, muscle mass, water, and so much more. While getting a body composition analysis done is always a great baseline assessment – the way our clothes fit can be a tell-tell sign of progress. Be patient with yourself but don’t throw out those pants just yet.
I own a scale, but I only stand on it consistently when I am actively preparing for a competition. If I did not compete in a weight-class sport – I would probably never step on a scale. I keep a training journal and write down everything from my mood to the total number of reps I am able to do of a certain exercise. I look back on those notes as a reminder of my progress. It is exciting to perform 5 reps of something that I once could only do for 2 reps. I write down if something feels hard – and I like to make notes when it starts to feel easier. Exercise should be a celebration of the many small victories that add up to a larger health goal. Scale not moving the way you thought it should be? Don’t panic – progress is about the journey!
“The work never gets easier. YOU just get stronger.”