Tracking Your Progress
By: Marcos Hernandez:
“If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there” – Lewis Carroll
We all learned in math class that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Most people know one endpoint of this line, where they want to go, their goals. Everyone’s goals will be different and typically fall under the categories of performance, health, or body composition/aesthetic related.
Having a goal, a point b, is certainly important. However, in order to make progress towards your end goal, you need a starting point for reference, a point a. Your coach can help you draw the line between these points, but how can we help without an accurate starting point? If the finish line is point b, how are you assessing your point a?
This is where tracking comes in.
Tracking comes in three tiers: daily/weekly, monthly, and yearly.
This is the small stuff, the things that need to be written down early or else they will be forgotten.
Workouts: Write down the weight you use on the lift of the day, and write down the time you got in the day’s conditioning. It’s important to know what we did in the past so you can improve week to week, even if it means you are using the 1.25lb change plates. More math: What’s 2.5*52? (1.25lb plate on each side, 52 weeks in a year). This kind of linear growth isn’t possible indefinitely but you get the idea. People either use a workout journal and write it by hand, use an app on their phone like Beyond the Whiteboard, or take a picture for reference.
Food Log:This is often the most illuminating, especially for those who have goals related to body composition. Try either writing it down in a journal or using an app like MyFitnessPal. Even the act of writing it down might be good motivation to skip that dessert, but if you do indulge write it down and keep it moving, no need to dwell on the treat. Remember, the food log only works if you’re honest and record everything, not just the healthy stuff.
Sleep tracking:There are lots of apps and devices out there, and a quick search will turn up plenty of suggestions. But be aware of how many hours you sleep each night, and your sleep/rise times, shooting for anywhere from 7-9 hours.
Monthly (Aesthetic/Body Composition):
This is the best timeframe to measure body composition.DON’T track your weight on a daily basis. It fluctuates wildly and leads to all sorts of value judgments. Instead take pictures of yourself in your underwear. Do it at the same time of day and in the same mirror so you can see the difference when doing a side by side comparison. Similarly, track how your clothes are fitting and take pictures in some of your normal outfits for further evidence of changes to your body’s shape.
This is the level dedicated to health, and a reasonable timescale for how long hard work takes to show up. There are two recommended ways to track here: blood work and, if desired, a DEXA scan.
The blood work will be reviewed by your doctor and they can tell you how your various short and long term health markers are looking as well as any if potential interventions or adjustments are necessary to keep you healthy.
A DEXA scan is the scientific way to measure body fat percentage and bone density. This is useful information if weight loss is necessary for your health, as recommended by your doctor, or you are getting up in years and need to make sure your bones are robust and able to support you for years to come.
In conclusion, your coaches can help you determine the quickest route to your goals but they have to know where you are. Come armed with this type of information, or be ready to keep track of this information, if you really want to make some progress!