How To Track Your Progress To Keep You Motivated
If you are active on social media, then you have seen the hundreds of #transformationtuesday pictures. This also means that you have been introduced to one of the many ways to track your progress. Now the question is, are you tracking your progress? And do you know how to track your progress? If you don’t, then don’t worry. I got you?. In this article, I’ll be telling you why it is essential to track your progress and the different methods you can use to track.
Why Should You Track Your Progress?
Picture this. You’ve decided that this is the year you get in shape. You want to tone up your legs and bum, and you’re determined to lose the stubborn little pooch that you’ve been fighting with for the last few years. You know, the pooch that’s more stubborn than your Nana(bless her). You’ve got your goals pinned down, and you have even put together a training program and meal plan. You know where you want to go and you have an idea about how to get there. So you dive in head first with everything you’ve got. Everything is going well, and you’re rather proud of yourself. You’ve managed to stick to your training and meal plan even while working your 9-5 desk job. A few more months go by, and suddenly your progress seems to slow down. Or has it? You’re not entirely sure. Are you imagining it or has it really slowed down? Because you never bothered with any form of tracking, you have no idea.
Do you see why it is important to track? It isn’t only about taking #transformationtuesday pictures for the gram. Tracking your fat loss or muscle growth helps you to identify when you have hit a plateau. It also helps you to see whether your training and nutrition plan is working. Because who wants to spend months training and dieting to see no results? Ain’t nobody got time for that. And of course, looking back and seeing how far you’ve come makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Plus, it keeps you motivated because you aren’t going to quit when you see how much you have achieved. Not this girl, not today! After all, this is your year.
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How to track your progress?
Let me start by saying this. It is going to need a teeny bit of upfront work and consistency. But, it is worth it in the long run. The method you choose to track your progress is up to you. Choose the one that fits into your lifestyle and will motivate you the most.
This is an obvious one but very useful. Before you start any training regime or meal plan, get a friend or family member to take a photo of you. Take note of how you are standing, the lighting when you take the photos and how far your photographer is standing. You need to replicate this every time you take progress photos because if you don’t, it could affect the accuracy. You can choose which angles you prefer for example the front or the back etc. But it is best to take a front, back, and side shot. Your goals may change as you progress along your journey so having a variety of photos would help. Lastly, try not to suck your tummy in. You’re going to regret it somewhere down the line because your actual progress won’t show. These photos are for your own use, so don’t be shy or self-conscious. Remember one day you’re going to look back at them and think “Hot damn! Look how far I’ve come.”
2. Body fat calipers/ torture device
You may have heard of or seen these before, and perhaps you thought they were some sort of torture device. They aren’t I pinky promise (holds out pinky). They work by pulling the fat under your skin (subcutaneous fat) away from your muscle. The calipers measure the thickness of the pinch, and the measurement is then used to calculate your body fat percentage. The body fat calipers usually come with a booklet which explains how to use them and has all the calculations you need to use. This isn’t the most accurate way to measure body fat because calipers only measure your subcutaneous fat, not your visceral fat. Visceral fat is the fat around your organs, and you can’t pinch your visceral fat with a caliper. Even though this method isn’t accurate, you can still use it to track your subcutaneous fat loss.
Ah good ole measurements! This method requires a bit more time, but it is accurate if you do it correctly. All you need is a body tape measure and a book or an excel sheet to keep track of your measurements. The main areas to measure are your waist, thighs, hips, and biceps. You’re welcome to measure other areas based on your personal goals. Take note of where you place the tape measure because you need to place the tape on the same spot each time you measure.
4. Body Composition Scales
These are not like your regular bathroom scale. Your bathroom scale only measures your body weight which is not ideal. Weight training helps you gain muscle and lose fat. When you step onto a regular scale, it will look like you haven’t lost any weight. That is because muscle weighs more than fat. Measuring your body weight will thus not be accurate because it doesn’t account for your muscle mass. And in case you didn’t know weight training improves your bone health by increasing bone density. An increase in bone density could also make it seem like you haven’t lost weight because bathroom scales don’t measure bone mass either. So a bunch of smart humans developed a cool scale which reads your body weight, body fat, bone mass, muscle mass and in some cases water mass. It makes it easier to track fat loss and muscle gains or gainz. Whichever you prefer. Body composition scales aren’t a 100% accurate, but they could still be useful when you’re trying to track fat loss and muscle gains.
Why should you work around your menstrual cycle?
Unfortunately, women have been punished with periods, like childbirth isn’t hard enough. I know life is unfair. But it’s here to stay, so it is crucial to factor your cycle into your tracking. As you may know, your menstrual cycle causes many changes in your body throughout the month. So it only makes sense adjust your tracking according to your cycle. For example, if you take your progress pictures during the first week of your cycle, then you need to take your next photo at the same time. It will give you a more accurate result because your body will be in the same phase of your cycle. To illustrate this let’s look at a scenario. If you took your first progress photo the week before your period, you would most likely be bloated because you are retaining water. If you then take your second progress photo the week after your period, it will look like you’ve lost a lot of weight. It is not accurate because it could have been water weight. Do you see how your cycle could affect your tracking? The last thing you want is to think that you had gained weight when it was water or vice versa.
What is the next step?
If you have made it this far then YAY! Hopefully, you are not feeling discouraged or overwhelmed but rather empowered to take charge of your progress. The next step is to choose a method that fits into your lifestyle and works with your goals. Choose a way that you know you will be consistent with, and that will help keep you motivated. The point of tracking is to see whether your meal plan and training program is working, to help you blast through plateaus and to keep you accountable. Not to mention the satisfaction you’ll experience when you look back and see how far you have come. Even though tracking is beneficial, it is crucial not to become obsessed with the numbers. How you feel physically and mentally is far more critical.
If you do decide that tracking could be beneficial to you, then go ahead and choose the method that suits you best. And remember to share this post with a friend!