Making fitness progress is so exciting. For many, it’s not only fun but important for motivation and continuation of an exercise program to see that progress as it comes!
A lot of people opt to measure their progress with the scale. And while for some that can be a big encourager, for others it can be confusing and can even fail to validate the progress that is occurring right before their eyes.
One of the biggest misunderstandings in the fitness industry is that making progress is equivalent to seeing a smaller number on the scale. The truth is, when participating in a fitness program your body is most likely undergoing a variety of changes.
Often, losing fat can also be accompanied by gaining lean muscle mass. And gaining muscle is a good thing!! It’s what will give you that tight and toned look most people who want to lose weight are after. Increase in muscle mass will increase your metabolism burning more calories even when you aren’t working out. Plus, as you gain muscle and get stronger you will be able to perform better and progress in your workouts!
However, muscle does weigh more than fat, even though it takes up less space. This can tip that number on the scale and make it seem like you aren’t making any progress when in reality you’re doing great!!
The scale is just one limited way to measure your progress, and while it can be a great tool, it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all for measuring fitness progress. Check out these 6 other great ways to evaluate your fitness progress!
As small changes occur in our bodies over time, it’s easy to fail to see how far we’ve truly come. Progress photos can provide that side by side comparison that helps us see the changes for ourselves!
I recommend taking photos once every 4 weeks since it usually takes about that long before we ourselves can see any significant physical changes. Take photos from the front, back, and side in the morning when you wake up. Choose tight or minimal clothes so you can really see what’s going on. And no posing (sucking in your stomach is hard to replicate and doesn’t qualify as progress)!
Whether your goals are to get leaner, or to get bigger (grow those muscles) watching the fit of your clothing can be a good indicator of change. You can tell the way you are changing if your clothes get looser or tighter, or especially if you find you need to get new clothes!
Even if you haven’t reached your end goal- if you need new clothes, get new clothes! Feeling comfortable and confident in that skin is an important part of basking in your progress.
Taking measurements can be not only a good indicator of fat loss but also a good indicator for those training to see hypertrophy (building bigger muscles). The method is pretty simple, just take a standard measuring tape, and wrap around the area of interest.
Important things to consider are being sure to hold the tape in the same spot each time you make these measurements. You can do so by choosing a marker, such as belly button placement on the torso, to make sure your measurements are consistent. The tape measure should be tight but not be squeezing. These measurements can be taken every month or two to check progress.
Body Composition Measurements
The best thing about body composition measurements is that you can see if you are gaining muscle, or losing fat- which tells you a lot more than your basic scale!
There are a variety of ways to measure body composition, and they come with a wide variety of accuracy and expense. Just a simple google search of body composition measurements will tell you what’s available and in your area.
Increase in Fitness
I recommend finding a workout you can use as a fitness baseline. It could be the same running route, a circuit, or even testing your weight lifting maxes. Whatever it is, use it to test where you’re at every few months.
Are you able to run farther or faster than you could before? Can you lift more weight than you could a few weeks ago? That’s no small feat, give yourself some credit- you’re making progress!
How Do You Feel?
Often times when participating in a fitness program- you’ll notice that you feel really good. You might be a little sore- but that’s often accompanied by a happy body, positive attitude, better sleep, and more energy to carry you through your day. Are you feeling good? That’s a win!
Bottom line, if you’re feeling discouraged with your scale, don’t forget that there are so many other important pieces of your fitness journey. If you do love your scale and it works for you, then I say hey, more power to ya! Find something that works for you, and encourages you as you progress.