Podcast Episode #009: How to Measure Fitness Success So That You Don’t Overlook Progress
It can be pretty frustrating when you work so hard to get in shape but the numbers on the scale don't want to co-operate. Just know that the scale on tells a small piece of the story. Let's get a more complete picture of the progress you may have already made.
LOSE 10 IN 4 PODCAST: EPISODE #009
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- Goal Setting: Actions vs. Outcomes [read this!]
- How to Take Accurate Body Measurements [Video]
- Expert Roundtable: How to Lose 10lbs and Keep It Off
- Podcast #008: How to Stay Motivated for Exercise
Questions & Comments: Please Add Your Thoughts!
How to Measure Your Fitness Progress [Full Text]
Today I have a great question from Lucinda. Let's dive right in...
"I find I'm really motivated when I see results, but if the results don't come, or at least if they seem if they're not coming, then it's easy for me to just head to the fridge and forget all about it."
Thanks so much for writing in, Lucinda. I know that getting results and staying motivated is something that a lot of people struggle with. You're definitely not alone.
I just want to relay a story of a client I was recently working with through my 10 in 4 weight loss coaching program. Her name was Amanda and she had just recently given birth to her second child and was in the process of trying to get back in shape after that pregnancy. She was doing really well. She had lost a lot of weight. She was feeling really strong. She set a very specific goal for herself: She had a pair of jeans that she wore pre-pregnancy and she said she wanted to give herself 4 weeks to get back into those jeans.
While her goal was great, there are many things that led to it not quite happening. I know she felt very similar to the way that you expressed. She felt disheartened, frustrated, and ready to give up because the result didn't seem to happen the way she had hoped it would.
This is common for a lot of people. The 10 in 4 program that I run gets its name from the fact that people who enrol in it are trying to lose 10 pounds in 4 weeks. Just by the nature of that name, there sets a really high expectation that that's the result that everyone is going to achieve.
I'll be honest with you. A lot of people do lose 10 pounds and even more than that, but there are some people that don't. There's an opportunity for frustration just like you expressed to set in when that exact result doesn't happen.
Today I want to talk about "results," and I put that in air quotes because we needed to find what results actually are. Because the fact is you actually may be experiencing amazing results but perhaps the way you are measuring those results or what you're looking for just isn't necessarily aligned with the results that you're actually seeing at this time.
Let's take a look at some ways that you can measure results and see the success that you're actually having.
Measuring on the Scale
The first and most obvious way to to measure results is by stepping on the scale, so measuring your weight. A couple years ago I had a client, her name was Cathy, and she came to be and needed to lose about 50 pounds to get to her ideal weight of being 160 pounds. She gave herself a goal of 4 months to do this. She was very steadfast in her decision that in 4 months she would lose that weight. I pushed her on that goal because setting an arbitrary weight loss goal is almost always meaningless or even detrimental to your progress.
Instead of setting a goal and saying, "I want to lose this amount of weight by this specific date," start to think about some action that you're going to take in order to achieve that goal. Most research suggests that eating a relatively clean diet and doing some exercise will allow most people to lose about a pound of weight per week. That's something you can sustain until you get relatively close to your ideal weight, but it takes action.
Going back to my 10 in 4 program, you might think, "Our goal is to lose 10 pounds in 4 weeks. That's 2 1/2 pounds per week. How can you do that?"
The structure setup is all about very specific actions and it's quite a regimented and highly accountable program, so I know that those actions are going to happen. Therefore, the likelihood of reaching that weight loss goal is greatly improved. Again, I want to stress if you're going to use weight as your target or your barometer for success, it's so important to tie that weight loss goal with the actions you're taking that will lead to it.
What actions are you taking to achieve the weight-loss goals you've set? Success only comes with action.
Saying that, "I want to lose 10 or 20 or 30 pounds" in a month or 2 months or whatever it is, is completely meaningless and is probably going to lead to frustration if you don't have specific actions that are likely to get your there.
How Does Your Body Look? Is It Changing?
The second way you can measure results is by your physical appearance. I highly recommend that when you're starting a new fitness program or a new healthy eating program with the goal of body change, take a picture.
Take a picture when you start and then set regular intervals when you'll take subsequent pictures. Maybe it's every 2 weeks, maybe every 3 weeks. You probably don't want to get much longer than 3 or 4 weeks because that duration or that span between pictures becomes too long and it's easy to lose motivation.
Another way that you can measure your physical progress is by physically measuring it. Take body measurements. In the show notes I'll link to a video that shows exactly how you can take physical measurements that will be very accurate and help you see your progress over time.
Looking at the way that your physical appearance changes or looking at the measurements that you take and see how those change over time are really helpful. Because as you're probably aware, your body's composition might be drastically changing, but the numbers on the scale might stay the same.
As you lose weight, particularly if you're doing any form of resistance training, there's a high likelihood that you're increasing your lean muscle mass. You've heard this before. Muscle is denser than fat. You could definitely be standing still on the scale but making significant improvements in the size of your body and the shape of your body.
What's Happening With Your Energy?
The third way you can start to measure results is by taking a look at how your energy levels are improving. A lot of people say, "I don't have any energy to exercise," or "At the end of the day I'm just too tired to to exercise." My first thought would be, "Maybe it's time to change what your exercise is or change the time of day that you're exercising."
You can take a look at podcast number 8 where I talk about motivation to stay exercising on a regular basis. It's also a bit of a catch 22. If you don't exercise, chances are your energy levels are going to be low which means that you're less likely to exercise which means you're going to have low energy. You can see how that cycle really gets ingrained.
As you start exercising and as you start eating a healthier diet, think about what's happening to your energy levels. Do you notice that you need less caffeine to get you through the day? Do you notice that that mid-afternoon period of feeling really draggy has shortened or is less significant than it was before? Do you feel at the end of the day you're able to do things after work that previously you would have been too tired to do?
All of these things are significant improvements or significant results that many people overlook. The best part is these results are actually setting yourself up for improved results and maybe those improved results will happen on the scale or happen with physical measurements. The more energy that you have from the efforts that you're putting in, the more energy that you're going to gain for even further efforts or further improvements.
How Do You Feel?
The fourth way you can measure results is by the way your body feels. I know this is a bit of a subjective measurement, but if you take a look back at episode number 1 of the podcast, I told a story about a period of time in my life when I went through some really bad digestive issues. At the time I maybe didn't even realize how poorly I felt until I started to work my way out of those issues and noticed how good it felt to feel good. The same goes for you. If you're eliminating some of those processed foods or those junky foods and replacing those foods with healthier meals, you're going to feel better.
Unfortunately many people just gloss over this and again they get back to the numbers. I want to see the scale move, but when you're improving your digestive system, again, you're setting yourself up for future success.
If right now you're experiencing any digestive issues ... again, it could be stomach bloating, upset stomach, whatever it is...there's a high likelihood that your body isn't processing the food that you're eating. When your body isn't properly processing your food, there's a good likelihood that you're taking a lot of calories and not getting the benefit from those foods. We eat more, our body still doesn't feel well nourished, so we eat more and on and on it goes.
However, as you begin to improve your diet, your body's ability to digest foods and extract the nutrients from those foods will also improve. This leads to a lower likelihood of overeating and having temptations to eat a lot foods that we probably don't actually want to eat. Your cravings are going to be reduced and the chance of you losing weight or seeing some of those physical changes in the future, again, is greatly increased.
How Well Are You Sleeping?
The fifth way that I encourage you to start looking at your results is to think about how well you're sleeping. A while ago I was writing an article about how to lose 10 pounds and I consulted with a lot of experts in the industry.
One of those experts I consulted with is Robb Wolf and he's a research biochemist. He's big on the Paleo diet, does all kinds of speaking and writing. A really well-researched guy. The question I asked him was, "If you gave people just 1 tip that would help them lose 10 pounds, what would it be?" His answer was 2 words, "Sleep more."
When you get a better sleep at night, your body's ability to recover from the previous day's activities and then prepare and be energetic in the following day drastically goes up. It also helps you reduce your stress and all of these things contribute to improved weight loss in the future.
When you start exercising or adopt healthier eating, think about how its impacting your sleep. Are you falling asleep more quickly at night? Are you sleeping through the night better? Are you getting a most restful sleep? Do you feel more rejuvenated in the morning? All of these things are results and they're all setting yourself up for success in the future.
Your "10 in 4" Takeaway
Your 10 in 4 takeaway for today is the fact that results are different for everybody. If we're only looking at weight loss or the numbers on the scale as our be-all and end-all for results, then there's a high likelihood that we're overlooking a lot of other things that are positively changing in our lives.
It's also important to remember that the change process happens at different times or different speeds for different people. I had a client in my 10 in 4 program who for 2 weeks lost 0 pounds. She was pretty frustrated and almost ready to give up, but she stuck with the program and stuck with the process and in week number 3 she lost 6 pounds, and in week number 4 she lost another 5.
This is just an example of how timing is different for everyone. There's a famous personal trainer named Paul Chek and he has as great quote that says,
When it comes to getting in shape, If you're not assessing then you're only guessing.
This is very true when it comes to measuring our results. If we're only assessing by looking at the scale and the numbers on the scale, there's a high likelihood that we're overlooking a lot of the results that are actually happening.
My question to you is: What are you using for forms of assessment? Are you just looking at those numbers on the scale? Or are there other forms of success that can really motivate you to keep going?
Maybe that's by taking a picture and seeing the physical changes in your body, looking at those physical measurements, or maybe it's by starting a journal. How do you feel each day? How's your digestive improving? How much energy to you have now versus a few weeks ago? How are you sleeping at night?
Don't underestimate the power of all these results. They add up ad they put you in a place where you'll experience some of those other results that you're looking for in the future.