Oops. Are You Measuring Progress Correctly?

measuring the right type of progress

What does progress (or results) mean to you? For most people, the first thing they reply is a number of the scale. They want to lose 5, 10, 15, 20+ pounds.

What if I told you the number on the scale is the LEAST meaningful measure of progress related to your health and fitness? Yup. That’s right, the least meaningful. Personally, I don’t even weigh myself anymore. The last time I did I laughed at the scale (it was a bit higher than “normal” but looking in the mirror I was more lean. So I laughed at it and moved on with my day).

What Should You Measure?

I suggest using these 5 ways to measure your health and fitness and see the progress you’re making.

#1 – How do you FEEL?

Are you tired or energetic? Do you feel strong or weak? Are you happy? (Mental health is important) Has your mood improved? Are you in pain or pain-free/less pain? Think about how your body feels now. Is there room for improvement? In what areas?

#2 – How do you fit in your clothes? 

Instead of focusing on the number, consider how you fit in your clothes. Is your butt filling out your jeans better? Are your clothes looser in the areas you want them to be? Or maybe tighter? For example, I’ve had to give away some of my leather jackets because they were too tight. I had purposely been working on growing my back muscles, so photos (see below) and a tight jacket meant I had succeeded. 

#3 – Photos

Photos are one of the best ways to see your progress. Just looking in the mirror isn’t enough. You become accustomed to what you see and you don’t notice the subtle differences that happen over months. I suggest taking regular (monthly) photos so you can visually see the difference. Trust me. You will regret not taking the “before” (or starting point) photos! 

In the photo below my Virtual client Heather shows “only” a four pound difference. FOUR! And look at the changes! 

progress comparison - 4 lbs difference

#4 – Measurements

Measurements can be a very helpful tool for measuring progress, especially if you are looking to lose some inches. Key measurements are: biceps, chest, waist (smallest part), waist (belly button), hips, thighs. 

You might also consider keeping track of your resting heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Note: I don’t like/use BMI.

#5 – Strength, Endurance and Flexibility

I’m a huge proponent of focusing on what your body CAN do as opposed to just how it looks. To measure this, we want to look at three areas of fitness: strength, endurance, and flexibility. 

There are many ways to measure each of these areas so choose exercises that work for you. For example, Marian recently started training with me as a Virtual 1:1 client with the goal of increasing her core strength. In less than 1 month she’s more than doubled her plank time!!! 

At the beginning she could barely do that 40s. Through specific, intentional programming I created she’s greatly increased her core strength in just a few weeks. Oh, and we don’t do crunches. 

stronger core results

You could measure strength by choosing a few exercises and then determining your 1 rep max. You will be able to clearly identify progress when your 1 rep max is higher (heavier).

Here’s another example of strength gains: “It’s been a full year since I first started my fit and health journey with Lydia Di Francesco. I’ve learned so much about how strong I am, and really how amazing I feel after I’ve put on a great workout. No extreme diets, just exercising and finding healthier versions of my fave foods. 13lbs down, lots of muscle everywhere, and strength of mind and body. When I first started I couldn’t even do knee push ups. Today, thanks to Lydia’s fantastic method I can do 3 sets of 12 reps in a full push up position. I can squat with 95lbs on a barbell and my knees no longer hurt.” – Carla, 15 Minute Workout Club member

For endurance, choose your favorite cardio method and start tracking how long/far you can go. Make it a game and have fun with it. For flexibility, select a few stretches and note your starting range. Over time, you should see an increase in range (ie. bending forward touching ankle versus bending and touch palm to the floor.

You should get results for the effort you put into creating and maintaining a healthy body! Just make sure your using the right forms to measure your success.

Coach Lydia 

ps. If you’re looking to improve strength overall or in a targeted area, let’s chat! Virtual 1:1 training allows you to train from home with real-time guidance and coaching from a Certified Trainer. (I have space for 3 more clients)

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Lydia Di Francesco is the Founder of Fit & Healthy 365 and Creator of the 15 Minute Workout Club, an online workout membership site. As a Certified Personal Trainer, Lydia educates clients and the public that healthy living doesn’t need to be complicated. She promotes simple, fun, exercise, self-care, and creating a healthy mindset with a long-term approach to wellness.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.