This post was written by Max Shippee.
So…some thoughts on measuring progress with fitness with PaleoFit….
We’re pretty geeky over here at Paleo Plan. We trade articles on all kinds of weirdness that most people would very quickly gloss over. The good thing about that, is we feel we can provide some good info for you along your life journey to wellness.
That also means that we have opinions about things, sometimes strong opinions. And many times those opinions will be very very different from yours. This post may be one of those.
We’re going to go over different methods of tracking progress and how we think each method can be used, constructively, to meet your health goals.
- pros – it’s easy to measure & relatively accurate (if you use the same scale)
- cons- it can fluctuate throughout the day/week, it doesn’t tell you anything about your fitness or usefulness as a human being- Some people obsess about a number on a scale- It may conflict with other goals (see “Performance”)
How to use the scale
First – the scale only provides information, and unless you’re grossly overweight, it tells you very little about your wellbeing.
Second – use one of two methods:
(A) Either weigh yourself daily, or
(B) Once Every year
Seriously. If you weigh yourself daily, you will see that it’s not uncommon to gain or shed as much as 5 pounds in a day. Water retention, meals, even a big “movement” can make a difference. If you weigh yourself every day, you will see these changes & will see a gradual trend in one of three ways, up, down, or stable. If using this method, you must NOT OBSESS on the numbers, only what they provide with a focus on the bigger picture. Your other option is to weigh yourself just once a year, to see where you are, just so if the doctor asks, you know.
Measurements – (sizes)
- Pros- shows change in certain body parts, can get an idea of body composition
- Cons- numbers may stabilize before other goals are reached, provides only limited information regarding your usefulness as a human being
How to Use Measurements
Get a fabric tape measure.
Measure the distance around each of these parts.
- Both Upper Arms (mid bicep)
- Waist (horizontal at naval)
- Hips (at widest point below Waist)
- Both Legs (mid-thigh)
Go to 4hourlife.com for a great tutorial on how to do this…
Take measurements every month or so to note your progress. Once again, this is simply INFORMATION, while it’s good to have goals, having a 20-inch waist probably isn’t a good, or realistic one. This information is useful to judge progress.
The more casual way to do this is to pick an article of clothing (either one that fits now, or one that “used” to fit) and note how big/small it feels as you go along.
- Pros – it can tell you a LOT about how useful you are as a human being
- Cons – it must be tracked continuously to see trends, it may conflict with “other” (cough…less important…cough) goals (see “The Scale”)
How to Use Performance
Do a workout, make note of how long it took you, or the load you used (i.e. 50 burpees in 4:28, or 20 backs squats at 105lbs) The next time you do the workout, try to do it either faster, with more weight, or with more range of motion.
You can also try to do more work in the same amount of time i.e. – how many push-ups can you do in a minute.
If you’re keeping track of these performance numbers, you should see a trend in a certain direction (i.e. 50 burpees in 4:02, then in 3:47, etc. or 20 back squats at 115, then 127, etc.) It’s also useful to note problem areas/imbalance in your fitness (i.e. really good at push-ups, not at pull-ups).
The good thing is that these numbers can tell you a LOT. If you’re cranking out 100 burpees in less than 5 minutes, you’re probably got some good conditioning going on. If you’re cranking out 20 back squats at 225, you’re pretty strong. Bascially, you’re an animal. You’re probably at a healthy bodyweight for your body type, and your BMI is right where it should be. Get the idea?
The one thing here to be aware of is that focusing on performance may land you at a weight that’s a little “heavier” than a goal weight may have been at first. I have a client who stopped losing weight a year ago, but has continued to get smaller, and stronger. She’s (luckily) not obsessed about a scale number and instead wants to get both stronger and faster. Most ladies find they look awesome in the mirror, and perform really well, even though they weigh a little more than Elle magazine says they should. It’s a good thing, since Elle isn’t probably the best place to get your fitness advice.
There are a LOT of ways to measure progress. Some checkpoints will be more meaningful than others. Fitting into your pre-pregnancy pants, or getting to 10 pull-ups will probably both happen at the same time. That scale may never read the same as it did at your senior prom though, and that’s fine. Cuz you’re way hotter now! ;)