If you have been working out hard, seeing the results is an amazing feeling! Your fitness has improved, exercises are done easier, you are killing it. If you notice it slows down, maybe your just not tracking your body stats the best way. You can do this in a few different ways by measuring your metrics. After you have your goals set in mind its time to figure out what you should be measuring and how.
The easiest one to track is your weight and body fat percentage. If you’re losing weight, the scales can help to track your progress for a while but if you’ve already lost a fair amount or trying to bulk up some muscle mass getting your body fat percentage done is better. The most inexpensive way to have your body fat percentage done is by pinching your skin with the calipers. I recommend getting a digital for the highest accuracy. You can also ask a professional to take your readings and calculate your muscle, fat and water weight. If you have a budget that allows it, you can also get a fancy Bioelectrical Impedance machine which uses little electrical impulses that run through your body. The leaner you are, the faster these impulses run. It uses these metrics to calculate your body fat percentage.
The never-ending war in fitness is always against time. How fast can you complete the sets, the rest, the workout. It makes a big difference when you rest 30 seconds vs 60 seconds. This is what makes High Intensity Interval Training so intense! I recommend you start tracking your time, there is a variety of fitness tracker available that assist with this. I am currently using the Samsung fitness tracker and I am loving it simply because it brings a stopwatch and a timer which come really handy when doing time based workouts- which I love! By accurately tracking your time (rest and active)you will be able to know the actual amount of time you’ve spent exercising which is a crucial metric to help you level up.
If you are really interested in tracking yourself, start measuring the circumference of various parts of your body! This will allow you to realize how far you have come and it will give you a good idea of how much muscle you have packed. It is an awesome way to validate that a certain way of working out is working. Remember, don’t depend on this metric to tell you how much you have progressed because the 12 inch bicep was probably when you had 5% more body fat. My top recommendations to measure are your arms, upper body (chest and shoulders) and your waist. Don’t stress it too hard if you don’t happen to get the exact numbers that you want to be. Just figure out what you have to tweak in order to make it happen. Maybe more protein/carb intake if you are trying to bulk up or a morning fasted cardio every 3 days to tone down a bit. Make sure you right it down precisely the reading and the site used, if you measure the middle of the bicep the first time then the lower part the second time you will get very misleading information.
Heart rate is another way to measure how your fitness has improved. A low resting heart rate is a good sign that you are fit, a doctor can tell you what your resting heart rate is to start or a Samsung can too (another reason why I like my Blaze). Your heart rate while exercising is another way to assess if you are actually getting more fit. A simple formula to work out your target heart rate for fitness gains is find your Maximum heart rate (MHR) then use your age and the following equation.
220 – Age = MHR
A beginner should aim for 60-70% of your MHR, when you’ve been sitting at the same heart rate during exercise for a long time it may be a chance to increase intensity.
I will make a post later on for ways to increase intensity during a workout. It’s not only more reps and sets.
With weight training, you should track the types of exercise you’re doing as well as how heavy your weights are. Your sets and reps also count towards reaching your goals, but also pay attention to the time under tension. This is a very powerful metric that it very often overlooked. It applies to calisthenics too. Doing a 5 second pull up and then holding it at the top and slowly coming down for another 5 seconds is much more difficult than doing 10 kipping pullups or 5 normal pullups too.
If you are serious about your goals, then take a little notebook when you train. Be systematic. This way you are able to really know how you are progressing. Also, if you are tracking your moves, make sure you are parallel with it and you track them all before you are exhausted after the workout, obviously.
On a last note, don’t stress too much how your stats are. Unless you are a professional bodybuilder or a calisthenics competitor, stressing it will only make it worse. No one is judging your progress. Learn that it takes time and that is the beauty of it. Be happy where you are but not satisfied. As long as you are consistenly working towards where you want to be, I consider you successful.