If you’re serious about making a change in your life and getting in shape then I cannot stress the importance of tracking your progress. It’s an important tool to make sure you are staying on track and holds you accountable for your actions. Don’t be that person who goes through the motions when they workout. Believe me, you just won’t know what you did last time unless you write it down. You will find that tracking progress will bring greater focus to your training.
Having information to analyse is invaluable. Knowing that your weight has stayed the same for a month tells you that you need to change something. Have you hit a plateau or have even begun regressing in your training? Take a look at your workout log to see where it’s going wrong.
Tracking your workouts is fundamental. You need to beat the book to lose fat and gain muscle. Write down what how many reps and sets you did on the squat and try to beat that in your next workout. Next time you go for a run, try to do it a little quicker or go a little longer. Tracking workouts shows you where you are currently and where you need to be.
It’s also great for people to look back and see that progress over a long period of time. I personally use an app on my phone called GymGoal. It has an endless library of exercises to choose from and I can quickly look back at recent workouts to see my progress. It can even put your workout information on graphs so you can clearly see your progress over time at a glance. You can always use the classic pen and paper if you prefer. When you see that since 2 months ago you are now squatting 20kg heavier for the same sets and reps, that’s a very satisfying feeling and brings even more focus to your training.
80% of successes and failures are direct results of how you eat. Most people never realise just how much they eat until they start tracking their food. The average person underestimates their daily intake by 500 calories, some even as far as 1000 calories. People forget that a tablespoon of olive oil, 2 spoons of sugar and the latte from Starbucks (381 cals!) all count toward their calorie intake.
A great way to find out just how much you are currently eating is to write down what you would normally eat in one week. You don’t have to weigh it all to the gram, keep it simple e.g. 1 cup of rice, 2 medium potatoes etc. You can then look up the calories, (I recommend using MyFitnessPal) to add the calories for the week. Once you have tracked your food intake for just 1 week you have a good Idea what you need to gain or lose weight. It’s that simple.
For those that are dieting, it’s going to be essential to track food so you know when to make changes. When weight stagnates you know that you need to reduce your food intake and adjust macronutrients.
Tracking food can also be important to check for any dietary deficiencies. Remember to take in at least 1g per lb (1.6g per kg) of body weight of protein per day for optimal retention and building of muscle. Aim for at least 0.3g-0.4g per lb (0.48g-0.64g per kg) for optimal hormone function.
Tracking weight and body measurements can also be a useful tool to track progress. By tracking your body composition, you will have a more accurate view of what’s working and what’s not working. Simple suggestions are hopping on the scales 2-3 times a week first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and taking measurements of body parts.
Ultimately the best way to track body measurements would be to have a DEXA Scan to accurately measure your body composition. Having 2 DEXA scans (say 16 weeks apart) give you an accurate measure if you have lost/gained body fat and muscle and what to do about it.
Bringing it all together
You are your own best science experiment. Once you are tracking each of these you can even link them to one another to really pinpoint success and failures. Did you put on an extra kilo in the last week? Check the food diary at the time to find out why. Has progress stalled in the gym? Check your food diary to make sure you are eating enough to fuel workouts. Take the time to note down this information and you will be amazed how much it will help on your fitness journey.