Have you ever heard the saying, “what gets measured gets improved?”
Progress can be measured in many different ways depending on how you define success, but if you’re not measuring anything (or measuring the wrong things), how will you know if you’re on track to progress towards to your goals?
If you’re only tracking body weight, you will be missing some valuable, objective data that can mean the difference between spinning in circles and clearly making progress.
Many of us are quick to tie our progress purely to the number on the scale, when in reality that number is just one data point. There are many more points of metrics to pay attention to.
Have you ever started a diet or a new training program, seen the scale drop a few lbs, gotten really excited, then maybe over-indulged one weekend? I bet you saw the scale jump up a bit so you freaked out and threw in the towel on your nutrition and fitness goals. Am I right?
If you’ve worked with a coach at Boom Boom Performance, then you know that while we may track your body weight, we also track a variety of other markers to measure progress.
The scale is not the only measure of success and it doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s why I recommend tracking the 5 metrics below to actually know whether or not you’re on the right path to success.
I’m going to detail out all of these metrics for you so you can create a big picture map of your own progress and ensure you’re on the fast track to your goals.
We’re actually not even going to count this into the 5 key metrics of today’s article because, well… we’ve touch on this one 1 too many times! And if you’re already at this blog, you’re likely already aware of how important macros are in relation to your goals.
So count this as a bonus metric, just to impress upon you that if you’re stuck with your physical body composition and you really do want to see it progress past this plateau you’re in → Macros are where you need to start.
Macros are the tool used to individualize one’s caloric intake and one’s caloric intake is the key determining factor in seeing physical transformation success. Because of that, we wrote a pretty awesome book breaking down EVERYTHING you need to know about mastering your diet (macros included). Click Here, Download it Completely Free, and LEARN what sustainable nutrition success takes.
1.) The Scale
Why not start with everyone’s favorite? Or least favorite?
While measuring average body weight is great, it is NOT the end all, be all progress measure. For example, check out my last blog on my gaining phase. I weighed over ten pounds more after 6 months, but was actually leaner.
If you are training with an emphasis on strength work, you will not see the scale move as fast as someone who starts marathon training. However, this doesn’t mean you aren’t moving towards your desired aesthetic goals – losing body fat and gaining muscle.
That being said, it’s useful to have an idea of your average body weight over time when aiming for fat loss, muscle gains, or even performance goals.
And of course, body weight is a top priority if you participate in a sport or event that has weight class requirements. In this case, your daily body weight measurements are very important and should always be tracked.
If you choose to include body weight measurements as a metric, follow the below steps to ensure accuracy.
How To Properly Use The Scale:
→ Weigh yourself at the same time, in the same place
Different scales will often give you a different reading and so will weighing yourself at different times during the day. Try to control as many variables as you can by keeping being consistent each time you weigh yourself.
→ Weigh yourself at least 3 times per week to get an average
We always want an average over a week and not just one day’s body weight because weight fluctuations day to day are totally normal. Different food choices, hydration levels, NEAT, inflammation, menstruation, and more can all cause the scale to fluctuate.
→ If at any point, the scale is causing more harm than good to your mindset and commitment, tell your coach and take a “scale vacation”
Sometimes the scale doesn’t move how we think it should but that does NOT mean you aren’t making progress. A good example is this reverse dieter. But if you find yourself getting stuck on the number and weighing yourself starts causing you stress, focus on the other metrics discussed below and take a break from the scale.
2.) Progress Photos
I always, always recommend taking initial photos, even if you don’t feel comfortable sending them to your coach or to anyone. We all start somewhere and no matter where that is for you, I am almost positive you will want to remember in one, two, or five years’ time.
When taking weekly photos for comparison, consistency and quality can’t be understated.
Taking quality progress photos can be an incredibly rewarding metric to keep track of. However, taking poor photos can hide your accomplishments.
Be sure to follow the steps below to have legitimate photos to compare over time.
How To Take QUALITY Progress Photos:
→ Set up your camera near a natural light source – i.e. set a water bottle on your windowsill and prop up your phone against it.
→ Dress to your comfort level, but avoid baggy clothing. No need to bear it all in your photos, but wearing something that shows your natural figure is very helpful for making comparisons over time.
→ Set the self timer on your phone.
→ Take photos in front, back, and side relaxed poses. If you want to throw a flexing shot in there – go for it, but make sure you have relaxed pictures for the most accurate comparisons.
→ Repeat EXACTLY week to week on the same day/time.
3.) Body Measurements
Taking body measurements is another very useful set of data to track. Measurements can tell you where you’re losing fat (or gaining muscle), which is helpful because everyone will gain and lose weight differently.
I’ve seen many clients with fat loss goals get frustrated at first by the scale not moving, but then we take a look at measurements and see progress!
This tends to be very common for people who bump up their strength training along with dialing in nutrition. The scale doesn’t move much thanks to body recomposition – building muscle while at the same time losing fat.
Taking your measurements is something everyone can do and doesn’t require any special equipment. Get yourself a reliable cloth measuring tape and follow the below steps.
How To Track Body Measurements:
→ Similar to tracking body weight, first make sure you are taking your measurements with the same measuring tape, at the same time of day, wearing the same clothing (but better yet, take the measurements directly on your skin). Control as many variables as possible.
→ Select all or a few measurements from the chart below – at the minimum, measure your waist (narrowest point), hips/glutes (widest point), bicep, and thigh.
→ Record measurements on the same day each week or bi-weekly for comparison.
→ Don’t forget to make a note of exactly where you held your tape measure to keep placement the same each time (example: “right bicep, under center of flower tattoo” – or – “right thigh above three freckles”).
Some of the most important data to track during any nutrition journey is biofeedback. This includes sleep, stress, energy, workout performance, and more depending on you as an individual.
Biofeedback helps us keep an eye on your general health and wellbeing while pushing towards your specific goals.
As a coach, I use biofeedback to know when to add in diet breaks and refeed days during a cut for fat loss. If you start feeling fatigued every day, sleeping poorly, and workout performance takes a hit, that tells me your body is under a lot of stress and we need to address that before creating a bigger calorie deficit.
Another example of using biofeedback data is when someone is reverse dieting. Coming out of a calorie deficit, especially if it was a prolonged diet, is mentally and physically tough. Tracking biofeedback can help keep you motivated as you look for improvements in your general wellbeing and workout performance while adding in calories.
This is also a good way to know when a reverse diet is over because all of your biofeedback should be at 100% before starting another diet phase.
Tracking biofeedback will depend on you and your individual goals, but here are some general guidelines to follow.
How To Track Biofeedback:
→ Choose several health & wellness metrics that you want to keep an eye on. Examples include sleep, stress, energy, and workout performance.
→ Develop a rating system and rate yourself each day (i.e. I crushed my workout yesterday so I gave myself a 5/5).
→ Track daily for the best overall picture of your biofeedback.
→ Each week, look at the average of your biofeedback scores. Were you sleeping at least 7 hours each night? Did a higher stress week influence your workouts or your body weight?
→ Now you can start to draw connections between your biofeedback and other parts of your nutrition journey. Perhaps you are reverse dieting and notice your weight stayed about the same but calories are up and now your workouts are 5/5. You know you’re on the right track!
If I had a dollar for every person who told me they are frustrated with their current physique but they don’t follow a training program…
But seriously, if you want to legitimately see results you need to be measuring your progress in the gym.
This starts with choosing a specific training program that’s in line with your goals, not wandering around the gym doing “what you feel like” each day. I’ve tried that, too, but it doesn’t get you very far!
Having a specific program to follow allows you to get into a fitness routine that works with your life/schedule, enter the gym with a plan, and know exactly what you need to do to be better than you were yesterday.
Tracking your workouts is a MUST whether you have fat loss goals, want more muscle definition, or if you want to improve in your sport.
How to Track Your Workouts
→ Choose a program that fits your schedule and your goals
› The Boom Boom Elite has a wide variety of options HERE
› Or, if you prefer a 3-month program check these out!
→ Does your training program come with a tracking spreadsheet? Perfect! Use that to record your workouts.
→ If it does not, create your own spreadsheet or pick up a journal to make notes at the gym.
→ Each day, write down your sets, reps, and weight.
› For example, 4×12 lat pull down @ 90#
› If you are training for endurance, keep track of your running distances/times/paces
→ By referencing your notes, you will know exactly what weight to lift, how many reps to add, or how fast you need to move to be stronger than last week.
› The big key here is progressive overload, meaning you’re STRIVING to do better than last week; whether that’s adding weight, a rep, a set, or increasing the range of motion or intensity of an exercise, we should be aiming to get better.
Putting It All Together
At first glance, this may seem like a lot to keep track of, but the big picture that these metrics create when added together is an incredibly accurate snapshot of your overall progress. Not to mention, it quickly becomes habit and should take you no more than 5-10 minutes each week.
Over time, tracking these four metrics can allow you to draw conclusions about what works best for you and how your body responds to different stimuli and adjustments.
And as you create these new tracking habits, it will get easier and easier for you to see progress, stay motivated, and make healthier decisions on a consistent basis.
No matter how you measure progress or your definition of success, be patient with yourself. It can take months to realize patterns and trends in the metrics you’re tracking and since nobody can be 100% “perfect” all the time, fluctuations will naturally occur.
If you’re ever stuck and wondering why or if you’re making progress, use two, three, or all of these metrics as your guide to give you objective data and ensure that you get the results you want.
This is a blog written by Caroline Ofenstein. Caroline is Certified With Precision Nutrition, NCI, CrossFit, and is also a Boom-Boom Performance Nutrition Coach. Caroline is our go-to source for CrossFit Nutrition AND bridging the gap between Aesthetics and Performance, which is where she has recently pushes a lot of her focus in order to help people understand how they can achieve both performance and the lean physique we all strive for.