Taken from my online journal beginning March 7, 2007:
- 3/07 - Posting the [progress] pictures publicly.
- 5/07 - Seeing my legs get firmer and stronger and actually LIKING the way they look; being consistent with the workouts (5-6 times per week); with the help of this site, finding a diet plan that works for me.
- 6/1 - Ten pounds down and six inches off; twenty to go.
- 6/11 - Sprinting @ 7 mph on the treadmill.
- 6/27 - Back to pre-pregnancy weight of 173 lbs.
- 7/18 - Hit the 160's!
- 7/28 - Wore a swimsuit and felt good in it.
- 9/22 - Hit the low 160's!
- 9/24 - Got a personal trainer.
- 10/21 - 25 pounds off!
- 10/28 - Wearing a size 8!
Many articles have been written about the numbers either not being used as the sole measure of our progress. Yet, we can still hinge our feelings, hopes, and dreams on whether or not that digital reading climbs just a bit too high. We can walk away feeling like a champion or feeling like our efforts were for naught. Progress can, and should be measured in many ways.
As I began taken care of my body, my changes were not only physical. They were mental, emotional, and even spiritual. Improvement in one area led to improvements in others. And I would not have been able to appreciate that if I had not made the conscious decision to ‘make it all count’. I knew there were going to be times that I faltered and made mistakes. But, I also wanted to highlight the positive choices that I was determined to make outweigh those times.
The entry above was copied from a profile that I have kept for over three years. Yes, I logged when my weight changed, but I also logged changes in how I felt about myself, and I took notes of actions that I that were associated with feeling better about myself. I remember clearly wearing a simple one-piece swimsuit to the waterpark and feeling comfortable. I did not wear a shirt, I was not tugging on my suit. I did not give my body a second thought. That, in itself, was a reward.
Here are a couple of ways to monitor your progress:
1. Scale Down
The scale is definitely a helpful tool. But it does not account for changes in one’s body composition - weight, be it muscle or fat, is just weight. And if anyone can point me to a reliable digital bodyfat scale, please let me know. According to my scale, I am at around 30%, even when preparing for a figure competition. I have used my scale to identify trends. For example, I know that I weigh about 1-1.5 pounds more in the evening than in the morning. The reading is about 3 pounds more after a moderate carbohydrate day, and 5 pounds after a high carbohydrate day. While this information does not as mean much during the off-season, it is helpful to know during certain cycles in my training. I am currently using to track my average ‘off-season’ weight and compare it to last year.
2. Picture This
I have found progress pictures to be an accurate and motivating measure of change and progress. Taking photos regularly can keep you accountable. Some tips to make your progress pictures work for you are:
- Pose in a similar fashion in each photo series. This is allows you to see, for example, if your back is getting wider or your glutes are finally rounding out like you would like.
- Wear gymwear that reveals the parts that you are trying to improve. I took my first pictures in tights and a sports bra. I did not like the photos, at all. In fact, there were difficult to look at. But the image forced me to take serious action and responsibility. It was exciting to take pictures in the same outfit and see definitive improvement.
- Crop off your head, if you are shy about showing your face or concerned about privacy.
- Find a neutral, well-lit space to shoot. A blank or plain wall makes an excellent background. You can also crop out extraneous areas so the picture just focuses on your physique.
- Use your camera’s timer feature. Set up you camera on a stable surface facing your blank or plain wall. Turn on the time and get into the position. It does take a few minutes to get the shots that you want but it is worth it. This is my kind way of saying, “Let us move away from shooting photos in the mirror.”
- Label your photos. This makes it easier to create comparison photos later. Including information such as: what show you are prepping for, dates, weight, nutritional information, weeks out, etc. can make those photos invaluable to you in the future. You can analyze, for example, when you looked your best and become better at ‘reading’ your body.
3. For All Intensive Measures
Sometimes you may think you may have hit a plateau. It could seem that way if you are just taking the scale at face value. Find out where you have gained or loss, you may be surprised at your overall a progress.
4. Performance: Bravo!
If you have been keeping a blog, log, or informal notes have you noticed that you are able to increase your weights, sets, repetitions, do longer intervals, run faster, finally finish your DVD workout series? These are all indicators of improvement that can be noted.
Has your attitude about changing changed in a positive way? Or are you at least willing to train even if the bed is calling your name. Have you discovered that if plans change or you have an engagement, you figure out a strategy to train at a different time or venue? You may have found that you are becoming increasingly disciplined in other areas in your life or have a newfound or renewed since of confidence and self. Now, fitness has nestled itself into your life. It is not an extraneous activity or a chore. It is what you do.
6. The ‘Eyes’ Have It
Take a look in the mirror. Give yourself a full assessment. Try not to worry about how other’s have changed in a similar period of time. Focus on what you have accomplished and what you will accomplish.
7. Crucial Conflict
Unfortunately, the adoption of new habits can come with some conflict. When doing something as drastic as a fitness overhaul you will have your cheerleaders and there will be those who are less understanding. I remember being asked why I wanted to look like a man. And I was told that I looked ‘sickly’ and ‘skinny’. I was even told that I was ‘obsessed’. My food has been snickered at and I have been told that it smells. On some occasions I cannot deny that (I will never take mashed cauliflower to work, again.). If you are able to stick to your regiment despite opposition that is progress.
The next that you feel like ‘nothing is happening’ because of what you see on the scale, try taking inventory in a different way.