How can you be sure you’re making progress? If you’ve been training for 6 months or longer & you’ve gotten past those “newbie” gains then this question isn’t new to you. I’ve answered this question hundreds of times for many women working their butts off (no pun intended, haha).
Here are a few key points that I look for, as well as teach my athletes to look for, when the scale isn’t telling you the whole story.
This is number 1 because it’s the most important
If your goal is to look better then your main gauge of progress needs to be evaluating how you look. Bottom line. These pictures should be a top priority and as such be consistent:
- Good lighting
- Same angle (preferably directly in front at chest height or if you’re a competitor lowering the camera a bit gives you the view from the judge’s seat.
- Same basic clothes or suit
- Same time of day: this is important. I suggest doing your pics and measurements in the AM before you’ve had meal 1, but after you’ve used the restroom. This will be the most consistent and accurate assuming you’ve had adequate sleep as well.
These are another great way to gather data. Here’s a video I made to help you measure in the places where I typically see the most changes in our athletes. You don’t have to do all of these, but be sure that you’re always measuring in the same place. You can look for skin markings like freckles or scars to help you with the consistency. You can also measure from landmarks. For example, when you measure your thighs, measure either up form your knee or down from your hip to the spot you want to keep track of (typically the higher part of the thigh).
Remember, week to week or even month to month doesn’t give you the best snapshot. Gather data and review over time.
Record your workouts
This assumes that you are following a program. If you’re not, I’d recommend that first. You can read more about that HERE.
You might THINK you’ll remember what you’re using for each exercise, but when it comes down to making those TINY 1% changes on the daily, it’s hard to remember if you used 45lbs for 10 reps or whether it was for 8 reps last time. What about squatting 135lbs for 3 sets of 10 or was it 4 sets of 10?? At the end of the week, month, training cycle/phase those things matter and will truly help your mental state when you *think* you’re not making progress.
Get a workout notebook and use it. Bottom line. Take notes, record how certain movements feel. Sometimes it’s not even about the load or the reps increasing, but about whether or not you’re feeling confident or connecting with the muscle you’re aiming to connect with.
Keep records: sleep, nutrition, hunger levels, energy, digestion
Piggy-backing off of the point above. Keeping records not only helps see in black and white (or blue or purple if your take notes in blue or purple, lol) that things are changing, but you will begin to recognize trends. When you sleep great, how did your nutrition look that day? When you don’t sleep great, what did you training look like? I know after a grueling leg day I typically don’t sleep all that great. My body is tired, but my legs just ache and twitch. I wouldn’t have noticed that without keeping some sort of records on my daily details. Things like fiber, water intake, day of your cycle can all vastly impact your weight, digestion, mood and overall feeling of “progress”.
Take notes and review them regularly!
These definitely don’t have to be jeans, but you know what I’m saying. Sometimes when you’re aiming to change your physique even the measurement tape doesn’t really show your progress. Certain pants, shorts and blouses sure do though! I don’t need measurements to tell me that my arms and shoulder have grown this year, I can just try to wear that cute jacket I used to wear last year, haha.
Same goes for fat loss, of course. Pick a fabric that’s less forgiving and doesn’t have that much stretch. If your goal is to tighten up then, every month or so, try that piece of clothing on for size. Are you getting closer?
What Gets Measured, Gets Managed.
At the end of the day progress is all about being a TINY bit better over time. If you’re not gathering data there’s no true way to evaluate what’s going on over time. You also won’t REALLY know what to modify when things aren’t moving in the right direction. It becomes a guessing game and you’re right back to spinning your wheels.
Nothing with physique development is linear…meaning, you’re not going to see evident changes day after day. Most of the time it’s an upward or downward trend based on data collected.
It can be discouraging if you aren’t 100% confident that all of your effort is leading you in the direction you want to go so be sure to keep track of your progress several ways. Plan touchpoints to review your data collected and then allow that to be what guides your next steps. Having a coach or someone your trust to touch base with or guide you in your program set up can make this process exceptionally better. No second guessing if you’re moving in the right direction and no worries about whether or not all the work you are putting in is what is best for YOU.
We all get somewhere, but will you get there on purpose?
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