Using a scale to measure your objective progress can be a great way to see how you are coming along in your fitness journey! However, it isn’t always the best tool to use and can sometimes be a deterrent to continuing with exercise. There are many alternative ways to track your progress without using a scale, both subjective and objective. These tools will help you ensure that you aren’t put off from working out if the number on the scale isn’t moving like you think it should.
1. Track Habits
When measuring progress, it is important to take note of the overall habit changes you are experiencing as well. Fitness should be a lifestyle change, not something you feel like you go out of your way to do. Recognizing the habits that build to this point, and understanding how they improve quality of life, is an important success measure. Eating healthier foods on a more regular basis, increasing from 2 to 3 workouts per week consistently, and sticking to a schedule are all great ways to measure progress without a scale!
2. Benchmark Tests
A more objective way to measure progress without a scale is to perform benchmark testing. These include things like a push up test, Cooper 12 minute test, or a 1 rep max test for deadlift, squat, or bench. If you are all about your data, these can show objective improvement over a period of time through retesting and comparing it to your baseline. This gives you that numerical itch you are looking for without causing too much stress. Your trainer can help you conduct these if you are unsure how to!
3. Sleep Quality
While you are improving your lifestyle through fitness, your sleep quality will improve dramatically. Moderate to vigorous activity can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and decrease the amount of time you are restless through the night. Also, exercising outside can help maintain your body’s internal clock and reinforce circadian rhythms. A recent introduction of exercise into your life could be the reason that your sleep is not longer disturbed!
4. Measure Body Fat, Not Weight
While the number on the scale can be objectively important, it can also be a trigger for some people with eating disorders. As you start to exercise and your body goes through changes, a recomposition of your weight occurs. You start to gain muscle while you lose fat. Since muscle is more dense than fat, you may see the number on the scale increase or stay stagnant for longer than you would like. It is important to understand that this is completely normal in your journey.
A better way to understand how much you have actually progressed is to measure your body fat. This can help you to understand that you are losing fat and gaining muscle, instead of focusing so much on the scale not always trending in the direction you would like it to. Use anthropometric measuring, like calipers for skinfold measurements, or a measuring tape to see objective progress here. Also, a handheld tool that shows you a percentage can be a great tool to use for people who like their data. Whatever you choose, measuring your body fat instead of your weight is a way to measure progress without using a scale!
5. Shop in Your Closet
We all have those clothes that we just can’t part with. Whether you gained weight, or they just don’t quite fit the way they used to, we aspire to fit back into them. Well here is another way you can see how much progress you really have made! Try on that old favorite t-shirt, or see if you fit back into those jeans that you always used to wear. You may be surprised how quickly you will see progress by finding out what clothes that didn’t fit now do!
6. Mental Health
Another way to understand how to measure progress without a scale is to assess your current mental health. Exercise releases feel good chemicals in the brain, and helps to reestablish proper brain chemistry. Exercise can help people with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It can also provide as a scheduled time during your day or week where you can remove yourself from the daily stressors of life. This can help you maintain balance in life, and promote an overall lifestyle change in the long run.
7. Progress Photos
If you are interested in seeing a physical transformation throughout your journey, progress photos are a must! There is nothing like looking back at your before photos from 3 months ago and seeing how you have changed! Since you don’t see physical changes from day to day, it can help you visually understand how you have progressed. This is a very important aspect of fitness for some people. There is caution against getting too obsessed with your physical appearance though. This can lead to negative connotations with exercise and food where you want this lifestyle change to be a positive thing! If you have any questions or are unsure about how to use progress photos properly, check with your trainer!
8. Meet With Your Doctor
A meeting with your doctor can be a great way to cure the data craving that a lot of people have. There are a number of measurable markers that can be used to show how exercise is positively impacting your health! Meet with your doctor before you begin your journey for baseline testing. Markers that will improve over time with exercise include blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and resting heart rate, just to name a few. All 3 of the previous listed will decrease, indicating that your heart and body are working more effectively and efficiently. Your doctor and your long term health will thank you!
In conclusion, while measuring progress with a scale can be useful, there are just as many useful ways to measure progress without a scale. The tips listed can be used in any combination, and not every single one will work for everyone. Make sure as you begin your journey you have both short and long term goals to measure your progress. Both are important and will help you achieve smaller victories along the way to your long term changes. Ask your local trainer if you have any questions or need help figuring out which progress measurements work best for you!