Do you know how to assess your fitness progress without the scale? Body weight is certainly important, especially if your main goal is weight loss. However, most people make the mistake of relying solely on the scale as their ONLY indicator of progress.
Let me ask you this…
Does your scale tell you how much fat you’ve lost and how much lean muscle you’ve gained?
Does your scale measure how many inches you’ve taken off your waistline?
Does your scale track your food to help you eliminate bad habits like drinking too much soda?
Does your scale know that you set a personal record on your squat today?
Does your scale show you the changes in your body composition between now and the time you started?
If your scale does all these things, then disregard this article. Your scale is way better than mine! For everyone else, make sure you have at least 3 OTHER WAYS to assess your fitness progress besides the number on the scale.
Other ways to assess your fitness progress:
- Body Fat Percentage – This is the percentage of fat your body contains. If you are 100 pounds and 10% fat, it means that your body consists of 10 pounds fat and 90 pounds lean body mass (bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and everything else). Read How To Properly Track Your Fitness Progress for more on how to take your body fat reading correctly.
- Circumference Measurements – These help you to determine the change in your bodies dimensions over time. Common areas to measure are:
- Upper Arm (relaxed, not flexed)
- Chest (measure across the nipple line)
- Waist (begin and end at the belly button)
- Hip (the widest part)
- Thigh (the widest part)
- Progress Photos – Small consistent changes can be hard to recognize when you are looking at yourself in the mirror everyday. Progress photos are the best way to compare where you are currently to where you were when you started. Make sure when you take these to keep the angles and lighting consistent. This will give you the most accurate assessment of changes in your body composition.
- Personal Records – Performing a strength assessment every 4-6 weeks is a good way to measure increases in overall strength on some of the major lifts like the barbell squat, deadlift, or the bench press. For more on this topic, read How To Safely Test For Your One-Rep Max.
- How Your Clothes Fit – After about 4-6 weeks of consistent exercise and eating healthy, many people notice that their clothes start fitting a little differently. If you’ve lost weight, you may notice you need to cinch your belt a little tighter because your pants are fitting looser. If you were lean to begin with and you gained a little muscle, you will probably notice more definition in your shirts around the shoulder area.
- Food Journal – Logging your food with an app like MyFitnessPal is a great way to track your calories and macronutrients in order to stay on track with your fitness goals and assess any changes that need to be made to your diet.
- Quality Of Sleep – Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night not only directly affects your fitness gains but your overall health. Click Here for more tips on how to get better sleep.
- Energy Level – Most people report an increase in their energy level once they have begun exercising regularly and eating healthy. Take note of how you feel when you wake up in the morning. Do you have more energy to take on the day? How about after 2pm when you normally crash?
- Confidence – Let’s be honest, being fit and healthy helps a lot in this department. When you accomplish something like a major weight loss or getting into the best shape of your life, you’ve proved to yourself (and others) that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to. This bleeds into everything you do from the way you carry yourself, to how you tackle the work day, all the way back to the bedroom. Who doesn’t want more confidence?
In summary, when you’re on a fitness journey, there’s a lot more going on than just weight loss. You’re getting out of your comfort zone, trying new things, reinforcing positive habits, trading a little body fat for a little lean muscle, starting to feel better about yourself, getting stronger, sleeping well, and waking up with more energy.
The scale measures none of this.
Focus on improving every single day, not on the number on the scale, and with patience and consistent effort you will reach your goals.
Committed To Your Health,
Brian Donovan is a certified fitness and nutrition coach, and the founder of Online Fitness Coach, LLC – an online fitness program where clients get direct coaching and personally tailored training and nutrition plans. Coach Brian was voted Chicago’s “Best Personal Trainer” by Chicago Reader magazine, Best Of Chicago 2014 edition. He has been featured in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness, Chicago Reader, Voyage Chicago, and The PTDC as well various other health and fitness blogs.
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