5 Ways OTHER than the Scale to Measure Your Progress

Melissa Thomas, NASM-CPT, CES, PES; STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor; Pn1

The scale can be a useful tool for measuring progress when your goal is specifically related to weight loss. But what if you’re happy with your weight, or maybe you’ve found that stepping on the scale just isn't for you? Good news! There are MANY ways to measure your progress that have nothing to do with the weighing in! Here are a few of my favorites.

How Are Your Clothes Fitting?

Can I let you in on a secret? In my nearly eight years as a personal trainer, I’ve very rarely had a client who cared ONLY about weight loss. When I sit down with people for the first time to talk about their goals, they’ll often tell me that they want to lose weight, but when we dig deeper, it turns out that what they actually want to do is lose body fat. In other words: they’d be perfectly happy to maintain their weight if they had more muscle definition and their clothes fit better. If this is your goal, make sure you're checking in more on how your clothes look and feel rather than the number on the scale. 

Are You Lifting More Weight or Running Faster?

I have a client who lives for an adrenaline rush. He drives race cars semi-professionally and is a serious snowboarder. Know what he doesn’t care about at all? His weight. In fact, in the three years that he’s trained with me, he's never once stepped on the scale. It’s not his goal, and we can measure his progress by the things he cares about: winning races and beating his friends on the slopes. Instead, I keep track of other metrics to measure his progress in the gym. We focus on heavy lifting, speed, and agility, as these markers help us determine his success in all his adventures. 

Look back at your performance goals and start keeping track of your progress! It’s really motivating to pull a heavier deadlift or run a faster 5K.

Do You Have Less Pain? Has Your Posture Improved?

As a Pilates instructor and a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I have a fair number of clients whose primary goal is to move through their daily lives without pain. Up to 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. The good news is that adopting a regular strength training regimen that incorporates proper form and exercises that target the core musculature can help improve your posture and decrease pain in the body. And remember, core musculature includes all of the muscles that attach to your spine—not just your abs! See this post if you’re looking for a place to start. Recognizing that you have less pain in your body and/or your posture has improved are fabulous progress markers—no scale required.

Has Your Recovery Improved?

We live in a society where overworking is glorified at work, home, and the gym. The reality is that you can only benefit from the exercise from which you can recover. In other words, more isn’t better. Better is better. 

Your body needs a minimum of one full recovery day each week. High-quality sleep is also imperative because this is your body’s primary recovery time.

Chasing soreness after workouts is also a misguided metric. Contrary to what you may have heard in the past, soreness does not have any bearing on whether your workout was effective or not. Soreness simply indicates that you worked a muscle group that hasn’t worked in a while. Constant soreness is an indicator that you’re not recovering properly. 

There are lots of different ways to measure recovery. Are you able to use more weight for the same exercise? Are you less fatigued using the same weight? Can you decrease your rest periods using the same weight or speed? Has your soreness decreased after completing the same workout? Choose how you want to track one of these measurements (e.g., I’m a big fan of keeping notes on my phone), and watch yourself progress!

Are You Moving More During the Day?

You don’t have to track your steps, but research shows that it’s important to move consistently throughout your day for your overall health. Some jobs lend themselves more easily to moving throughout the day. If your job is more sedentary, you’ll need to get creative and intentional with your movement. Small things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking your car further away from the entrance to the grocery store, etc., really do add up! 

I also encourage my clients to intentionally move for five minutes every hour. Set an alarm and move! You can walk, lunge, squat, or perform some push-ups, as long as you get a little movement. If you haven’t been intentionally moving during your day, set a manageable goal to start—move once every couple of hours. As this becomes easier, you can work up to moving every hour that you’re working. Trust me: your body will thank you for it!

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