5 Ways to Measure Your Progress in the Gym without Scales
Stepping onto the scales is physically simple, but emotionally difficult. While our wellness has many components – from body fat percentage to sleep quality and stress levels – it’s all too easy to boil it down to a single number.
Even when your goal is weight loss, there are a handful of other more effective ways to track your progress that don’t include scales. Let’s take a look at them…
As the saying goes – a picture paints a thousand words. Take a photo of yourself naked – or in a swimsuit – both head on and from the side. No sucking in! Then take a new photo every 8-12 weeks.
Scales tell you how much you weigh but the scales don’t tell you how that weight looks. Muscle is denser than fat. With this in mind, it is quite feasible you’ll weigh the same – or even more – but look slimmer. If your goal is to lose weight, in reality, it’s to lose fat. This will change the shape of your body and physique, but may not have a dramatic effect on your weight.
Taking photos will give you the bigger picture – pun intended! You are able to see changes in muscle tone and shape when you compare side by side photos, along with a clear timeline.
Much like taking a photo, measurements will tell you how and where your body is changing. They’re a great in between for those who like to have an objective way to track their progress, as opposed to a photo, which to some degree can be influenced by feelings. Measurements also give small but specific changes that may go unnoticed in a photo.
I recommend tracking the following:
- Bicep (not flexed)
- Waist (smallest part of trunk)
- Abdomen (largest part of trunk)
Use a simple tape measure every 8-12 weeks and keep track of your progress with a spreadsheet.
YOUR OWN CLOSET
We all keep favorite clothes that are a bit of a struggle to get on. Maybe it’s those jeans that feel to snug around your waist, or that top that’s a little tight on the shoulders.
Choose one item of clothing as your tester and mentally note how it feels to put on and wear for a day. Every month, try this item on again and see if it feels different. Is it easier to get on? More comfortable to wear? Loose in areas it wasn’t? Feeling comfortable and confident in your clothes is the bigger goal, not what the scales read.
NUMBERS ASIDE FROM WEIGHT
There are many areas of wellness to track aside from weight, all of which can serve as a benchmark of your overall health. Some you can track manually, others you can use one of the many fitness trackers available – Fitbit, Garmin, Apple Watch, Jawbone Up, etc. – and others you can record at your doctor’s office.
Here are some ideas:
- Steps a day
- Minutes of exercise a day
- Amount of sleep each night
- How many push ups you can do
- How long you can hold a plank
- Blood pressure
- Resting heart rate
- Body fat percentage (some scales have this, or get a cheap pair of calipers)
Track some or all of these numbers, and you’ll get an idea if your health is improving.
This is a subjective measurement, but very telling and can help you find that deep internal motivation to keep you on track when life seems to get in the way.
When you start taking better care of yourself, through sleep, self-care, exercise, nutrition, etc, you’ll likely sense a boost in self-esteem, confidence and energy. These changes may be small and unnoticeable until you think back. You may walk into the weights room now without hesitation, but were you always this confident? At 3pm you’re going strong, but 3 months ago were you relying on caffeine to keep your eyes open. Has your attitude towards healthy meals changed? Have your tastebuds changed?
Keeping a journal or simple notes in your workout logs can give you more insight into the seemingly small changes taking place.
How do you measure your progress?
About Dan Chabert
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com, nicershoes.com, monicashealthmag.com, golfoid.com and edgehunting.com and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.