How else would you effectively gauge your progress – and correct it?
One of the most important pieces of advice I can give – especially where Al and other first-timers are concerned.
Planning, recording and monitoring your progress are the most effective ways to realize your fitness goals.
Because any success with a transformation is highly contingent on you keeping a log and recording both daily activities and weekly progress.
How long should you keep a log?
If you do your homework right, then not too long. Plan on 4-6 weeks. 12 if you're significantly out of shape. But yes, there is an end.
You see, by monitoring and gauging your progress. By observing the changes you're undergoing–closely (I often refer to this as a self-familiarization process) – you'll get to the stage where you can maintain your transformed condition without tracking meals and workouts.
But as a newbie, you're best-served (at first) by keeping a workout log and staying abreast of your progress.
I assure you, get this part right and you'll soon manage your exercise and nutrition activities instinctively. (More about planning and recording on this page: Fitness Plan)
How does the workout log come in to play?
A detailed log will allow you to assess when and how to make incremental adjustments to the weight or intensity you're handling (the essence of progressive resistance-training), or in the distance and/or time associated with your cardio-workouts.
As regards planning and recording your meals, in addition to the occasional eating splurge, there will be certain times when you won't manage to consume your meals exactly as planned, either due to an unexpected event, illness or otherwise.
Logging all of these activities will help you to stay on course.
Tracking meals may seem like a hindrance at first
Please don't think that in order to be fit and healthy means you need to permanently carry a meal log around with you.
As mentioned, you will develop the skills to move past the practice. You'll eventually estimate, consume and keep track of your nutritional intake instinctively – and with minimal thought.
I do – except for once or twice a year when I'm trying different protocols.
Measuring body fat
However long your familiarization process takes, it'll be useful to track body fat levels, as well as checking and recording overall weight and other measurements on a weekly basis.
Don't obsess about doing this every day though. Weekly values will show a truer indication of your progress or physical change. I used to do mine on Sunday evenings and included a brief self-inspection using a mirror. (With time, you'll become accustomed to your body's tendencies, such that you can do these checks much less often.)
Another practical progress-indicator is the 'fit' of your clothes around your waist and buttocks. Bathroom scales only show overall body weight. It's far more important to increase your muscle-to-fat ratio, which means that the scale won't typically show a reduction in your weight. (Fitness Plan and Calculate BMI have more on that.)
However, it's useful to keep track of all the indicators because together, they'll help give you a more complete assessment of the overall progress and gains achieved.
So, besides tape measurements, how else can you measure body fat?
Among several methods (as covered on the pages dealing with BMI and Body Composition), I've used (and still use) the widely available "Accu-Measure" skin-fold caliper, and use it to do a skin-fold pinch just above my hip bone.
I've found this to be a simple, fairly accurate and an affordable way of assessing your body composition.
Keep your important weekly scores in the relevant sheet of the workout log.
Are there any other ways of measuring progress?
Although not a substitute for a log, there is something else which is an excellent complement.
Have periodic pictures taken of yourself when you commence a program, and at weekly/monthly intervals thereafter.
Not only does this help you to see 'where' you've made (or still have to make) improvements – it's also an excellent way to keep your motivation up.
Practical tips for getting the most out of your log
Get organized with your paperwork
Whatever your workout routine, print out copies (including progress sheets and the entire cycle of the workout program) and collate them before you begin your program.
Preferably bind the pages together in a folder or appropriate means that is hard enough for you to press on (also, have a dedicated pen at hand which can clip onto your log).
This will avoid you having to shuffle pages around and will save you valuable time when entering information, especially between sets.
Remember, time between sets is short. Besides catching your breath a little, and sipping water, you also need to do the odd weight-adjustment and/or position-change.
To add a visual stimulus, paste a copy of your before photo (and any progressive ones) in the workout log. This will help you keep your mindset and your transformation in perspective, not to mention give your motivation a valuable boost.
Record your thoughts and ideas
Along with boosting your health and fitness, comes thinking and reflection.
It's because a relaxed or distracted state-of-mind often facilitates deeper and creative insights.
Have some dedicated pages in your workout log for general notes. I've often found that between sets, I get 'light-bulb' moments. It usually also happens when I'm on a run.
It's good to preserve these thoughts by being able to jot them down immediately then-and-there, or when your cardio is done.
Why let these valuable ideas slip away.
They won't always be fitness-related. I often come up with ways of dealing with issues on my mind, or addressing other areas of interest in my life. I find it a great resource to record this stuff so I can tackle it later on when opportune.
Harvard University researcher and psychologist Shelley H. Carson says distraction isn't always a bad thing.
If you are stuck on a problem, an interruption can force an 'incubation period,' she says.
"In other words, a distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on the ineffective solution."
You'll see that once you start getting healthier and fitter, things begin to change, and so does your thinking and sense of awareness.
They rise to higher levels than before. Your self-confidence improves and you invariably begin to feel better about life. You gain better perspective and you start to devise ways of improving the broader aspects of your existence.
Talk about "healthy body health mind." This is what it's all about. (More on the page: benefits of exercise)
Remember, embrace and embody your vision!
You can visualize all you like – but without planning and working towards a realistic goal, your efforts will deliver short.
Worse, you may lose your way and decide to pack it in. What a waste of time, effort and money that would be – not to mention the knock your self-confidence would take.
Make sure that doesn't happen.
Documenting your activities will help you to stay on course and show you where to make corrections as necessary.
Progress and workout logs for the Sensible Fitness Program
This page was intended to really hammer home the importance of using a workout log and recording your thoughts and progress – actions that apply to any fitness program.
As you know, MyFitnessRoad.com is home to the Sensible Fitness Program – and all respective logs and supporting documents are available to you on this Site, for free.
Simply go to the dedicated page: Sensible Fitness Program Logs to download yours and get started today!
Remember, I'm just a message away if you have any doubts or questions.
Best of luck!