Why You Need to Keep Track of Your Fitness Progress

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A trainer helping a woman with a dumbbell exercise.

If there’s one thing in life that nearly every person around the world struggles with, it’s their fitness. Whether you’re trying to pack on the pounds of muscles, lose that extra weight, or just keep up with your fitness level, doing exercise, dieting, and living right is no easy task. Here’s why it’s so important to keep track of your fitness progress!

Why It’s Essential to Track Fitness Progress

There’s always that temptation to do a little bit less each workout, to stop pushing yourself as hard as you used to, or just to skip that workout altogether. Human nature always dictates that our efforts slowly decline, and, without an occasional kick in the pants, we’d just give up on our fitness progress and goals altogether.

study was conducted in 2010 on how feedback and monitoring helped therapy patients to make progress. One group of patients was given feedback and the others were not. The patients given the feedback showed fewer readmissions to therapy programs after the six month study, while those not given the feedback checked back into their therapy programs much more often.

A woman performing dumbbell exercises in a gym.

What does this have to with tracking your progress in exercise? Well, just like the patients that were given feedback and had their progress monitored showed marked improvement over those that didn’t receive the attention, monitoring and tracking your fitness goals and progress will have the same marked improvement.

Let’s say that you’re undertaking a 60-day challenge to get in shape. Day 1, you start lifting weights and running, and you stick with your program for the first few days. You have no real program to follow, you just lift weights, run, and hope for the best.

By the end of the second week, you’re all but guaranteed to give up on that program. You have no way to know if you’re making progress, so there’s no reason to keep pushing yourself. There’s no record of what you’ve accomplished, where you came from, or what your goals are, so you’re just going through the motions.

This is why using a fitness journal to track your progress is so essential! If you’re tracking your fitness progress, it’s much easier to keep pushing towards a goal. You’ll be able to see “I’ve completed 40% of my fitness goal in X-amount of time, so I have X-amount of work left to do.” It just makes it easier to stick with it!

A man doing sit-ups while balancing on a fitness ball.

What’s in Your Fitness Progress Journal?

What should you be tracking in your fitness journal?

Food Intake

A study posted in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that tracking food intake helped participants to lose twice as much weight as those that didn’t keep a journal. Your fitness journal should track the number of calories you eat every day, as well as all of the individual food items you eat. Programs like FitDay or MyFitnessPal can all help you to track the amount of food you eat using your computer, iPad, or smart phone.

Muscle Growth

When you start bodybuilding, you will be working with a certain amount of weight. As your muscles grow, they will be able to handle more weight AND more reps with that weight. You should keep track of your increases in weight and/or reps in your journal, as it will help you see just how much stronger you have become.

Cardio Improvements

As you run regularly, you’ll increase your body’s endurance and stamina for cardiorespiratory exercise. You need to track both the distance you run every day and the amount of time you ran it in. Tracking those two will help you to see how much farther and faster you can push yourself.

Fat Reduction

If the goal of your fitness program is to lose weight, tracking your weight loss and fat reduction is important. You should weigh yourself weekly, and get a body composition test done regularly. You’ll see just how much your lean body weight increases, and how much fat you’ll lose!

A woman stretching her jeans to show her wight loss progress and flat belly.

Tracking Your Weight Loss vs. Your Fat Loss

Many people rely too much on the scale to tell them how much progress they’re making, but the scale can often be a liar.

For the first few weeks after starting a new exercise program – particularly a muscle-building program – you’ll notice that the scale actually goes up. This is because your muscles are storing more energy and water, and your lean body weight will increase. This is why using body composition tests is the key to tracking your fitness progress.

A body composition test measures the amount of fat on your body, and tells you how much of your weight is fat weight and how much is lean body weight. The goal of exercise may not necessarily be to “lose weight”, but the goal should be to lose fat weight. Increasing your lean body weight will increase the number of calories that you burn each day, making it easier to trim off the fat.

You should strive to decrease your fat weight, and don’t worry about what the scale tells you. It’s far more important to keep track of your fitness progress and keep on going!

About the Author: Andy Peloquin is a fitness consultant for Rep Fitness, a martial artist, a bodybuilder, a runner, a fitness trainer, and a health nut. He loves to share his knowledge on dieting, weight loss, and fitness almost as much as he loves to train and get in shape himself.

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