How to track your progress in the most accurate way.
Tracking your progress is one of the most important parts of staying true to your fitness goals. Here’s how to do it accurately.
There are many ways to measure your progress when it comes to setting and achieving your goals. Some ways are easier, while others take some planning and some money to actually understand your results. In reality, a big factor involved with measuring and tracking your progress is what your starting point is.
If you are looking to just lose weight (more than 40 lbs.) then the way you measure progress isn’t as important, but that you measure progress is the most important. That being said, we have put together the main ways you should look to measure your progress, and the accuracy level of this strategy below.
Measuring your fitness progress
When tracking progress, there are several ways people do so. Some track progress through their body weight. This is the tried and true process, where one will tip toe onto the scale and squint to look for that number go down over time.
Accuracy Level: Low/Medium
Good for: Those looking to lose 40+ pounds
Another way is to measure each part of your body with a body tape measure. This is an excellent form of progress tracking. Normally, you will need to measure your waist, chest, thigh, and biceps to get a picture of your measurements week after week. You sometimes hear of someone losing a bunch of inches, this is the method they were using.
Measuring progress through a body tape can be a really good way to go if you know what your measurements were when you were in great shape several years ago. This is also a great way to go no matter what your goal for fitness is.
Accuracy Level: Medium
Good for: All ranges — losing weight to gaining muscle
Body fat percentage. If you have less than 30 pounds of weight to lose, this is a good form of measurement due to the fact that as you do weight training, you may gain some muscle too in the process. If you are gaining muscle and relying on your weight to measure progress, you may be disappointed in losing 10 pounds, versus 20 pounds.
Here’s an example:
Angie is 5’7” and weighs 148 lbs.
Can you tell me how she will look?
You see, if you thought she was going to be pretty out of shape and overweight, you would have been mistaken. To many standards in this photo, she is in pretty good shape for many women. As many know, she does competitions and this is her offseason look. Even so, her body fat percentage is generally low in offseason.
The point of this is, if you say you want to lose 15 pounds, that doesn’t give you a real understanding of your progress once you get to a certain point. In reality, you may add a few pounds of muscle over time, and also lose fat as well.
So how would we recommend you put together your goals if you have less than 30 pounds to lose? First off, here is the normal table of body fat percentage for males and females:
Accuracy Level: Medium to Very Accurate
Good For: All Ranges
Measuring Body Fat
There are several ways to measure body fat percentage. Here are the most popular kinds and where to do so:
- Skin Caliper — You can get this for about $10. This method takes 3–7 skin folds in different sections of your body to calculate your body fat percentage. This is usually done by a trainer at the gym, or you can learn to do it yourself, and it only takes a few minutes to do your own assessment here.
- Bioelectrical Impedance — Although the name might sound intimidating, bioelectrical impedance is not shock therapy. In fact, you won’t even feel a thing. Bioelectrical impedance scales range from the simple (a normal scale with electrodes under each foot) to the complex (a scale that has handholds with additional electrodes). Regardless of the machine, the devices work by sending tiny electrical impulses through the body and measuring how quickly those impulses return. Since lean tissue conducts electrical impulses quicker than fatty tissue, a faster response time is correlated with a leaner physique.
- Dexa Scan (Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry)— If you are looking for a really accurate form of understanding your body composition (essentially your body fat, muscle, and bone density), then a Dexa Scan is a great route to go. Due to equipment, you would need to set an appointment with a medical professional to get a Dexa Scan. That being said, this is also generally more expensive than other types of body fat tools. This scan usually costs around $125 and is not entirely worth it unless you need more information about your body composition that will affect more than just your fitness goals.
- BodPod —The other word for a BodPod is Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) and this is one of the most accurate forms of checking your body fat percentage. The cost for this ranges from $40 for students to $100 or more. This form of body fat testing is one of the most accurate forms of testing your body fat, but even these machines can malfunction. The Okon team (Angie and Daniel) went in to get our body fat tested a few months ago with one of these, and Angie’s came back at 6%. Referring back to the body fat % table..she’d be dead! Even so, this form of checking body fat is highly accurate and is highly recommended.
To get accurate measurements, you will likely need to go to your local gym or BodPod Provider and see what your body fat is. In the meantime, you can look up your BMR here and know where you are at. This will give you a general picture of where you’re at, and where you need to be.
This starting point will not only help you understand where you’re at, but it will give you a better ability to know what percentage you will need to get to. If you’re at 24%, what is realistic for you? If you follow the guidelines that we lay out, and are consistent, then it is not out of question to see a 5–7% drop in fat over 6–10 months. Some may have a shorter window, others may be longer.
For you to get started on tracking your progress and goals, we highly recommend choosing the method that is right for you, and then writing down your goals with a timeline to achieve those goals. This is the first step to achieve your optimal fitness goals!
- Find out your measurements (e.g. Weight, Waist Measurement, Body Fat %)
- Commit to choosing a healthy lifestyle
- Choose a goal for what metrics you want to accomplish such as “I want to lower my body fat by 3%
- Choose a timeline for achieving that goal — I want to do this by January 2018
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