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Taking Body Measurements for Tracking Fitness

Taking Body Measurements for Tracking Fitness
19 Apr

Taking Body Measurements for Tracking Fitness

If you’re on a weight loss or fitness journey, you need to read this article. Why?

Because tracking your body measurements and fitness progress can be crucial for getting in shape!

Those who succeed in transforming themselves are those who write everything down. As they say “That which gets measured gets improved.” Or as we tell our 1-on-1 Online Coaching clients, “track the problem to crack the problem!“

Let’s jump right in!

How Do You Measure Fitness Progress?

Numbers, like those on this carpet, will help show if you’re progressing in fitness. Does this sound familiar?

You decide you want to get in shape. You go for runs every day for a week and try to eat less food. You step on the scale every day for a week and the numbers go down. Yaaaay!

You go to a cookout on a Sunday, step on the scale on Monday, and its higher than before! You freak out, go crazy, and fall off the wagon. Lather, rinse, repeat. I’d guess this is 80% of people who try and fail to get in shape.

You need to track your progress Deadpool! Keep reading!

Fortunately, you’re reading LeFit Fitness which means you’re most likely smart, incredibly good looking, humble, and aware that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

On top of that, you understand and value the importance of tracking your progress – as the saying goes “that which get measured gets improved.”

This is true specifically for these reasons:

Scales don’t tell the whole story.

I’ve already covered my thoughts on scales. If you are training the right way (with an emphasis on strength training), your weight might not drop as fast as it would if you starved yourself and ran 20 miles a day.

Heck, you might be getting stronger and more muscular but the scale refuses to budge. Now, if you only had a scale as your ‘measuring stick,’ you’d probably get super discouraged and depressed at the lack of “progress.”

However, if you were tracking your body changes properly, you’d realize that you are making far more significant and healthier progress by doing things the right way. At the end of Saint’s journey to the Ab-promise land, his weight WENT UP while his body fat percentage went down. The scale can lie! Scales can sometimes be all over the place.

You don’t know if you’re on the right path

Along with the scale not telling the whole story, it’s tough to tell if you’re losing the right kind of weight in the right kind of places.

There are so many other aspects to consider other than the number on the scale, including how you look, feel, and where the weight loss is coming from – your muscles or your stored fat. It’s like driving cross country without a map, compass, road signs, or land marks to use – how do you know you’re going the right way if you have no idea where you were or where you’re headed?

You don’t know how much you’re eating

If you’re overweight, you might think your metabolism is broken and you simply can’t lose weight. (Tracking some things will tell a different story). If you’re underweight and “can’t gain weight no matter what you eat,” you probably don’t realize how many calories you consume on a daily basis. We often have such a warped sense of reality when it comes to proper “portion size” and what constitutes a meal. We need to be better informed.

You can’t tell if you’re getting stronger

Our bodies need to be constantly challenged in order to adapt and get stronger. If you do 3 sets of 10 push-ups every day for a year…you will just be really good at doing 3 sets of 10 push-ups and nothing more.

You need to constantly increase the difficulty of your workouts in order to get results.

This concept of “progressive overload” is the cornerstone of strength training. If you didn’t know how you did last time, how the hell are you going to know if you’re doing better this time?

That which is measured gets improved! I’m sure there are actual psychological reasons behind why this works, but I know that I get better results when I exercise if I know EXACTLY what I need to lift or how fast I need to run to get stronger and better. If I did 30 push-ups in a row last week, then this week I have “31! 31! 31!” emblazoned in my mind while doing them…sure enough I’ll get to 31.

On top of that, if you’re constantly:

*Keeping track of what you eat
*Taking measurements
*Tracking your workouts

You will always be thinking “healthy!” and thus make healthier decisions on a more consistent basis.

Hopefully at this point you’ve at least come to the conclusion that maybe you should start tracking your progress. “Yes Steve, I have seen the light and I’m ready to start tracking my progress…tell me what the hell I need to do!”

How Do You Take Body Measurements?

When you strength train and eat properly, your body tends to only shed fat while keeping the muscle you already have. I deep dive into the subject in the article “Can you lose weight and gain muscle at the same time?”

Compare that to crash dieting and hours of cardio where your “weight loss” will be greater, but you’ll be losing both muscle and fat (and leave you looking and feeling like a weakling).

By tracking your body composition in more than one way, you’ll have a more accurate view of what’s working and what’s not working with your training. If after a few weeks you’re not losing the right kind of weight, you’ll know that you need to make some adjustments.

When you strength train and eat properly, your body tends to only shed fat while keeping the muscle you already have. I deep dive into the subject in the article “Can you lose weight and gain muscle at the same time?”

Compare that to crash dieting and hours of cardio where your “weight loss” will be greater, but you’ll be losing both muscle and fat (and leave you looking and feeling like a weakling).

By tracking your body composition in more than one way, you’ll have a more accurate view of what’s working and what’s not working with your training. If after a few weeks you’re not losing the right kind of weight, you’ll know that you need to make some adjustments.

Before we get into metrics, let’s set one ground rule: Don’t track everything on a day-to-day basis.

Our bodies are incredibly complex pieces of machinery where all kinds of crazy stuff happens all day and all night.

Our bodies are tough to track because we are even more complex than this machine.
Our weight can fluctuate by many pounds over the course of a day. Measuring EVERY day can promote an unhealthy OCD behavior where every tiny little change will be scrutinized and blown out of proportion.

So measure yourself once a week at the same time under the same conditions. I advise after you wake up and before you eat breakfast.

Depending on your schedule, I’d either pick Friday or Monday mornings to track all of your measurements – if you tend to let yourself go on the weekends, I’d advise doing your measurements on Friday morning so that you’ll have a whole week to get back on track and see long-term changes.

Here are the best ways to track yourself other than a scale:

Take a front and side picture

My favorite method. Stand in front of a mirror in a bathing suit or your underwear with your cell phone camera and take a picture. Then turn to the side and take another picture of your profile view. Just take the picture, hide it in a folder on your computer, and add to it once a week.

You live with yourself (duh), so it’s tough to notice changes on a day-to-day basis. However, if you have two months of week-to-week photos to look back on, you’ll be able to tell if your body is transforming in the right way.

Take body measurements

Go to a craft store and buy a cheap tape measure or buy one of these self-help tape measures. Make sure your measurements are taken under the same conditions each time.

Also, make sure you measure the same location each week – kind of weird, I know, but I pick freckles on my arms and legs so I know exactly where to measure each week.

Take a circumference measurement at each of these spots and write it down:

Neck (for most people, this is the thing that connects your body to your head).
Shoulders (both arms down at your side, at the widest point from shoulder to shoulder).
Chest (lift up your arms, wrap the tape measure around your chest, just above the nipple, and then lower your arms).
Bicep (either left or right, but be consistent).
Waist (at the belly button for consistency).
Hips (measure the widest part of your hips).
Thigh (left or right, but pick the same spot on your thigh each week).

Measure your body fat percentage

This one is a little tricky depending on your resources and financial situation. Your best bet would be to purchase a simple body fat caliper if you’re strapped for cash.

If you want to be more accurate, pay $40-60 per visit and get your body fat tested at a Bod Pod Location a wise investment once a month (or every other month) to make sure you’re on the right path.

I am NOT a fan of body fat calculators that are built into your scale as I find them to be wayyyy too hit and miss.

Important info about body fat percentage tracking

No test is truly 100% accurate, and the specific number isn’t nearly as important as how it’s changing from month to month. You can at least make sure you measure it the same way each time to measure if it’s trending in the right direction.

Most people eat the same few meals over and over again on a weekly basis, I do. For that reason, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to track all of your calories every day for months and months. However, I think spending a week writing down every calorie is incredibly important for your education and awareness on what you’re eating.

Once you have an idea of how much you eat regularly, take a look in the mirror. Do you like how you look? If so, Great! Keep doing what you’re doing.

If you’re not making progress and you’re tracking your calories, congrats! No, your body isn’t broken. You need to get better at tracking. Consider getting a food scale, and making sure you have your portion sizes correct.

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