What ever your goal, whether it be to lose a few kgs, to slim into your wedding dress, a photo shoot or like me to step on stage in a fitness competition or any of the other divisions, tracking your progress is an important part of meeting your goal.
Tracking progress can keep you on track to meeting your goal, maintain your motivation, know how you can continue to improve as you change your methods and effectively note the best methods.
You can track your progress in a number of ways, through skin folds, DEXA scans, scales, measurements, how your clothes fit and of course photos! All of these provide different ways of measurements and have there own different benefits.
So what does what?
- Skin folds – They involve callipers where your skin is pinched (sound painful but its not that bad!). It is best to have them done by someone else, and the same person each time as this ensures accuracy. The folds are taken from multiple points including calves, quads, hamstrings, umbilical, obliques, back, tricep, chest and chin – more points can be taken. The points are then averaged out to your body fat percentage! the accuracy of this is fairly good, however it does not consider organ fat, therefore a few % needs to be added to your reading to consider this! As they require someone else to do them, they are not overly practical for just everyday weight management and often used by those comp prepping.
- DEXA scans – These are large machines which the individual lays in for some time which the machine moves around the body and records the bodies bone, liquids, organ, fat and muscle density. It will then provide you with the information in a print out. It is the step up from the skin folds where the organ and internals are assumed rather than calculated. Therefore the accuracy is also greater. But as with skinfolds they are even less appropriate for every day maintenance. The machines are often at UNIs and other institutions and cost to use each time. Athletes and during competition prep utilise them
- Scales – I think these are used by everyone! However they are not overly accurate in recording your progress in come cases. They simply provide a reading of your weight, with no consideration in your liquid density, bone, muscle or fat. If you have never exercised and then begin to, it should be important to note that you may be going to gain muscle mass which weighs more than fat and therefore your overall weight may not move the way you want it! This can be disheartening. Important things to remember when weighing yourself can be that it should be done in your underwear, on flat solid floors, at the same time every day and generally after using the bathroom. By doing this you eliminate many potential factors that can influence your weight.
- Measurements – By this I mean with a tape measure. These measurements can be done around your waist, arms and thighs. It can ensure that you can notice the cms that you come in. They can be really beneficial to note your changes.
- How clothes fit – This can be one of the most basics and easy to measure. Your tight denim jeans wont lie, so when you start to exercise and eat healthy and your jeans become loser, it only means one thing! I think for every day weight management this is an excellent management and measuring method.
- Photos – These are awesome to see changes! Ensure you have good lighting, ensure you wear the same clothes each time as others can cut in differently and alter a photo. When you take a photo compare it to your previous photos by putting it next to the other. You will be able to compare each body part by sight which is a great measure and better then using memory as sometimes we can feel like our progress has slowed when really it hasn’t.
Which do I use? Really it depends on my goal. When I am in competition prep will get my measurements and skin folds done, as well as rely on weight and photos. The skin folds actually tell me what my body fat percentage is, and this is the major consideration factor in trying to prep for a comp. The weight aids in comparing my weight changes to my body fat loses (or gains) this would tell me if I ma losing or gaining muscle during my training, we don’t want muscle loss! The photos just provide overall progress comparison to compare to your initial photo. For me, out of all these processes I find the skin folds and photos the most beneficial. During this competition prep my weight has hardly moved, yet my skin folds have continued to drop. This is a good thing meaning I am retaining my muscle. However, it can be disheartening to step on the scales and see little movement, so the photos really show the change and help to encourage me that I am on track!
So you can choose a method of progress tracking that suits you, your goal and resources, but really it is important to remember that it can help to encourage you and to stay focused!