Here's How To Track Your Workout Progress In A Way That Keeps You Motivated, According To Experts
Progress is a subjective term, but the definition is especially up to interpretation in the context of fitness. Whether you’ve been following a regular fitness routine for years, months, or days, you probably started on your fitness journey with the intention to make a change — be it to gain muscle, get strong, or just to improve your health overall. So, how far have you come? Maybe you haven’t given it much thought, or you just haven’t found a method that works for you, but figuring out how to track your workout progress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and motivates you to stay committed to your goals is key to advancing in your practice.
I think it’s safe to say that, the more time you spend working out different muscles and testing the limitations of your body, the more in-tune you become with yourself both physically and mentally. That sort of mind-body-soul connection is incredibly valuable, not to mention something you can trust, but there’s also value in a tangible log or documentation of some sort that literally shows you how you’re progressing if, that is, your intuition alone isn’t enough. And, TBH, for some people, it’s not.
Stan Dutton, a NASM-certified trainer and head coach for the personal training platform Ladder, says that, once in awhile, your inner critic can get in the way of noticing real progress, despite any physical evidence of said progress. “This often happens when we’re in that gray area — where progress is slowly happening, but we haven’t reached our goals yet,” he tells Elite Daily over email. So, during these times in particular, Dutton adds, it’s important to practice what he refers to as "measuring backwards" — looking at how far you’ve come in order to see that your hard work really is paying off.
“When my Ladder clients look back at their exercise history within the platform, they’ll see, not only are they getting stronger in the sense of lifting heavier weights, but they’ll also be able to track improvement in the number of push-ups they can do, or the amount of time they can hold a plank,” Dutton explains, noting that even the "smallest" improvements in your workout routine can feel the most satisfying.
So how can you go about accurately tracking your workout progress on the daily? Here are some suggestions from the experts.
Start Jotting Down The Details Of Your Sessions In A Journal
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When in doubt, write it out — or so they say, right? Henry Medina, a certified personal trainer based in New York, agrees with this sentiment, and says that one of the best ways to track progress is to log your workouts in a journal, notebook, or even the Notes app on your phone.
"Start by writing down the name of the exercise, along with the weight and the number of reps, as well as the number of sets that are done per exercise," suggests Medina. "This will create a great visual and way to track your progress."
Personally, I also find it helpful to take a few notes as soon as you wrap up your session. That way, you can track how you're feeling in that very moment. Looking back on a job well done can act as a little reminder of why you started putting in the work in the first place: to feel good.
Social Media Can Keep Your Spirits Up
I'll level with you, friends: Social media definitely gets a bad rap for the fitness profiles that promote unattainable lifestyles. However, posting your own food pics and sweaty selfies, even checking into the gym on Facebook, are all ways in which these different platforms can actually be used as a tool to track your progress in a healthy, positive way.
"If you’re looking to use social media to track your progress, it doesn’t have to mean that you’re posting every detail of your life, or a video of your entire workout," says Dutton. Mentioning you're at the gym or yoga studio, or sharing your workout stats with your followers, can be a great way to track your progress, he explains. "Not to mention, you would be surprised how much support you’ll get from your friends, and peers," he adds.
However, it's important to remember that social media often has a filter on it, in that people don’t usually show the struggles — just the highlights. Because of this, celebrity trainer Astrid Swan tells Elite Daily that she always tells clients to "be inspired by these sites, but honor your own achievements."
Try A Fitness Challenge To See How Far You've Come
Did you ever have to take those irritating timed math tests in elementary school so that your teacher could measure how fast you could do your times tables? Dutton says the same concept can be applied to fitness: All you have to do is integrate a monthly challenge into your workout schedule to measure how far you've come in your progress.
For example, how many push-ups can you do in a minute? How long can you hold a plank? You can set a monthly goal if you'd like, but what matters most is that you see improvement — any improvement — to show that you're putting in the work, and it's paying off.
Rely On A Calendar To Keep You Accountable
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Personally, I am obsessed with planners and calendars, and I always start my day by drafting a to-do list. Five out of the seven days of the week, "workout" is written next to a checkbox. According to Dutton, tracking your workouts via calendar is definitely beneficial, especially if you expand on your notes.
For instance, you could just write your workout sessions on your calendar and that would suffice, but if you want to add a little more detail, Dutton suggests writing down how much time you spent exercising on a given day, and maybe even what part of the body you worked (upper body, lower body, core, back, etc.).
"One of the most powerful things we can do is visually see how consistent we’ve been," Dutton tells Elite Daily. "Simply crossing off your workout days in a different color, if you use a traditional calendar, will give you insight into just how many workouts you’ve completed that month."
Download An App That Works Alongside You As You Progress
Dutton isn't wrong when he says that, because you're probably already using your phone a lot throughout the day as it is, going digital with your journaling process can be especially helpful. And, if you're more of a Q&A type of person and less likely to dedicate the time and energy to writing out your thoughts, fitness apps that serve as trackers, workout generators, and that also supply your own personal coach like Ladder does, can make a huge difference.
"Now, it isn’t just a game of adjusting the weight you use, or the reps you do week to week, but [with a training app] you’re able to have a holistic experience that takes energy level, time constraints, and any aches or pains into consideration," Dutton says. "While a simpler app can prompt you to provide feedback, having a human on the other end will do what no computer can — listen, understand, and implement a plan that’s fit for you."
Measure Your Progress In Terms Of Strength
Your body is constantly switching things up; sometimes you'll feel light as a feather and energetic, other times you might feel bloated and lethargic. Either way, it's all natural, my friend, and that's exactly why relying on a scale to track your progress isn't such a great idea. Instead, Dutton suggests measure your success in other ways, like how heavy you're lifting, or how many reps you can complete in a set.
"Fluctuations can be very demotivating, so it’s important for us to be able to measure success in a number of ways," he tells Elite Daily. "If you’re exercising in the gym, notice that you’re able to lift more weight, or do more reps than you could a few weeks ago. If you’re a runner, notice that you’re getting faster or are able to run further."