How Do I Track My Progress IN The Gym?
If you're someone who regularly goes to the gym, tracking your progress is a great way to stay motivated and focused on your fitness goals. What you should track is going to be specific to you and your goals. In this article, we'll go over some common methods for tracking your progress in the gym and tips for doing so.
Methods For Tracking Progress
Each person is unique in what they are looking to get out of the gym. Some individuals go to the gym to get stronger, some to get fitter, and some to maintain a healthy habit. Here are some common goals for going to the gym and how you track your progress.
If you're going to the gym for no other reason than to reap the benefits of exercise, we would recommend tracking your visits to the gym per week or per month. Set a weekly goal for how many times you would like to make it into the gym and give yourself a tally for every day you do so. Review your progress at the end of the week to see if you are hitting your desired amount of gym visits per month. This is a great goal if you are beginning your exercise routine and focused on making regular exercise a habit.
If your goal is to get stronger, you are going to want to learn and identify which strength lifts you would like to improve. This will help you pick the right exercise routine/gym classes to frequent. Here are some of the most common measures of strength - back squat, deadlift, bench press, strict press, and pull-up. After you have established that you can do these movements correctly, test them by building to a max effort set. The most common rep ranges to test are the 1-rep max, 3-rep max, and 5-rep max. For bodyweight movements like pull-ups and push-ups, it's more common to track the maximum amount of reps you can do in one set. From there, follow a weightlifting progression for several weeks to improve your strength in these lifts. Our Weightlifting class is a great class to learn proper lifting techniques for the lifts mentioned above and improve your strength. Keep track of your PR's for each lift in a notebook, phone note, or in an app like SugarWOD.
Body Composition & Aesthetics
Tracking your body composition is another effective way to monitor your progress at the gym. This can be done by measuring your body fat percentage, muscle mass, and other metrics using tools such as calipers, a scale, or a bioelectrical impedance device like the InBody scanner we use with our members. By tracking your body composition, you can see changes in your body composition over time beyond just the number on the scale. As an example, you might add muscle mass and reduce body fat while maintaining the same body weight. It's important to work with a medical professional to determine healthy body composition goals.
For aesthetic goals, some individuals prefer taking progress pictures. Take a photo of yourself at the beginning of your fitness journey and then take regular photos every few weeks or months. This will help you see the physical changes in your body that may not be as apparent if you are just looking at the number on the scale. A special note of caution, aesthetic-based goals are subjective and harder to quantify. We don't steer our members this way because of the mental health implications. We often get members who come in with aesthetic goals in mind but they fall in love with exercise and transition to performance-based goals which are much less subjective.
We get people who come in all the time who want to "get in shape" or "get fitter" but have a hard time pinpointing what exactly they want to improve. Being a CrossFit gym, our goal is to increase your overall fitness (aka - get you in better "shape"). CrossFit's definition of fitness is the ability to increase work capacity across broad time and mobile domains. Essentially, this means that CrossFit is all about getting you better at the demands of life like moving objects, including our own bodies and external objects, as quickly and efficiently as possible, whether that's running, squatting, rowing, dragging a sled, doing pull-ups, etc. The more weight we can move over a greater distance in a shorter period of time, the more work we have done. This work is measured in terms of power, which is calculated by dividing work by time.
To track changes in fitness, our members record their strength lifts (example: 5-rep max squat), and endurance tests (example: 5K run), as well as their scores on benchmark workouts. CrossFit benchmark workouts — also called benchmark WODs — are standardized CrossFit workouts meant to compare your progress to your past self (and other CrossFitters). They are scored by time or number of reps completed in a certain amount of time. Benchmark workouts get us around the nitty gritty of calculating power. All we have to do is retest a workout and see if you've improved at that benchmark. As an example, if you have completed the same workout (same amount of reps and weight) in less time, you have improved your capacity in those modalities.
When we combine all of these tests together, we get a measurement of fitness. By graphing this data over time, athletes can track their progress and compare their current results to their previous results, with the goal of improving their fitness over time. The constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity in CrossFit have been shown to result in faster improvements in work output than any other fitness system in the world. Keep track of your PR's for each lift, tests of gymnastics and endurance, and benchmark workout scores, in a notebook, phone note, or in an app like SugarWOD.
Once you've established your goals and what you want to track in the gym, here are some tricks to improve your ability to track your progress.
1) Set clear goals
Before you start tracking your progress, you need to set clear goals. Decide what you want to achieve and by when. For example, if you're looking to build strength, you might set a goal to increase your squat weight by 10 pounds within three months. Setting clear goals will help you stay focused and motivated.
2) Keep a workout log
We probably sound like a broken record here, but one the best ways to track progress at the gym is by keeping a workout log. This can be done using a notebook or an app on your phone. Our members use an app called SugarWOD to track all of our workouts and Personal Records ("PR's"). Write down the exercises you do, the weight and reps you lift, and any other relevant information such as how you felt during the workout. By keeping a log, you'll be able to see your progress over time and make adjustments to your workout as needed.
3) Find accountability
Whether it's telling a coach or a loved one your goals, sharing them will help them become a reality. A coach can provide you with guidance and support, which can help you to stay on track and overcome any obstacles that you may encounter along the way. They can also help you to establish a realistic plan of action that takes into account your current fitness level, lifestyle, and personal preferences. By having someone to hold you accountable and encourage you to push yourself, you are more likely to stay committed to your goals and make progress towards achieving them. Ultimately, a coach can be a valuable ally in your fitness journey, helping you to reach your full potential and live a healthier, happier life.
If you have BIG goals in the gym and want a community to help you get there, try a class at one of our three locations in Boston! Click "free trial" in the top right of the screen here to get signed up for your first class.
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