Should I Track My Fitness
In short yes, and here’s why:
Benefits of Tracking
1. Ensure You’re Making Progress.
If you’re working towards a specific goal you want to make sure you’re moving in the right direction. Yes, progress isn’t linear and may dip at times, but as a whole, you should be continuously progressing towards your goal. If you’re not tracking then how do you know if what you’re doing is working? It’s far better to realise something isn’t working after a few weeks than a few months. Then you can make the necessary changes without feeling demotivated because you’ve wasted time on something that hasn’t been working for you (you probably haven’t wasted your time but I know it can feel this way when you haven’t got the results you’re after).
Read more of Progressive Overload here
2. Highlights Plateaus
Tracking will also highlight when you’ve hit a plateau in your training. This might show up as struggling to progressively overload your workouts, feeling bored, unmotivated, fatiguing quicker, lack of energy during workouts and so on. Recognising the signs of this early means you can take control of the situation quicker, make any necessary changes or take a break and then bounce back stronger and more motivated to keep working towards your goals.
On day’s you need that extra push, or you’re feeling like none of it is worth it, it’s great to be able to look back at how far you’ve come and what you have achieved. It also helps you to hold yourself accountable. For example, you’re feeling deflated because you’re not getting the results you’re after but when you look back you’ve skipped A and done too much of B. It highlights that actually maybe you’re not getting the results because you’re not doing what you need to, and instead of letting it demotivate you, you use it to motivate yourself to work a little harder.
For more motivation tips read:
4. Taking Control of Your Health and Fitness
Understanding how your daily activity and sleep impacts on your mood and energy enables you to take control. I know that if I don’t move periodically throughout the day or get a good night's sleep I start to feel meh and a bit negative. By tracking these factors I can see ok I only slept for 5 hours last night so I’m going to make sure I get plenty of steps in and do a light workout to get the endorphins flowing and keep me feeling good. If I wasn’t aware that I'd slept badly or how that would impact my day I wouldn’t have done anything to counteract it.
5. What Gets Measured, Gets Improved
Maybe your goal is to get more steps in, lift more weight, improve your sleep or run further. Whatever it is, if you track it you are more likely to improve it. This is because you are making it quantifiable, meaning you can easily measure your success. If you don’t track, how do you know where you’re starting from? How do you know if you’re succeeding in improving it? You don’t. So measure it.
So there you have 5 reasons for why you should track your fitness. But how and what methods of tracking should you use? Well, that depends on your goals and personal preference.
What to Track
1. The Workouts Themselves
This is one I think most people can benefit from as random workouts equal random results. So if you have a goal in mind you want to make sure the workouts you’re completing are actually working towards that goal. You can track your workouts by noting down what you did, the weights used, reps, sets, rest periods, distance covered, pace, heart rate and more. Choose the factors you track based on the workout you’re doing, i.e. distance, pace and heart rate for running, or weights, sets and reps for lifting.
If your goal is based around weight loss, weight gain, muscle building or anything to do with how you look then there are a few methods of tracking you can use. Progress photos, circumference measurements, weighing scales, noting how your clothes fit or keeping a diary of your confidence and self-esteem surrounding your body. It’s down to personal preference which method you prefer. There are lots of conflicting arguments in the media but at the end of the day they all have their place and it’s about what works for you.
3. Daily Factors
These are things you can track every day such as your sleep, step count, calories, mood, energy, nutrition and activity throughout the day. You could do this by keeping a diary of what you’ve been eating, how you’re feeling and how you think you’ve been sleeping. You can track steps and calories on a smartphone. Or if you have a smartwatch, like a Fitbit, you can track your steps, heart rate, daily active minutes, stress levels, etc. all in one place. Make the most of whatever you have available to you.
4. Fitness Tests
These include AMRAPs (as many reps or rounds as possible), max distance in a set time, max distance without stopping, 1 rep max testing, max reps within a set time, flexibility tests, Cooper’s running test, and so many more. Have a quick google of fitness tests related to your goal and you’ll find multiple options. Choose 1, test today and then test again in 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks and see how you’re improving.
What you choose to track will depend on your goal and your personal preferences. You don’t need to use all the methods above and you may switch between them over time.
For example, when gyms were open I was tracking my sleep and steps through my Fitbit and weights used, sets and reps in the gym. During the first lockdown when my goal was to run 15km I was tracking my pace, distance and heart rate as well as loosely tracking food on run days to find out what fueled my runs best. Previously I have taken progress photos every 4 weeks to track aesthetic changes.
Find what suits your lifestyle and goals and go with it. And this isn’t to say never have an untracked workout, sometimes you just want to do it for fun. But if you’re looking to progress and improve, tracking is a game-changer.