When it comes to fitness goals, it’s pretty simple: If you’re not tracking it, you can’t improve it.
If your goal is to lose weight, how do you know if your actions are adding up to achieving your goal if you’re not tracking your meals?
If your goal is to get stronger, how do you know if the exercises you’re doing are going to get you there if you’re not logging your sets, reps, and weights?
In some cases, we can use technology to help us with this (such as My Fitness Pal or another meal-tracking app). Other times, good old-fashioned pencil and paper are best.
Here are some of the key metrics I encourage my clients to track because they’ve been proven to be the simplest and most effective:
Water: Did you drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water?
Sleep: Did you sleep at least 7 hours?
Compliant Meals: Counting calories and macros can be tedious but very beneficial. However, it's not mandatory to see success if it's not something you feel you can be consistent with. Simply ask yourself each day if you had at least 2 compliant meals. What’s a compliant meal? For men, it’s 2 palm-sized servings of protein, 2 fist-sized servings of veggies, 2 cupped handfuls of smart carbs, and 2 thumb-sized portions of healthy fats. For women, it’s 1 of each.
Exercise: Did you move for at least 20 minutes? Simply tracking your daily activity is a great start. Once you get into a more structured strength training routine, you can begin recording your heaviest sets in the foundational exercises (like squats, deadlifts and bench press) so you can measure your progress.
Body Composition: When it comes to weight loss or weight gain, the daily fluctuations will drive most people nuts! However, if you have specific goals around weight, tracking weight daily can actually help you understand these weight fluctuations better. My general rule of thumb is that if you can handle the daily weigh-ins do it! But if it causes you more stress/anxiety than it's worth, take monthly progress photos from a front, side, and back angle. Progress photos can be a way more reliable metric (than scale weight) if you've added lean mass and lost fat on your body.
Last but not least...
STEPS: Honestly, if you're going to start tracking anything, I'd track steps. I used to roll my eyes at this metric, but have completely bought into it over recent months. Why? It's not that there's something specific about steps that's better than any other exercise. It's just that it's extremely accessible, it's easy to fit into your schedule, and can be an excellent metric for tracking how active you are on a regular basis. If you're pretty inactive at the moment, start with 6-8k steps a day. Once you've built a habit, try working up to 8-10k steps a day.
You don’t have to start tracking everything right away. Start with the one you believe will be the easiest for you to track and start tracking it today. Once you build some confidence and momentum, add some more metrics to your tracking.
One unexpected benefit: You’ll be surprised how much better your health and fitness decisions will become simply by tracking your behavior. A little accountability will go a long way!
PS: I'm sending out free weekly workouts every Wednesday to the Weekly Workout Club. You can choose to receive bodyweight workouts or workouts that require full gym access to suit your needs! If you'd like to join this free club, click the link below!