When people first join Cap City Strength, or any gym for that matter, they always walk through the door with an ultimate goal in mind. Frequently, especially with women, that goal is a number on the scale. Whether it is 180, 150, or 110 pounds, people tend to think of their failure or success in fitness based on their distance from an ideal number on the scale. The problem with that mentality is that it doesn’t take into account numerous important fitness measures: body composition, strength, mobility and flexibility, endurance, confidence, etc.
I fell victim to this fixation on an ideal weight after quitting gymnastics and starting college. I had put on some weight, and I no longer had the gymnast physique that I had grown accustom to. So, I began running compulsively and restricting my caloric intake drastically to obtain that number that had been on the scale my entire gymnastics career. The problem was, when I had finally attained that magical number, I wasn’t happy. My body wasn’t toned or fit looking, it was soft and puffy. I wore a much larger pant and dress size than I had when I was a gymnast. And, I wasn’t confident wearing a bathing suit or anything revealing. Why? Because despite being the same weight as I was when I was a gymnast, I was almost all fat. I had lost all of my muscle from excessive cardio and dieting, and now I was the definition of “skinny fat”.
Luckily, this is when I found weightlifting. I refocused my goals from a number on the scale to how I wanted to look and feel. And, simply put, I just wanted to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what was reflected back at me… and a number on a scale had absolutely nothing to do with that feeling.
Here are a few examples of positive, performance and appearance focused fitness goals: I want to have a toned physique, I want to have a lifter’s butt, I want to fit into my skinny jeans again, I want to be able to snatch 100 pounds, I want to be able to feel confident in a bikini, I want to be able to play all day with my kids and not feel exhausted, I want to look good naked, etc.
So if your scale is counterproductive and can’t measure these positive goals, then how do you measure your fitness progress? Here are my top five ways to measure your fitness goals after ditching your scale:
- Keep a Gym Journal
Start keeping a daily journal of your visits to the gym. This is not only helpful in daily gym attendance (i.e. having your 1 rep maxes recorded, or knowing what weight you used in the deadlift last week), but it will give you a day by day progress report of how much stronger you’re getting. If you ever want to feel proud of yourself, flip back to the beginning of your journal and see how much stronger you are than when you first started on your fitness journey. If you’re getting stronger then you’re putting on muscle. And, if you’re putting on muscle then you’re burning more and more calories every day.
- Take Pictures
It’s hard to notice our own physical transformations because we look at ourselves in the mirror every single day. Take weekly or monthly photos of yourself in your workout clothes or undies. This will document your physical transformation so you can see your body losing fat, gaining muscle tone, and changing in shape. It’s much more productive and motivating to look at yourself and say “my belly has gotten smaller” or “I can see muscles in my legs now” than to obsess over a supposed weight loss plateau.
- Pay Attention to How Your Clothes Fit
I frequently hear women talk about their weight loss plateaus, and how they want to quit dieting and exercising because the number on the scale won’t budge. My number one response to these complaints is “how do your clothes fit?” Muscle weighs more than fat. We’ve all heard it, but we all tend to forget it when we’re worrying about weight loss. If I lose 5 pounds of fat and gain 5 pounds of muscle, then my scale won’t budge. But I’m going to be a smaller, leaner person. And, because of my increased lean muscle mass, my resting metabolism is going to increase and I’m going to burn calories at a higher rate than I did before. So, stop worrying about weight loss plateaus and start getting excited about being too small for your fat pants and having to wear your skinny pants, or even having to ditch the skinny pants all together and buy new pants.
- Take Note of Your Day to Day Victories
So frequently when we get sucked into focusing on the weight on the scale, we forget to take note of our day to day victories: walking from your parking lot to your office building without getting winded, carrying all 6 grocery bags from your car to your house in one trip, playing catch with your kids all afternoon without getting exhausted, being able to squat at the gym without falling over, taking the stairs at work and not wanting to die, being able to lift your kids up overhead with ease, being able to reach down and tie your shoes without straining, etc. These are all huge personal victories that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
- Pay Attention to How You Feel Emotionally
Personally, my most important fitness goal was self-confidence. Being able to wear shorts without feeling embarrassed or insecure is a huge success. Being able to look in the mirror and think to yourself “I look good today” is something worth celebrating.