Some personal trainers will argue that without the scale and tape measurer, one cannot measure fitness progress. Personally, I think that’s bull. There are so many other weight-neutral ways to quantify progress, and so many changes our bodies can undergo which are invisible to the naked eye.
I’m not saying you always need to have a goal for your workouts - movement for movement’s sake is valid (and awesome!), as is choosing not to track your progress at all, for any reason. But if you do find metrics useful, here are a few that can help you keep track of your progress, whether you’re working on your own or with a personal trainer.
1. Use the RPE Scale
The Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale measures the intensity of a physical activity. It’s a number rating scale based on how difficult an exercise feels - a rating of 1 indicates you feel no exertion, and 10 indicates you feel maximum exertion (originally the rating scale was 6-20, but these days we use the simpler 1-10 scale). Despite its subjectivity, the RPE scale can show concrete evidence of your body growing more comfortable with an exercise over time.
2. Monitor Your Sleep
We all know that exercise improves sleep, but how can that be a weight-neutral indicator of progress? Simple: by tracking the number of hours spent sleeping, as well as the quality of sleep, you can see how your movement program is benefiting your overall quality of life. Keep a notebook by your bed to record time spent asleep and quality of sleep, or use a fitness tracker to get more insight into how your sleep cycle changes over time.
3. Check in With Your Feelings
Every day, scientists find more evidence of the incredible link between mental and physical health. Daily exercise has been proven to elevate mood, and is effective against even severe depression. Checking in with your daily moods, journaling about your feelings, or jotting down notes in a mood-tracking app (such as Moodily or Daylio) can offer an excellent scale of reference to measure the effectiveness of your exercise. It’s also a great way to check in with your feelings about your own body, and to work towards a more body-positive attitude.
4. Watch Your Energy Levels
When just existing feels exhausting, adding in physical activity can seem like more effort than it’s worth. Despite how counterintuitive it sounds, science consistently shows that exerting yourself regularly can increase daily energy levels. Keep a record of how energetic (or fatigued) you feel each day to see how your body gradually adjusts to increased activity.
5. Track Changes in the Workout Itself
Body-positivity is a journey, and we’re all at different stages. In choosing to begin a weight-neutral movement routine, you might already be asking a lot of yourself. Instead of looking to yourself for proof of progress, try looking to the workout. How much weight did you lift today? How far did you run? How long did you spend dancing? Jot down those numbers, and watch as they change over time.
Ready to move towards your fitness goals in a body-positive way? Book an in-person or virtual personal training session with us today!
Jessica Chernicki is a gender-queer Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and pole dance instructor.