First of all, great job getting to this point! The fact that you are thinking about the effectiveness of your workout program means you are steps ahead of those taking no action towards their desired health and fitness goals. In order to know if your workout routine is working, you must have a goal or goals to keep track of. If you don’t have a specific goal, then it is going to be hard to determine if you are getting the desired results from your fitness routine. For example, it’s easy to hop on the scale and base the effectiveness of your program on the number you see. If you are just trying to be more healthy or feel better, it might be harder to determine if you are making strides towards those imprecise goals. This is why fitness evaluations are critical to helping those who have goals that are hard to measure. Not having a specific measurable goal will also make it difficult to decide which type of workout program you should start or maintain. Check our article on ways to evaluate your health and fitness for a better understanding of some of the measurements of health and fitness. Once you have a specific result you are looking for, determining your workout program effectiveness will be a breeze. Let take a look at a few common hard to measure goals and break down how to know if your workouts are bringing you closer to them.
Goal #1 – I want to lose/gain weight
This goal may seem easy to measure. The scale number is lower, great you lost weight! The scale number is higher, great you gained weight! While this is technically one way to measure progress, the scale doesn’t tell you the whole story when it comes to what kind of weight was lost or gained. A better to way to look at weight change is measuring your change in body composition. By measuring your body composition, you can easily find what your fat weight is compared to your lean body weight. A classic result from a poorly designed fitness routine, is someone training for a several weeks, and finding they lost 10 pounds, but instead of losing fat weight, they lost both muscle mass and fat mass! While you may be happy with the number on the scale, you might not be as happy losing valuable lean muscle that helps you achieve a lean and tone look. For this reason, I recommend measuring the success of your fitness routine on the amount of body fat lost and not just the lower number on the scale. Check your body fat percentage every 4 weeks. If it is not going down, by 1-2 percent, it is time to adjust program.
Goal #2 – I want to be healthier
This is a great goal, but it is very vague. What does being healthy mean? More energy, lower blood pressure, lower body mass index, or be able to climb your stairs without being out of breath? Improvement in all of these areas could be a good way to determine if you are considered healthy. To know for sure, you should look a few different things. First, are you within a healthy body fat percentage range? For men, if you are between 8 and 24 percent body fat, you would be considered healthy, regardless of what the scale says. For women, a range of 21 – 35 percent could be considered healthy. Blood pressure is also another important measure of health. If you blood pressure is too high or too low you could be at risk of developing a heart related health problem.
Goal #3 – I just want to feel better
Every time I’ve heard this goal from someone, I have narrowed it down to two specific goals. First, is lack of energy. Second, its physical pain or lack of physical performance. It’s hard to measure whether your fitness routine is helping you feel better long term. Although, you can immediately increase the way you feel every time you engage in physical activity or exercise. Exercise has been well studied to improve your mood, give you more focus, and boost your energy levels. If you are dealing with pain or discomfort, you should visit your doctor before jumping into any regular fitness routine. Once your doctor has cleared you to engage in an exercise program, make sure to get some professional help form an qualified fitness professional so they can prescribe you exercises and workouts to help you potentially overcome or reduce your muscle or joint pain.
Goal #4 – I want to get stronger
Strength increases can be measured easily. Let’s say you started your workout program and you couldn’t do any pushups. After 4 weeks of training, you complete 5 pushups. You got stronger! You can measure many different kinds of strength activities. Any time you lift more weight than you previously performed, you got stronger. If your workout program hasn’t helped you increase the weight or number of reps you lift, then you will know that your program is not helping you get stronger.
Take home points
If you have a specific goal, then you need a way to track that goal. Fitness assessments are a great way to track progress in your body composition, strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health and performance. Do a fitness retest after 6-8 weeks of consistent training to see if you perform better in the areas you are looking to improve. If you see progress, then you know you current program is effective. If you don’t see progress or regress in certain tests, you probably need to consider changing your training program. If you aren’t doing a structured fitness assessment, check out these six ways you can observe if your fitness routine is helping you get results.
- You generally feel like you have more energy during the day
- You are able to lift heavier things with ease
- Your tight clothes aren’t as tight
- Your ability to avoid unhealthy foods has improved
- You have developed consistency with your workouts
- You don’t get as tired performing the same workouts