Tom, the personal trainer who founded Waite Training in Leeds has many tips to help you get started on working for your fitness goals.
When the goal is losing weight and toning up, it's a common mistake to track one metric only - usually, weight loss. Only having one measure of success, particularly if you're also exercising, is misleading. As you lose weight using diet and exercise, your shape will change through a process called "body recomposition", and sometimes that doesn't show up as a significant difference on the scale.
Having more than one way to measure progress is the most effective way to have a holistic idea of the changes happening in your body. It's more motivating than just the scale weight alone. It also makes it easier to be consistent with your diet and exercise programme because you can see progress happening across multiple areas of your life.
A digital bathroom scale is a must for tracking changes to your weight. The secret to using the scale effectively during your journey is not to get emotionally attached to that number. Instead, consider it as data that gives you information about your body at a particular moment in time. It is, of course, an important marker. Still, your weight will fluctuate, especially if you're a woman.
If the goal is to tone up, you'll likely be gaining some lean muscle tissue through your workouts that might make the scale move more slowly than you would expect. The scale is also affected by eating late the night before you weigh and whether or not you've been to the toilet. It can seem to have a mind of its own around your menstrual cycle and is distorted by high salt and high carbohydrate meals.
When using the scale, aim to step on it at the same time of the day. If you record the results in an app like My Fitness Pal, you will be able to keep track of your progress by checking the charts. Look for the trend over time, rather than at the particular number on the day.
Tracking Shape Changes
The two most effective ways to track your body recomposition are tape measurements and photographs. These make a far more accurate picture of your progress than just the bathroom scale alone.
When using a tape measure, you'll need a dressmaker's tape - the floppy kind that can be wrapped around your body quickly. You'll likely already have one of these at home, but for a small investment, you can also get one-handed tape measures online. These are designed specifically to be used for taking body measurements of your own body.
Taking photographs at monthly intervals can be genuinely motivating if you've been training hard and you do not see that progress represented on the scale. Try to keep the photos in the same, or similar, fitted clothing each time so you can see the shape of your body. You can use your smartphone's front-facing camera to capture a full-body frontal, side and back view - prop the phone up and use the timer to give you time to step back fully into the frame.
Body fat measurements can also be used for tracking your body composition changes. If your gym has a machine, you can use that regularly, or you can ask a personal trainer to assess you regularly.
Keeping a notebook, or a spreadsheet about the specific numbers you're hitting in your training sessions is a simple way to keep track of volume and progress. You might track the number of minutes of cardio performed, the times you can complete a set amount of work (e.g. how fast you can run a mile), or the weights lifted in a session.
If your goal isn't only fat loss, but also improving your cardiovascular fitness and overall health, you can record details like your Heart Rate (resting, before, during and after exercise), recovery time after a set or even perform tests to calculate your VO2 max.
The latter testing will require a fitness professional who understands the demands of such an assessment and can interpret the data for you. If you need some help putting together a training programme, feel free to drop me a message for a commitment-free chat.
Using an app like MyFitnessPal to help you to track your food is incredibly helpful, especially in the beginning, when you're just learning to "eyeball" portion sizes. The app is free and keeps a database of the foods you eat most often so although it takes a few minutes a day in the beginning, that gets much faster as it learns a little about the foods you commonly eat.
Food logging is linked to fat loss success because it removes the guesswork from how many calories you're eating and introduces an element of awareness. You don't have to track your food forever, but it's a useful way to learn what portion sizes are right for you.
The final thing to monitor for fat loss success is the quantity and quality of your sleep. You can buy wearable tech to help you track this metric, like a Whoop band, but you don't necessarily need any special equipment.
Just take a moment each morning to consider how rested you feel. Sleep quality and quantity have a significant impact on dietary compliance, so it's linked indirectly to how successful your fat loss goals can be.