By Nikki Jarrett If you are a regular gym-goer like myself and many others reading this, you might think that progress is measured by - more weight on the bar, your scale is moving closer to an “ideal” weight, or you became the biggest badass in your gym (yay!), but those are not always the best indicators for progress. Everyone that goes to the gym, goes for many reasons, e.i. weight-loss, bulking (bruh), and therapy, etc, all are which are valid reasons. But that doesn’t mean weight-loss and bulking are the sole measures of progress of your program, especially if neither one of those is your goal. Even if they are your goals, we often hit a point in our journey where nothing is changing (so we think) and looking for progress in other ways can keep you pushing forward.
The best indicators of progress have little to do with your weight or the weight on the bar. You should look for progress in other aspects of your life, and hopefully the healthy lifestyle your building. If you’re new to the gym lifestyle then this will be a good read for you and if you’re a veteran to the gym life, reviewing key indicators of progress can help you manage your program and help you find the missing link to push pass a plateau. I will cover each of these individually but I won’t keep you waiting.
The 5 best indicators of progress are:
1.Closer to your goal (duh!) 2.Moods and stress level are managed well or are in-check 3. You are getting adequate quality sleep 4. Ability to get back on track with gym/nutrition routine after a meal or a vacation 5. Ability to perform well in the gym
Closer to Your Goal Whatever your goal - Are you closer to it? You goal doesn’t have to have a number attached to it, like a weight for the scale to on the bar. Your goal can be simply to feel better and to be able to move better by increasing flexibly/mobility, increase daily /quality movement, or decrease pain. If you’re finding you are moving closer to these goals, then your are making progress! Keep going, don’t give up and be patient!
Moods and Stress Level are Managed Well or in Check This may not be the most obvious measure of progress but it is an important aspect to your health and well being (maybe even for your partner’s too)! If you’re experiencing mood swings, irritability, disinterested in training, or even low energy, this could be signs you’re doing too much (e.i. increase in stressors) and not keeping a good balance between gym, nutrition, sleep, and your social life. Try focusing on recovery, and limiting or decrease your time in the gym or intensity of your sessions, until your body starts to feel 'better' and your energy is back to normal.
You are Getting Adequate Quality Sleep Most of us know that sleep is vital to your health. If your sleep quality has decreased there could be a number of reasons, but if you cannot find a solution it could require a discussion with your doctor. If you know the solution to your lack of quality sleep (e.i. stay up too late binging on Netflix), change up your routine and practice time manage skills to insure you can get to bed at a reasonable time. Sometimes your sleep is disrupted during the night, find the reason for the disruptions and try to eliminate the number of disruptions throughout the night. Increase in quality of sleep is a good indicator of good time management, decrease stress level, will increase your gym performance and can help you reach your goals faster. Ability to Get Back on Track This is a tough one! Life will happen and you will find a time where you “fall off the wagon,” and that's OK. Having the ability to redirect your focus back to your goal will help you reach that goal faster. This can be more of a mental struggle, you may find changing your mindset and setting smaller goals will help get back on track more quickly. If you find yourself overwhelmed with your goal, breaking it down to smaller S.M.A.R.T. goals. This process can help you get back on track, ultimately moving you closer to your goal!
Increase Performance in the Gym This one is obvious, of course you will be closer to your goals if you can increase your performance in the gym. It won't always be the case. Having the right program, managing your stress, quality nutrition, and enjoying the process will aid in your performance. Maintaining quality performance in the gym will bring you closer to your goals. By being able to continually work hard and smart, is a great indicator of progress. If you’re finding you lack energy, or can’t maintain a performance level required to make strides towards your goal there are keys areas you need to take a look at, e.i. nutrition or sleep. If these areas are lacking, then it's possible your program isn’t a good fit. Your performance in the gym is good feedback on other areas that may need improvement, use this information and it will bring you closer to your goals. Just know that there are definitely more bad days, then good days always check in with how you are doing.
Now what? Keep track of these indicators, they will tell you a lot of information about yourself and your progress. You will be able to uncover the areas that need improvement and areas that are working well for you. Don’t forget that life will get busy, but if you maintain your focus, keep track of your progress with these 5 indicators, and keep moving towards your goal, you will get there! Not all progress can be measured by the weight on the bar or even the number on the scale. Using the most information as you can will help you stay focus and motivated to achieve your goal and so much more.
As Coach Dan John would say, "Keep going, and never give up."