Why should I track my exercise progress?

Eric Olsen
Your resting pulse can serve as a general measure of improved cardiovascular health, so a reasonable goal might be a steady decline in your resting pulse over a period of weeks. Start by taking your pulse at rest at the beginning of your exercise program, then check your resting pulse once a week at the same time each day, for instance, in the morning on rising. Chart the decline. If you don't see a decline, you may want to adjust your program until you see the desired results.

If you have hypertension, you may want to set the goal of a lower or normal blood pressure; this will mean either taking your blood pressure yourself or having someone do it for you, but it can be a reasonable measure of favorable changes in your health. You should take your blood pressure three or four times over a period of a week or two, preferably at the same time each day, to get an accurate picture.

If you have the time, resources, and inclination, you can even establish goals such as beneficial changes in your serum cholesterol, if you don't mind the needle prick and the expense. If you have NIDDM, of course, control of that condition is an important goal, and self-monitoring will be a useful indication of progress. If you have the money and time for periodic treadmill tests to measure oxygen consumption at given workloads, this is a very accurate way of measuring your aerobic fitness; thus improved aerobic fitness can become a goal as well.

If feeling better and looking better are your goals, they'll be a bit harder to measure, but certainly you'll become more aware of changes in how you feel and how you look -- narrowing waist, firming buttocks, larger biceps -- so you can decide for yourself if you're progressing satisfactorily in the direction you want.
Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

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Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

An easy-to-follow programme for lengthening and improving lives. More than an exercise guide, this text is an effective tool for making meaningful lifestyle decisions to benefit long-term fitness. In...

Tracking your exercise progress is important because it lets you see how you are progressing in terms of reaching your previously set goals. If you’re on pace, you probably won’t have to make many changes to your routine, except to progress your exercises in difficulty. If you’re not making any progress, it may be time to re-evaluate your program, and see where you can make changes to get you back on track.

There are lots of reasons - and sometimes it is just to see where you have been and where you are going. Increased exercise tolerance and strength are often hard to perceive - but when we track our progress we can see the change we have made. This can be very reinforcing. Exercise can be tedious at times - and when we see that regular exercise makes us stronger over time, we are compelled to do it more. In addition, it is a way to see what does and does not work - we may see that a certain form of exercise was associated with less success at weight loss or more injuries or just less interest. By tracking exercise, we can track progress, figure out works, and mix it up.
Tracking your exercise program is just as important as tracking your food.  Like everything else you want to keep track of what you are doing and how long you have been doing it.  Tracking helps you know when you need to make changes to exercises, reps, weight and tempo.  It is much easier to know what you need to do when you see it on paper than trying to remember what you need to do or remember what weights you did last.  Tracking helps hold yourself accountable to your program and helps monitor your progress.

Not sure I have enough room to list all the reasons on why you should track your exercise progress but below I am going to list some fundamental reasons why.

  • Your mind will lead you astray.  Just because you do not think you are doing well does not mean you are not doing well.  Many times people will think they are not making progress but the reality is they are.  Truth always outweighs feelings and there is no way to tell if you are making progress unless you are tracking your progress.  If not then you are simply letting your fitness life be ruled by emotions and not facts.
  • It is harder to have a clear vision when you are not tracking your progress.  When you are broad with your goals then you tend to have goals like losing weight, building muscle but nothing specific.  When you track your progress you can pinpoint your goals and vision into things like losing 10 lbs of fat in 12 weeks or things like that.
  • The strategy is the workout and nutrition that you follow to meet your vision.  If your vision is clear because you are tracking your progress then you will have a much more pinpoint strategy on how to reach your goals, but if you are not tracking your progress how do you really have the ability to have a clear strategy?
  • A fundamental important aspect is your belief in yourself and the process.  If you purely are going off how you feel then your mind will let you down and it is easy to get discouraged and get off track.  However if you are tracking your progress it is much easier to have a belief in the process and see the finish line.
  • You need to be able to persist and persevere.  Road blocks come and plateaus hit and you need to have a strategy for overcoming setbacks.  But how do you know if you have a setback?  Are you basing it off emotion or facts?  Sometimes if you think you have a setback the reality is you may not actually be in a setback.  However if you are tracking your progress and you hit a setback you will know and you will have a strategy for it.
  • Finally because you made it this far you have a vision, strategy, proper beliefs and strategy for setbacks because you were focused on your goals.  You now have plenty of ammo to make course corrections and learn more about fitness and yourself.

Tracking exercise progress helps to keep us "aware" of where we are against our goals at any given point in the process.  As our fitness levels increase, we often need to change up our exercise activity to ensure we are challenging ourselves and also keeping things fun and exciting! In addition, having a written record (it doesn't have to be fancy...just a simple notebook), helps us clearly see progress we are making so we can celebrate. This helps boost our confidence and place our focus on our progress vs. how far we may feel from our ultimate goals.  I always encourage logging and tracking nutrition and exercise especially for those just starting to implement new healthy lifestyle patterns in this area.

Tracking your progress can be a useful way to keep you motivated when you start an exercise program. Use a calendar or an online app to track when and how long you are active. You could also try wearing a monitor or pedometer to keep track of your activity. Either way, it feels good to see what you've accomplished.

Challenge yourself to squeeze in more activity, whether spending an extra five minutes on the elliptical or taking more steps every day. When you reach a goal, treat yourself to a non-food reward, such as buying some new workout clothes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.