Tracker

Taking time to Celebrate Progress

Take some time to celebrate your progress!

As we near the end of another year, now is a perfect time to reflect on the progress that we've made, and position ourselves for continued success in the year to come.  

If you've been religious in recording your results during each exercise session, the numbers are tangible proof of the improvement you've made. In the context of day-to-day or week-to-week, these numbers rarely seem to change. Their significance doesn't really come to light until the sample size increases to several months to a full year.

Just for fun, pull out one of your first exercise trackers and dedicate one session to replicating exactly what you did back on that given day. Same routine, weight, sets, reps, time, distance, etc... Use this day as an opportunity on which to focus and perfect your form. 

The ease at which you can now perform the movements will astound you, and provide some great motivation. It's mind-blowing to do with ease now what used to be nearly impossible. Because you will need less rest between movements, you will still be getting a great workout due to the increased intensity! 

Moreover, the ultimate proof is by recognizing the improvement in the way we look and feel: healthier, stronger, faster, and long-enduring.   

All of this is a testament to your dedication, perseverance, and effort.

Just think where you will be a year from now...

Weights, Reps, and Form - Where to Start and When to Increase

What is a good starting point for weights and reps, and when do we decide it is time to increase them?

First, let's look at this rule of thumb:

  • Muscle Tone: Low Weight/ Many Reps
  • Strength: High weight/ Few Reps

Personally, I am looking to increase strength, so I opt for the latter option. In that regard, I began with a weight that I knew I could lift correctly for at least two sets of 4 reps. When I was able to build up to two sets of 6 reps on consecutive days, I would increase the weight and only expect 4 reps. If I could get 5 or 6 on the first try, I would keep 'leveling up' each session until I reached the point where the last rep of the second set of 4 was difficult to lift correctly. Normally, I like to get 8 - 12 reps per exercise per session with the last rep being almost impossible. 

When you are starting out, you may find that sometimes your starting weight is ridiculously easy, or it may be too difficult. I say stick with the easy weight and learn the correct form, increasing weight or reps next time. The more complex the movement, the less weight I would add on. Example: for a push press, I would only increase the weight by 5 pounds, but a leg press, I may add 20. If the weight you choose is too difficult, there is no shame in lowering the amount in order to get your reps. It will happen; you will get there, so don't worry.  

Remember, it's not about how much you can lift, it's about how well you lift. It means nothing if your form isn't correct. A correct push press of 20 pounds trumps a sloppy one at 50. So the first month or so of any new exercise should be a learning period to find the perfect intersection of weight and form. 

To recap: Two sets of 4 reps, the last rep should be difficult while still keeping correct form. When you are able to do 2 sets of 6 reps, increase the weight and lower the reps back to 4. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. 

Choosing an Exercise Regemin

Now that we have a way to script our exercise and track our progress, we need to come up with a list of activities that will satisfy our fitness goals. As mentioned previously, this could be a list of stretching, cardio, lifts, or some combination of these.

I'm not going to delve into specifics here, because everyone is different in terms of goals, body type, limitations, etc... What works for me may not work for others. Given the nature of progressive resistance, what works for me today may not work for me tomorrow.

Here are good places to find movements that best suit your needs, with some pros and cons of each:

Internet

Pros:

  • Unlimited information
  • Ability to convey form/ movement through video
  • Free

Cons:

  • Unlimited information
  • Qualifications of contributor unknown
  • Quality of information directly related to instructor experience

Books

Pros: 

  • Easy to locate and isolate Information
  • Great for Reference
  • Portable

Cons: 

  • Text/ Pictures may not fully demonstrate or articulate correct form
  • Finite scope

Smart Phone/ Tablet Apps

Pros:

  • Portable
  • Interactive

Cons:

  • May require Internet Connection
  • Charges may apply for premium content or features
  • Requires phone/ tablet be available during exercise

Friends

Pros:

  • Team environment/ Fellowship
  • Excellent motivation

Cons:

  • Perpetuate bad habits
  • Convey incorrect information

Certified Personal Trainer

Pros: 

  • Trained and Certified in sport and exercise curriculum
  • Customize fitness regemen to fulfill client needs
  • In-Person/ Hands-On coaching
  • Immediate feedback

Cons:

  • Expensive (Some Require Gym Memberships)
  • Some may be sales oriented (future training sessions, nutrition products, equipment, etc…)

Scripting and Tracking Fitness: The Basics

Scripting and tracking your exercise routines is a simple but excellent tool to sustain motivation and increase performance. The best part is that you can find ready-made templates in most fitness books, on the Internet, or as smartphone apps for free!

The basic parts of any fitness tracker are:

  • Date - The date on which the exercise occurred.
  • Exercise - The activity that you did. 
  • Reps - Short for "repetitions". This denotes the number of times you did the exercise.
    Example: One dumbbell curl = one Rep. 5 squats = 5 Reps. 10 push-ups = 10 Reps.
  • Sets - Groupings of the same exercise usually separated by a short rest period. 
    Example: 5 squats, 3 times, with a 90 second break between each 5. This means you would do 3 sets of 5 squats for a total of 15 squats. 
  • Resistance Unit/ Weight - The amount of weight used in each rep.

Certainly, if you choose to add the ability to track stretches, cardio, and other specialized movements, your template will require more customization. 

Using the terms above, our tracker may look something like this:

Date
Exercise Reps Weight
Weighted Hip Bridge 5
5
Dumbbell Row 5
5
Chest Press 5
5
Leg Press 5
5
Dumbell Laterals 10
10

Notice that each exercise has two rows? This means we would do two sets of each. 

Or, we can show the same thing like this:

Date
Exercise Reps Sets Weight
Weighted Hip Bridge 5 2
Dumbbell Row 5 2
Chest Press 5 2
Leg Press 5 2
Dumbbell Laterals 10 2

Each template assumes that we will fill in the weight after the exercise. 

Again, the basics can be modified to fit your exercise plan. If you wish to do an exercise that is measured in time, laps, or distance, then you can track those as well. 

Once you found a template that you like, you can make a photocopy or transpose it to a piece of paper (like a 3x5 memo pad or notebook), spreadsheet, or app. Personally, I prefer keeping mine stored in a spreadsheet template which I print for use. The best option is the one that is easiest for you to carry to the gym and keep current.