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Tracking Your Fitness Progress

Every year, millions of people decide to start exercising only to give up within a few weeks or months. How do you prevent this from happening to you? This week we will discuss the importance of tracking your results to help keep you motivated, get the most out of your workouts, and achieve your fitness goals.

In order to properly track your progress you first need to think of what results you are looking to achieve. Are you looking to lose weight? Increase your cardio? Get stronger? Once you know what you’re looking for, you can begin to plan to meet those goals.

Why Track Results?

So how exactly does tracking your progress help you? Keeping track of your progress helps in two major ways. First, it gives you a visual representation of all of your workouts. This allows you to see where you left off. Knowing what weight you lifted, how many reps you did, how long you ran for etc… By comparison with your last workout, you will know the start point for your current exercise. This will help eliminate some guess work and allow you to keep moving forward, gradually increasing weight, number of reps, or distance.

By looking farther back you may also begin to see patterns. Maybe you’ve been bench pressing the same weight for a month, or haven’t been doing enough leg workouts. By seeing these patterns you can correct them, and continue making progress.

Secondly, and possibly more importantly, tracking your results will show you your progress over time, which can be a great motivator to continue exercising. By looking back and seeing that last month you were only able to run two kilometers and you can now run for three, or by looking at pictures of yourself changing over time, you can clearly see your progress. Without this tracking, progress can be difficult to notice. Since we see ourselves everyday those small, gradual changes can be extremely hard to notice. By being able to easily look at months of workouts or pictures, those gradual changes become easier to notice.

Scales

Scales are by far the most common, and for some the only way that people track their results when they start exercising. This can be a problem as scales only tell one part of the story, your weight. They don’t measure improved cardio, strength, or waistlines. As you build muscle you will gain weight, sometimes faster than the weight you lose from burning fat. Your weight also fluctuates over the course of the day (sometimes up to five pounds!) which can really skew your results if you don’t measure yourself at a consistent time. Only looking at your weight as a guide for results can be misleading and discouraging.

How to Properly Track Results

So if scales aren’t the best way to track your results, then what is? The answer is simply to write everything down. Every time you exercise write down the date, what you did, what weight and how many reps you did. For cardio exercises you should measure things like time, distance, resistance settings, and incline. You can now use all that information to help plan out your future workouts.

That exercise plan should include things like: the day you’re planning on exercising, what muscle groups you plan on working, what weights you will be using, how long your cardio workout will be, and what days will be rest days. It’s important to plan at least a week in advance and check to make sure that you’re not overworking, or under-working, certain muscles and also making sure that you’re allowing yourself enough rest in between workouts to help your muscles recover.

How to Properly Track Weight

If weight loss is your main goal you will obviously also need to track your weight. When tracking changes in weight there are two rules to keep in mind. Rule number one is to not check your weight every day. Keep in mind that your weight is constantly changing and that you are looking for long term weight loss. Checking your weight every day can lead to an unhealthy behaviour where you obsess about every small change in weight, and not focusing on the overall change.

To combat this, and keep yourself focused on long term weight loss, you should only weigh yourself once a week, and always on the same day at the same time. As I mentioned earlier, your weight can fluctuate up to 5lbs over the course of a day. Inconsistently measuring yourself can therefore skew your results. The best time to check your weight is first thing in the morning, before you have breakfast. This will eliminate food as a variable in your measured weight.

Take Pictures in the Mirror

Looking at numbers and seeing progress that way is good, but most people don’t really care about numbers. They want to see a difference in themselves, whether that be weight loss or muscle gain. Like with weight tracking consistency is key. Take a picture once a week, on the same day at the same time. Stand in the same position, preferably with the same clothes on to get the most consistency.

Set Small, Specific Goals

Most people have a main goal in mind when they decide to start exercising. By only setting those big, broad goals, you can potentially lose the reward factor and your ultimate goal can begin to seem unobtainable. Setting smaller weekly, or monthly goals for yourself can put that reward back into your workouts, and motivate you to keep progressing towards your ultimate goal.

As an example of this, say that I decided that I want to lose 40 pounds in the next 5 months. After one month I’ve lost 5 pounds, I can see progress but I haven’t come close to achieving my goal yet. Or worse it’s been 5 months and I’ve only lost 30 pounds. Even though I’ve come a long way I ultimately failed to achieve my fitness goal. These scenarios can be very discouraging and I might quit exercising altogether. If I instead had also set smaller goals of losing 2 pounds per week I would have something to work for every week, and get the satisfaction of completing those goals. Even if I fail the odd week, or don’t make my ultimate goal, I still mostly had victories and will be more motivated to continue exercising after those 5 months.

In Conclusion

Working out without a plan is like driving somewhere new without a map or GPS. You’re not going to know how to get where you want to go, or if you get lost, where you came from. Whether you’re looking to gain muscle or lose weight, having a plan in place, and tracking the progress of that plan, is the best way to ensure your success. If I know I was able to do 20 sit-ups last week I’m going try as hard as I can to do at least 21 this week and at least 22 next week. Having this constant competition with myself, and the weekly reward of hitting my goals I will be more likely to stay motivated and continue exercising.

Treadmills and Ellipticals – Which Are Better?

One of the most common fitness questions we get here at St. Lawrence Pools is which is better, treadmills or ellipticals? The answer is that it depends on what you’re looking to get out of your workout. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and each will suit some people’s needs better than others. In this entry we will explore what those advantages and disadvantages are to help you decide which will better suit your needs.

The first thing to do when deciding between purchasing a treadmill and elliptical is to assess what kind of a workout you’re looking to get and what your workout tendencies are. Are you looking for a full body workout? Are you a very motivated person that doesn’t need help maintaining the intensity of a workout? Do you have any injuries or health concerns? These are the kind of questions you need to ask yourself before starting to shop.

Now that you have a better idea of what you’re looking for you can start comparing machines to see what best fits your needs and workout habits. Before we start I will explain a concept that I will be talking a lot about in this article, which is something that is user-driven versus something that is machine-driven. Something that is user-driven is controlled by the person that is using the equipment. For example, user-driven speed means that the person using the fitness equipment is responsible for how fast or slow the machine moves. Something that is machine-driven is controlled by the piece of fitness equipment. Machine-driven speed means that the motor will set the speed, which the user then has to follow.

User-Driven Motion vs Machine-Driven Motion

The biggest difference between ellipticals and treadmills is the motion of the machine; with treadmills generally considered to be a more natural feeling than ellipticals. This can be broken down as the user-defined motion versus machine-defined motion. With a treadmill the user is in complete control of their motion. They are free to determine their stride length (the distance between their feet when walking or running) when using the treadmill; so they are free to move using their natural stride length. This freedom to choose your own stride length also comes in handy when switching between walking and running, as people’s stride lengths will vary depending on their speed. Many ellipticals have a fixed stride length. If your natural stride differs from this fixed value the machine can feel unnatural or awkward to use.

People with a natural stride length that is shorter than the stride length of the machine might also run the risk of hyper-extending their knees. With all that said, there are many different styles of ellipticals offering different stride lengths. It is important to test different ellipticals to determine which one feels the most natural. Some ellipticals, like Octane’s Q47, offer variable stride length, and include programs that will vary stride length to allow you to comfortably change speeds throughout the workout.

Muscle Groups Used

Another major difference between a treadmill workout and an elliptical workout is the muscles that are being used. With a treadmill you are predominately working your lower body and core. With an elliptical you are also able to get an upper body workout by using the handles to push or pull yourself against the resistance created by the machine. Some ellipticals even allow for independent changes in resistance between the handles and the feet so you can focus more on your upper or lower body. By moving your legs backwards on an elliptical you will also target different leg muscles then when moving forwards.

By using an elliptical backwards, or in a squat position, you can target different muscle groups

User-Driven Workouts vs Machine-Driven Workouts

When deciding between treadmills and ellipticals you should consider your own workout tendencies. Treadmills provide a machine driven workout providing a consistent pace for you to maintain. If you use one of their built-in programs, the speed and incline of the workout will automatically vary requiring you to adjust. By contrast, ellipticals offer a user driven workout. This requires you to set and maintain the pace of the workout. While the machine may vary the resistance throughout the program, it is up to you to set how fast, or slow, you go. If you are very self-driven when you work out this is not an issue. You will push yourself to maintain a set pace, regardless of the resistance set by the machine to get the most out of your workout. On the other hand, if you find that you need to be pushed more, the machine driven workout of a treadmill forces you to maintain your pace, and get the results you are looking for

Impact

True Fitness Soft Select adjustable cushioning

Some treadmills offer adjustable cushioning to optimize comfort when walking or running.

Treadmills and ellipticals also differ in the amount of impact they place on your joints when used at higher intensities. While walking on a treadmill will exert about the same force as using an elliptical at a lower intensity, running on a treadmill will place more stress on your joints than using an elliptical at a higher intensity. For this reason, heavier people, or people with lower body injuries may benefit from using an elliptical. People suffering from arthritis will also appreciate the lessened joint stress that an elliptical will provide. With that said, the added impact of a treadmill workout actually helps to promote bone growth and can help people with low bone density. Higher end treadmills, like the True Fitness PS800 do offer features designed to greatly reduce the amount of impact experienced by the user, such as orthopedic belts and adjustable cushioning.

So which one provides the better workout?

As you probably now know, the answer is dependent on what you’re looking for. If you’re used to running outside, or are training for a 5km or marathon, you’re probably better off going with a treadmill. If you’re looking for more of a cross-training, full body workout, than an elliptical might be the better choice for you. Treadmills force you to maintain their pace so you don’t slow down without realizing it. This can be a benefit to those who have a tendency to slow down during workouts. Treadmills have also been shown to burn more calories on average than ellipticals when used at similar intensities, although it must be said the difference is not very large. Ellipticals on the other hand, have a lower perceived exertion than treadmills. This means if you were to burn the same amount of calories on both machines, you will perceive that you worked harder on the treadmill than on the elliptical. For this reason, more motivated people will push themselves harder on an elliptical. On the flip side of that, at lower levels of exertion the momentum of the machine can take over, reducing the benefit of the workout. People not motivated to continue pushing themselves can therefore coast through part of the workout and not get as much out of it.

I’m still unsure which one is right for me

If after reading this you are still unsure about which machine to purchase, the best way to figure out which is best for you is to go to your local fitness retailer and try both machines out. The best thing to do is to try each one out for at least a couple of minutes to get the feel of each machine at different speeds. At this point, you should only be concerned with how each machine feels, and ignore things like number of programs offered and touch screens. User comfort is the top priority when purchasing exercise equipment. Fitness equipment that is not comfortable offers a barrier to use, you will use it less, and therefore will get less out of the money you invested in that piece of fitness equipment. Once you have picked your 2 or 3 favourites, than you can then look at the additional features that each machine offers in order to see what best fits your needs, and budget.

St Lawrence Pools fitness display

At St Lawrence Pools, we offer free demos on all of our in-stock fitness equipment.

Deciding between an elliptical and treadmill can seem confusing at first, but by first putting some time into figuring out exactly what you’re looking for, you can usually easily narrow down the options. If you still have any questions you can call one of our fitness experts at any of our four locations in Kingston, Belleville, Brockville, or Cornwall. If you liked this entry, follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more fitness tips, promotions, and updates when new blog entries are posted.



Looking to Stay Motivated This Winter?

Here are some tips to help you stay motivated and maintain a healthy lifestyle:

*Complete your work out when you wake up. Start your day right, you will feel energized and ready to conquer anything.

*Get inspired by others, surround yourself with motivated people with similar goals.

* Remember why you are staying active, your health! The most important reason of all, you can’t put a price on your health.

TRUE Fitness is one of the most respected fitness companies in the world, delivering customers high quality, durability and performance since 1981. We have been a proud True Fitness Retailer since 2007.

The PS100 Treadmill is tried, tested and TRUE Customer and Staff Favourite!!

Visit one of our showrooms today for our Fitness Clearance and Floor Model Blowout. Find everything from Treadmills, Exercise Bikes, and Total Body Elliptical trainers, both commercial and residential.