Health & Family

Scale isn't the only gauge of progress

Don't get rid of that scale yet. Just don't believe everything you think it tells you. There are different and better ways of measuring fitness success.

A client recently shared a couple of stories with me that I have to share with you. We'd been training about six weeks when he started telling me about getting ready for a job interview.

“I was trying on suits for this interview,” he said. “I put on these pants and …”

Just then, he smiled and pulled out the waistline of his sweat shorts about 4 or 5 inches.

A smooth and repetitive nod added to the smile and helped paint a face that beamed with more pride than a scale could give.

“Buddy, I'm fitting into two suits I haven't fit into in more than a year,” he said proudly.

I was just as happy for him.

Then came the next story, from a client who has coached a T-Ball team for a couple of seasons.

One of the boys on the team, maybe a 5-year-old, tells my client, “Coach. Coach. You look different.”

“All I could say was, ‘Thanks buddy,'” my client said. “'Thanks a lot.'”

Those are a couple of the best ways to measure fitness success. I know this client has lost weight, too. How much? That will be a mystery to me until I give him another assessment. But the weight hasn't been the primary goal.

The following are a few ways to measure fitness success that don't require a scale.

The old stair/hill test: How winded do you get climbing those flights of stairs at the office or that hill down the street? Use that as a gauge. As your workout program progresses, you should be less winded.

The same gauge holds true for playing with the kids and grandkids. They seem to have endless energy; how long can you play with them before having to sit back and rest awhile?

Everyday life: Does yard work gradually become easier? How about the housework — carrying laundry or the vacuum cleaner up and down stairs? Can you stay in the garden longer or do more work in a shorter time? Are the neck and back muscles hurting less?

The weight might be the same, but what's the body fat percentage now? Body mass index is a horrible indicator of your fitness level. So, please, don't use it.

Find a way to get your body fat checked. Electronic impedance devices aren't the most accurate gauges for one-time measurements. But using these and taking a body fat percentage at the same time every day gives you better sense of what's happening with your nutritional and exercise program.

Feelings: How are yours? Only you can measure this. Are you feeling better about your energy levels and the things you're able to make your body do?