Tracking Your Goals and Results

goal blocks

In order to achieve your personal weight training fitness goals, it is imperative that you define a thorough set of goals that are realistic and measurable, and thereafter monitor your progress toward achieving each individual goal.

It is important to remember to always set physical and performance goals that, while challenging, are realistic and obtainable within the timeframe that you have defined.

Clinical studies have shown that individuals who set fitness and/or weight loss goals that are unrealistic tend to lose motivation, discontinue their fitness routine, suffer from depression, and spiral into an even worse state of health and fitness.

However, for individuals that define their weight training goals in such a way that each goal is obtainable and measurable, monitoring their results can be motivating and inspirational.

Remember, the intent of setting goals that are measurable is to allow for the tracking of your progress from a real-time perspective. By doing so, you will be able to determine if your weight training program is working as expected or if modifications are required.

Envision the End Result

In general, there are two primary aspects to achieving your personal weight training and fitness goals, or any other type of goal for that matter. The first is defining what the end result of obtaining your personal weight training goals will look like. For example, an individual may define their weight training goals so that they are centered around body measurements, body fat percentage and strength levels.

Examples of each type of weight training goal include:

  • Increase upper arm measurement from 12.5 inches to 14.0 inches in 6 months.

  • Decrease overall body fat percentage from 28% to 22% by September 15, 2012.

  • Increase maximum single repetition on the flat straight bar bench press from 185 pounds to 250 pounds in 8 months.

Develop Your Plan of Action

The second aspect of achieving your weight training goals is the actual action plan required to support your personal weight training goals. While defining your personal weight training goals is an excellent first step, achieving them will require effort, work, focus, and a dedication to the action plan.

In addition, it will be important to be open-minded in terms of modifying your action plan in the event that you find you are not achieving your weight training goals in the timeframe you have specified. However, keep in mind that there could be three primary reasons for not achieving your weight training goals as scheduled:

  1. Your weight training goals are unrealistic

  2. Your action plan is incorrectly positioned to achieve your specific weight training goals

  3. You are not performing your action plan with enough dedication, focus and regularity

As is evident, it is important that you define your set of weight training goals so that they are achievable, and that you create an actual weight training program designed to support the attainment of each weight training goal.

Below are several helpful tips for setting realistic weight training goals, and thereafter monitoring and tracking your results and comparing them to your actual goals.

Setting Goals

When defining your specific weight training goals, it is important to first ask yourself several questions related to what you are wanting to accomplish. Below are a a few examples of questions that you may want to consider asking yourself:

  • Are you wanting to tone up, lose excess body weight, increase lean muscle mass, increase muscular strength, or a combination of all four?

  • Do you have the time and focus to dedicate to performing a disciplined weight training program?

  • Are you willing to commit to regularly performing a weight training program?

  • Will you be working out at home or at a fitness center?

  • If working out at a fitness center, do you have the financial means to do so?

  • Will you be implementing a dietary program to support your weight training program?

  • Will you be working out with a partner?

  • Do you have any physical limitations or injuries that you need to consider?

  • How much time, and at what frequency, are you able to dedicate toward working out per week?

These are just a few of the questions that you may want to consider answering before you define your personal weight training goals and actually begin your weight training workouts.

Guidelines for Defining and Setting Better Goals

key to success

As previously mentioned, setting weight training goals that are well-defined and tailored to address your specific health and fitness goals will ultimately define the action plan that you create to achieve those specific goals. Stated another way, without a set of well-defined weight training goals and objectives, you do not know where you are going, and without a detailed action plan, you do not have a vehicle to bring you to your weight training goals.

This being said, it is imperative that you create a set of weight training goals that are well-defined and specifically designed to address your fitness goals, account for your daily lifestyle challenges, and are in line with your level of commitment.

Below are a few tips and techniques for creating a set of weight training goals that are well-defined, thorough and measurable:

  • All goals must be specific. Do not make ambiguous goals that can be easily rethought based on the outcome. For example: setting a goal of being able to walk two miles in thirty minutes is far better than setting a goal of "I want to improve my fitness level."

  • All goals must be measurable. By doing so, all doubt as to whether a goal has been achieved will be eliminated. For example, while individuals that are looking to lose weight can monitor how their pants fit, it would be far better to use either their body weight, body measurements or percentage of body fat as a metric to gauge how successful their fitness program has been.

  • All goals should be achievable, but not too easy. Goals that are too easy will not challenge you enough to be motivational, and goals that are too hard will most likely create a feeling of frustration and discouragement.

  • All goals must have a set time frame for achievement. In addition, time frames should be attached to all short-term and long-term goals.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals

It is important to set both short and long-term goals. Quite often, short-term goals support long-term goals. For example, if an individual sets a long-term goal to lose 75 pounds in 12 months, they may want to set several short-term goals they can monitor on a monthly basis to ensure that they are on-schedule to achieve their long-term goal in 12 months, the specified time frame. In general, most individuals will set 3 to 4 short-term goals for every long-term goal. Below is a representation of several short and long term-goals:

Short-Term Goals

  • To learn and perform one exercise set on each piece of circuit weight training equipment in the first week of beginning my weight training program.

  • To support my weight training program, I will replace one meal each day with a salad for one month.

  • To increase my single repetition maximum on the flat straight bar bench press from 135 pounds to 165 pounds within 30 days.

Long-Term Goals

  • To lose 85 pounds of excess body fat in 12 months.

  • To increase my upper arm measurement from 12.5 inches to 14.0 inches in 9 months.

  • To increase my body weight from 185 pounds to 200 pounds in 12 months while maintaining a body fat percentage below 15%.

Tracking the Results

One of the most important aspects of any exercise and/or diet program is maintaining a journal in which you record all of your results. According to the American Council on Exercise, 76% of individuals that maintain and monitor a diet journal successfully achieve their weight loss goals. Utilizing a weight training journal to record your body measurements, exercises, sets, repetitions and maximum weight levels will provide the same benefits as a weight loss journal will for individuals who are looking to lose weight. Typical items that are beneficial to record in your daily weight training log are as follows:

  • Food consumed at every meal and the total caloric content for each of the foods. You can enter portion sizes as well.

  • The time and duration of each weight training session that you perform.

  • The muscle groups that you exercised during the weight training session.

  • The actual exercises, number of sets, number of repetitions, and the amount of weight used for each set.

  • Your body measurements on whatever measurement interval you choose (i.e. once per month, once every two weeks, etc.).

  • Any muscle, joint or skeletal injuries or sensitivities that occur.

  • All cardiovascular exercises that you perform in addition to your weight training program (i.e. rode bike at level 7 for 15 minutes prior to performing my weight training routine).

  • Optionally, any food or alcohol temptations that occurred during the day, how you handled them, and your general mood.

Devices and Methods for Tracking Your Results

measuring tape

There are several devices and methods that you can use to monitor your weight training progress and results. The primary items that most individuals tend to monitor when performing a weight training program are their body measurements and dimensions, body weight, strength gains, percentage of body fat, and caloric intake.

Below is a list of several devices and methods that can be used to monitor the results and progress derived from your weight training program:

  • Body Weight Scale: Many individuals place a high level of importance on their body weight.

    While it is true that a body weight scale can provide a relative perspective in terms of whether an individual is gaining or losing weight, a body weight scale does not tell the entire story. If you plan on using a body weight scale as a primary means for evaluating your personal weight training results, weigh yourself in the morning before getting dressed and eating breakfast for accurate results.

    It is important to understand that muscle, by volume, weights more than fat. This being said, an individual may lose several inches in body dimensions while only decreasing their total body weight by a few pounds. This scenario is extremely common in the weight training environment. A better approach is to monitor your physical dimensions and your percentage of body fat. Measuring your body dimensions will allow you to visibly look at your hips, legs, waist, arms and other body parts, and thereafter associate a measurement value that is acceptable for each area. By monitoring your percentage of body fat, you will be able to determine whether it's better to increase or decrease it.

    In other words, if you achieve your desired body dimensions for all areas of your body, and you decrease your body fat percentage to a healthy level, do you really care what your body weight?

  • Tape Measure: Measure your waist at the bellybutton, chest at the nipples, arms at the biceps, and legs at the thighs to get an overall idea of how many inches you have lost.

    If your weight training program is designed to decrease your overall body weight, the abdominal area is always the first to store excess fat and the last area to lose it. Do not get discouraged if you initially see minimal results in the abdominal area, and remember that when an individual loses weight they lose weight across their entire body.

    If your weight training program is designed to significantly increase your lean muscle mass and increase your overall body weight, then you will want to monitor your body measurements to ensure that you are seeing increases in size. In addition, you will want to ensure that your gains in lean muscle mass are reasonably uniform across your entire body.

  • Skinfold Calipers: Skinfold calipers are used to measure the percentage of body fat present at various locations throughout the body. Several fitness centers and gyms offer free skinfold caliper measurements to their members. It's advisable to monitor your body fat percentage at least on a monthly basis.

  • Weight Training, Weight Loss and Calorie Counter Logs: Weight training, weight loss and calorie counter logs are all excellent tools that are designed to assist you in tracking your personal results. Each of these items can be purchased as a physical log book, an online computer programs, or an electronic device.

  • Personal Methods: Try on a tight pair of jeans once every couple of weeks to see how they fit. In many cases, the first apparent sign of weight loss is realized in how your clothes fit. If your intention is to increase your lean muscle mass, this will work as well.

    Another approach to tracking your progress is to take a picture of yourself on a weekly basis. Not only can it be fun to take the pictures, but motivational as well. In many instances, individuals fail to notice the subtle differences in their body as they see their body each day. By putting together a slide show of pictures of yourself on a weekly basis, and then viewing the pictures at the end of each month, the changes in your body will be noticeable and provide you with the motivation to continue your weight training program.

  • Conclusion

    weight scale

    As previously mentioned, there are two primary aspects associated with defining a weight training program. First, begin by thoroughly defining your personal weight training goals, and second, define and implement the action plan that will provide you with the results and the attainment of your personal weight training goals. Defining your overall weight training program in this manner will provide a comprehensive approach to achieving your personal weight training goals with a high level of probability and efficiency.

    In addition, you will be able to increase the rate at which you are able to achieve your personal weight training goals by monitoring your results on a real-time basis and modifying your weight training program when necessary.

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