If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
This is a famous quote from Peter Drucker who was actually one of the founders of modern management science and education. The origin of the quote was in a business context but it does apply to any goal setting and achieving. If you don't measure you never know if you actually achieve your goal or are on the right path to achieving your goal.
Have a goal in the first place
So, it all starts with actually deciding what you want to achieve. What is your goal? When it comes to fitness and health there are many types of different goals you can aim for. The most typical ones are weight loss, toning, increase muscle mass, increase strength or improve athletic performance. You decide. Based on your decision you then start programming to achieve that goal.
Programming to work towards a goal
Typically a good program covers various different aspects. There are many models and we have our own based on the four key areas of fitness: resistance training, cardio, nutrition and recovery. We call this the 4 Legs Fitness concept and describe it in detail in our book From Healthy to Athletic: How to Master the 4 Ingredients to Superior Fitness.
Progressive overload and consistency
Once you have your program, it's time for execution. The first fundamental principle for successful execution is progressive overload. Every time you train, you should increase the stimulus. There are many ways to overload and it is not only down to increasing weight. You can also increase the number of reps or sets or decrease the rest time in between. Important is that you constantly challenge your body otherwise it will adapt and you'll not progress.
Another critical principal is consistency. You won't really see any significant results after one month. Also not after two. You need to be consistent and follow you program typically at least for half a year (depending on your goal). Also, no need to freak out if you miss one training session. It is more about being consistent on the long run and on average.
Logging and measuring
Coming back then to Peter Drucker's quote from the beginning: In order to see if we are on the right track to achieving our goal, we need to constantly log our progress and measure it against our goal. This sounds very obvious but the majority of gym goers actually don't do it. It is ok if the pure fact of going to the gym makes them happy but otherwise it is a waste of time. Logging is very simple. Just bring a little notepad with you, take notes on your phone or use our spreadsheet that comes with our training program. In order to stay consistent and progressively overload all the time, you simply need to write down what you did in your last session.
Apart from your personal logging and controlling your progress, we also recommend to have you tested from time to time by independent performance test facilities. The type of these facilities also depends on your goals. Some are more sophisticated, some less. Some are more expensive, some less. But it is good to get this tested regularly -- every half year is mostly sufficient -- by a third party. Luckily we have a very good New Body Center here in Barcelona that offers excellent value for money. They produce an insightful report and a great summary chart as shown below.
For more details about the broader and more holistic 4 Legs Fitness concept, check out our book From Healthy to Athletic: How to Master the 4 Ingredients to Superior Fitness.