Tracking progress can be important when it comes to fitness, fat loss, muscle gain or any other goal you may have. What I notice in clients I work with is that they tend to get bogged down in whether or not they are doing better than yesterday or last week.
Did my weight go up or down compared to yesterday?
Did I lift more today than last week?
Was my pace faster than the last time I ran this route?
Was my sleep better last night than the night before?
In reality there are few things that follow a linear (straight line) progression. There are always going to be ups and downs. This includes all aspects of life, from muscle gain and fat loss, to stress and sleep. When you zoom in and focus on a small period of time things can appear to be all over the place.
I will give you three good examples.
Here is a graph of my daily HRV measurements from January 2019 to July 2020. HRV, or heart rate variability, is a way of quantifying the stress your body is under. The lower the number, the more stress your body is under. Looking at the graph you will notice my HRV is all over the place, fluctuations happen from day to day. It isn’t clear what direction my HRV, and stress, is trending.
Now let’s look at my monthly average over the same course of time
Ahhh….now that we eliminate all the day to day noise you can see a clear trend upwards. In this case, a higher HRV means more resilience and more balance between stress and rest. That is a good thing!
Let’s look at another example, one everyone is familiar with, weight loss. Here is a graph of my weight from April 9th 2019 – November 19th 2019 when I performed a fat loss experiment.
The light blue line is my day to day weight, the dark blue line is the trend.
Day to day your weight will fluctuate up and down. Fluctuations happen due to what you ate, water retention, exercise, sleep, and stress. In addition females may experience weight fluctuations at different points in their menstrual cycle. Because there are so many reasons why your weight may fluctuate it is important to look at the trend over time.
In this case my goal was to lose body fat so I wanted to see the trend go down. If you wanted to gain weight (muscle) you would look for the line to go up.
Unfortunately when people start on a weight loss or gain journey they compare their weight from one day to the next. It is important to instead focus on the pattern over weeks and months. This is often a mental struggle, because it is natural to want to make progress fast. Goals rarely are achieved quickly and take consistent work and effort.
Finally we will take a look at a performance metric, my 2K row time. Again the graph goes up and down. Some days I did better, some days I did worse. If you zoomed in on any month or even two months, it would be hard to say whether I was improving or getting worse. Just like with the HRV, and body weight example, once you zoom out you can see a trend downwards in total time. Hey look at that, I am getting better, my training is working 😁.
Whether it is HRV, fat loss, muscle gain, sleep, running pace, or weight lifted, people often get caught up in the day to day or week to week changes. The problem is it is hard to gather and real insight from that data. The acute measurement often tells you very little.
Patience is key in achieving any goal.
Expect fluctuations, but don’t get discouraged!
Stick to the plan, show up every day, good things come to those that wait.
When working towards a long term goal, having someone to guide you along the way and provide support and perspective is key. This is one of my main jobs as a health coach and what I do on a daily basis with my clients. If you are looking for someone to help you achieve your goal and help give perspective and guidance along the way apply for my Ancestral Athlete program to see if we might be a good fit to work together.
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