Do You Keep Track?

One of the very best ways to fail at getting fit, losing weight, or improving your health is to not keep track. You can tell everyone you know that you work out for an hour each day, six days a week – but do you, really? Let’s see, you always take a rest day on Sunday. But, you missed your workout on Thursday last week because you felt lousy. Yesterday you missed another one to attend a co-worker’s birthday bash. Neither of those misses was planned, they just worked out that way because that’s how a busy life goes.

On the nutrition side of things, you’re pretty sure you take in about 1,800 calories a day. Do you, really? Calories are much harder to keep track of than workouts, because they happen so many times each day – and how many calories are in one apple, anyway? Clearly some apples are bigger than others, so there is always a bit of guesswork. Calories also happen in different places throughout the day. Breakfast at home, a little Starbucks stop on the way to the office, a doughnut during a meeting, lunch wherever you find yourself at lunchtime, and so on. Even if you try to add it all up at the end of the day, it is really easy to forget some things. Consider the last time you stopped at Costco. How many calories could be in those samples?

What can you do? It would be a pain to write down every single thing you eat or drink every single day and then go look all that stuff up and try to figure it out. You are right, it can be a pain. What about writing everything down one day a week, just as a reality check? Put a sticky note on the kitchen counter and one on your desk at work, and jot down everything you eat or drink that has calories. Or, track everything on your smartphone, either in a note or using an app like MyFitnessPal. Give the phone a chance to really be smart once a week. At the end of the day, tally it up. On days you think you’re around 1,800, are you really? Adjust accordingly, and keep track again one day next week. Repeat as necessary.

For tracking workouts, I’ll share how we do it at my house: we use a paper calendar on the refrigerator and a sheet of little stick-on stars. Did a workout? Give yourself a star! It’s simple, it’s flexible, and it’s right in our faces. I hit 5 workouts last week, so I have 5 little silver stars for the week. There are bonuses to keeping it on the fridge, of course. Maybe on days I do not work out I should open the refrigerator a little less often. We also keep each other on track, since it is clear and obvious who worked out and who did not.

One of the basics of managing anything is measuring it. After all, you manage your weight by measuring it on the scale once in awhile, right? You manage your blood pressure by having it measured. You can manage your fitness goals by tracking at least these two important components, diet and exercise, regularly.

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