Let’s establish some realities. There is no shortcut in fitness, you have to do the work. Being fit takes time, effort, persistence, patience, and intent. This is called “practice”. Anyone who has a level of fitness you are envious of or admire had to practice and so will you.
Components of Practice
- Time - Train 2x a week or more and put in the time to learn new skills.
- Effort - Be willing to get a little uncomfortable.
- Persistence - Never giving up because as you know, consistency beats intensity. Stick with it and little by little, a little becomes a lot. Never quit.
- Patience - It’s a lifelong process that doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll always be a work in progress. Enjoy the process and the small victories along the way.
- Intent - The desire to improve and adhere to the principles.
Programs vs. Workouts
You’ll see significantly greater progress by following a program instead of just picking workouts at random.
“Random workouts produce random results.” - Coach Dustin Hassard
- Programs let you become more familiar and skilled in each exercise. If you only do an exercise once, you won’t get very good at it and your body won't adapt.
- Programs allow you to prioritize and balance exercises over the course of a week to make sure nothing is neglected and that the most important aspects are trained.
- With programs, progressions are built in. Every week an exercise progresses in reps, load, or variation. Be sure to track your weights and challenge yourself to improve each week.
- Following the program as closely as possible will get you to your goals faster with better results and a more controllable outcome.
Ok ok, we’ve made our point, we feel very strongly that programs are the way to go.
Not With the Program
The last thing we want you to do is get bored, which we understand can happen for some when following programs. If that’s the case, you can benefit by doing workouts outside of a program. Because of how our system is designed, you can swap in any of our individual workouts from the Workout Library and still accomplish much of the same (e.g. swap one Total Body for another Total Body). If you’re feeling ready for more, you can even supplement workouts to a program (e.g. add a circuit, finisher, sprinting, running workout, etc.).
Indicators of Progress
There should never be any doubt as to whether or not you are making progress towards your goals. There are plenty of indicators of progress beyond just looking in the mirror or weighing yourself, which may possibly be the worst ways of tracking progress.
- Completing training programs.
- Increased strength (the numbers don't lie).
- You feel better overall.
- More confidence.
- More daily energy.
- Better sleep.
- Sharper focus.
- Better food choices.
- Other people notice.
- Before and after photos.
- Reduction in body fat.
- Your own defined indicators.
- Soreness is not a good indicator. Soreness is more often than not an indicator of an undertrained individual or overtraining (usually because of ego).
- Fluctuating weight (weight changes up to 5 pounds each day due to many variables).
- Negative comments (nobody else decides what progress is for you).
If you aren’t making progress, it’s a red flag that should be addressed, especially if lasting more than 2 weeks.
Coach Hassard will often say “plateau is a no-no". A plateau is when you stop making progress. This will not happen under our guidance. Every single week you’re going to make progress if you follow our programs and the lessons we teach you. It’s actually not too difficult, in most cases you only need to do a little more than you are used to or identify a single problem or solution.
The mistake most people make leading to plateaus is that they don’t track their progress. When it comes to going from memory, research shows that people don’t even come close to accurately recalling what they did in the past. They wing it, make guesses, and keep no written record of their exercise, diet, or whatever needs to be tracked to make progress. By tracking, we can catch problems before they grow and make changes to stay on track.
- What gets measured gets managed. If you don’t measure anything you won’t be able to make informed decisions. Too much or too little weight results in no strength gains. A few extra calories adds up to pounds gained or lost over time. Every little bit adds up.
- Write it down in a notebook (our favorite), on your phone, or use an app.
- Now you don’t need to go crazy and track everything, it’s not meant to be a chore or feel like homework. You only need to track what’s important or track short-term until you build sustainable habits.
What To Track
Track what’s important to you, but don’t rely on any single measurement. For example, you could be looking at a negative change on the scale, but have a positive change in body fat. You could be working out less, but find out that your strength is increasing. You may see no change in the mirror, but a before/after comparison better muscle tone. Here’s some data we recommend everyone track:
- Amount of weight lifted for free-weight exercises.
- The number of days you workout or are active each week. It also helps to track the type of workout and duration of the workout (e.g. I did 2 total body workouts, 1 circuit, 1 upper Body workout for 4 hours total this week plus 30 minutes of swimming and 30 minutes of yoga.)
- Amount of sleep each night and quality.
- Performance in sports (e.g. time, pace, distance, broad jump, vertical jump, etc.).
- Track any data that is important to you.
We don’t mention nutrition because it’s both simple to do, but can get complicated very quickly due to the many different needs, goals, and lifestyles of each individual. Some people will benefit by recording the bare minimum, complex details of every meal, or nothing at all. We cover nutrition in other lessons.
Body Composition Tracking
We prefer to use body fat measurements, which aren’t necessarily accurate, but they allow you to see changes over time in body fat. The change is what we are tracking.
- For weight: Use a scale.
- For body fat: Some scales will show body fat. The easiest way is a Body Fat Monitor.
- For waist: Use a tape measure at belly button level and record the circumference. Round to the nearest inch.
- For hips: Use a tape measure at the widest part of your hips (butt) and record the circumference. Round to the nearest inch.
The ideal time to take measurements is first thing in the morning, immediately as you rise out of bed. This is when your body has the least amount of factors affecting these numbers. For more immediate goals, we recommend the doing it on same day every week. For longer term goals, once a month is good.
Not all measurements are needed, but more measurements give us more indicators. For example, your body fat may be dropping, but your weight stays the same. Or perhaps your weight is the same, but your waist size is smaller. The numbers in these cases may not show any results when in fact, you are making progress.
Understand that these measurements can fluctuate based on a number of factors. Don’t get hung up on any one number. We’re using these numbers to track long-term changes. If the numbers show a drastic change, that may be an indication of something worth noting.
Weight scales have their use, but they don’t tell me how strong you are, the quality of your diet, or how much sleep you got; in many cases, the scale messes with peoples head.
Don’t let it mess with your head and don’t hide from the scale either. Not seeing a number doesn’t change anything. Just consider the scale as one measurement of many you may be tracking. Unless you have a good reason, once a week or once a month is enough.
An unconventional way we use a scale with our athletes is we like to see how much water loss they have after a workout so we can replenish fluids lost from sweat. Yes, we are total nerds about fitness, thanks for noticing.
Take Progress Photos
“One of my biggest regrets with my students and in my own training is not taking more progress photos.” - Coach Dustin Hassard
Sometimes the changes can be so subtle, we don’t even realize they’re happening.Take before and after photos, as often as you like, but at least once a month. This is the history of your body in the making and the best way to visually see your progress. Before and after photos will keep you motivated and proud of your progress. Nobody has to see them if you don’t want them to, but don’t hide yourself from yourself.
- Take a front photo.
- Take a side photo.
- Take a back photo.
- Wear your swimsuit.
- Ideally, have someone else take it.
- Frame from the knees up.
- Take once per month.
- Compare side-by-side with prior photos using a photo app.