What does it mean to be “fit” anyway?
Great question. It’s different for everyone, obviously.
But the one thing it’s not … is just one thing alone: weight. We watch too many shows like “Biggest Loser” as they glorify a drop in pounds as the end-all-be-all in fitness. Truth be told, there are many different methods for measurement we need to track.
And let’s be perfectly clear here: if you aren’t tracking your progress on a regular basis, you are not fully engaged towards reaching your goals. Weekly tracking is enough (no one should be stepping on the scale daily – your weight fluctuates as the week goes on). Pick one day a week, take a few minutes to see how you’ve progressed from the previous week, keep a journal of this progress and start hitting those goals.
As our battle of the bulge kicks into high gear, it’s about time we break down the best ways to keep track of our goals:
Weight – Yes, you should keep track of your weight. No, it shouldn’t be the only thing you measure. If you are strength training regularly (and everyone should be strength training regularly), you’ll build muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat. So, you could actually gain weight … but lose fat at the same time – especially if you are just starting out on a routine.
BMI – The second-most used option after weight. This one really annoys me. Long story short, BMI (or Body Mass Index) measures your height versus your weight. According to the scale, you should weigh a certain amount compared to how tall you are. There are a million and one free BMI calculators online. But, if you want to figure it out yourself, plug the numbers into this formula: BMI = Weight (kg) / (Height (m) x Height (m))
Then, see how you measure up according to the standard:
- Normal: 18.5 to 24.9
- Overweight: 25 to 29.9
- Obese: 30 and over
So, why don’t I like to use BMI? Because it does not take into account the muscle mass of the individual. Professional athletes that tend to carry much more muscle on their frames than the typical adult can also read on the obese scale when it comes to BMI. That’s just ridiculous. Only thing large about that dude is his thighs, which he uses every Sunday to bowl over defenders.
Body Fat Percentage – My favorite method, but perhaps the toughest to measure accurately. Just as the title implies, it measures how much of your total body composition is made up of fat. For those trying to go magazine cover lean, you’ll need to aim for 10% or less (women: 20% or less). The best method for checking this is to see a professional (personal trainer will do), as many so-called “devices” are just not accurate. If you must do it yourself, be sure to grab a professional body fat caliper (your local GNC will carry them) and the key is consistent measurement taking and a goal of week-over-week progress.
Inches – Insert “size does count” joke here. Anyways. Take measurements each week and record them. Here are the areas you should measure each week:
- Arm (at the bicep)
- Waist (around the navel)
- Hips (at the widest point)
Pushups – This will give you an idea of your total upper body strength. After a solid warm up, perform as many pushups as you can do. That simple. The key, though, is to strive to improve upon that number … so retest yourself at regular intervals (once a month should suffice).
There are additional methods to employ, too. Resting heart rate is a great measure (athletic types will have a slower resting heart rate than their sedentary counterparts). Then there is the good ol’ fashion pant size test: if you are dropping pant sizes, chances are you are dropping body fat. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of yourself regularly to see how far you are progressing.
But, the bottom line is you’ll need to use a combination of the all of these methods in order to thoroughly track your progress. Just make sure you are tracking it. I promise you’ll eventually like what you see.
Measuring body fat can be frustrating because so many potential inconsistencies. Unless you’re dropping $$ for DEXA, you have to assume some level of variation. If you have an expert who is really good at using calipers (and yes, most people who use calipers don’t do it correctly), this is a good method.
That said, the real key is consistently using the same form of measurement. If you’re consistent with what you use, even if not 100% accurate it’ll be easier for you to determine changes and progress.