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Chase Performance, Not the Scale
For many of us the reason (or at least part of it) that we started training was to look better. We want bigger muscles, smaller waists, tighter stomach, bigger butts, smaller legs, more “toned” arms (more to come on “toning” later….) so on and so forth. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, your reasons for wanting improved aesthetics are your own, and I applaud you for realizing that its hard work rather than some late night TV gimmick that will get you there. But when striving for these goals how does one measure progress and know they are moving towards their goals?
Body Composition measurement is great, but getting obsessed with improving a single number or measurement that is quite variable has its flaws. The scale is ok if you are just starting out, but as anyone who starts weight training knows, muscle gain can truly impede that metric.
So what do we try and improve and track to look better? The answer is simple my friends. Everything. As the great CrossFit Coach Rudy Nielsen say’s “Everything is Everything.” What he means by this is that everything must contribute to the bigger picture, if what you are doing has no carry over to the desired goal than it is meaningless to the plan (spoiler alert…everything we do carries over into your physique plan ;)). Performance and all elements of performance are what we must measure and track to reach our desired outcome.
Here is a quick example to illustrate this point (don’t read too far into this, I don’t want anyone getting a body dysmorphic complex its just to make a point).
Here are a few high level CrossFit athletes that are at the far end of the performance and aesthetics spectrum: Dan Bailey, Scott Panchik, Rich Froning, Camille L-B, Julie Foucher, and Michelle Crawford (feel free to Google image search on your own). Now, again, I am not saying we should all try and look like or lift as much as these athletes, its just to show that as performance improves so too does aesthetics. Here are a few performance markers that all the above athletes have surpassed.
Squat: >400 >250
Snatch: >260 >150
400m Sprint: <:55 <1:00
Shockingly impressive if you ask me! To simply that entire paragraph for the speed-readers, GET STRONGER+RUN FASTER=PERFORM BETTER=LOOK BETTER
Now again this is not to make anyone feel inferior, but rather to show that by achieving higher levels of performance, aesthetic improvement will be directly correlated. None of these athletes gear their training towards aesthetic improvement; it happens organically by nature of the striving to improve strength, conditioning, and overall performance.
If you are unhappy with the progress you have made physically, take a look at your performance. If that is also stagnant (which is usually the case) lets try and find the limiting factor usually either physical (strength, Cond, mobility etc.), nutrition (carb timing, food intolerances, calories, etc.) or mental (poor training psychology).
On the topic of measuring performance here is a great way to start. The first step is keeping a detailed training log. An EXCELLENT training Log will include all of the following:
–WEIGHT LIFTED (on strength movements)
-WOD TIMES /conditioning performance
-HOW YOU FELT THAT DAY
-WHAT YOU ATE around the workout
–ANYTHING ELSE you feel is worthy of note, ex. good warm-up, this or that felt tight etc. etc
These metrics will allow you to easily refer back and see that, even if by a small margin, you are striving to steadily improve.
Hopefully this helped you to see that when you train for the upper echelon of performance (even if you never end up in the elite category) physique improvements will follow. Throw away your 400-dollar NASA certified scale, and swap it in for a .99 staples notebook, to track your conditioning and lifting benchmarks. When those improve, so to will your physique and health!