Listening back to a live recording of yourself and hearing all the little mistakes you made is the number one way to get better at an instrument. Smashing something in a rehearsal is fine, and you can have endless takes to nail your performance when you’re recording in the studio. Live playing, however, takes no prisoners. If you can’t do it in front of an audience, well, you can’t do it. The secret isn’t only practise, the secret is to track.
A simple recording from the mixing desk is all you need. The day after a gig, you can have a listen, and then try to eradicate the issue. If at the start of a 30 date tour, you have a recurring problem in one song, and it’s still there by the last date, you better be ready to get sacked. Tracking progress like this might seem unique, but it’s just the same as anything; like your body composition for example.
Where the mix desk recording is the best tool to keep tabs on how you’re playing, there are several other ways, and it’s important to not get married to one. Tracking how your diet is going is the same. Most of us are familiar with weighing ourselves, but if that’s not an option, what else have we got? I make sure I give all of my clients’ several ways to see how their fat loss is going, and the choice of how we do it is always made by them. Here are five key ways you can track progress.
1# Scale Weight
Not everyone wants to weigh themselves and I get that, but if you’re not into it, it can be easy to assume that it causes more damage than good, and that’s not the case. Weighing yourself daily is actually associated with an increase in disinhibition and bingeing. While there is some evidence that daily weighing does work better for men than women, it can be beneficial for everyone, with one big caveat; you need to understand that your weight will not play ball all of the time.
If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been losing weight predictably, only to step on the scale and be two kilograms heavier, then you’ll know what I mean. A lot of my clients will panic when this happens, but if you’ve been sticking pretty well to your diet, the change in weight isn’t fat gain, it’s water.
Water retention can add as much as 3+ kg of weight almost overnight and can hang around for weeks, masking fat loss and making your diet look like it’s not working at all. The seemingly unexplainable jumps in weight can be caused by:
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- poor sleep
- changes to the amount of salt in your diet
- the amount of carbohydrate you’re eating
While day to day jumps in weight seem like a big deal, they look much less alarming when you compare your average weight a week at a time. Women, due to changes in their cycle, might want to compare their weight month to month.
The above is an example of real-world weight loss, where you can easily spot the trend to lose and gain water based on your menstrual cycle. While I use fancy graphs to track this stuff, the same functions are available in MyFitnessPal or Fitbit, making tracking your weight like this way more accessible.
Sometimes, however, people just really don’t like jumping on the scale. I’ll never force someone to weigh themselves if they don’t want when there are several other easy ways of tracking your body’s changes. Which brings me to number two in the list.
2# Tape Measurements
Tape measurements, taken once a week, are something I use with almost all of my clients. Tracking in three places; the hips, thigh, and waist (hips and waist only in men) is a super reliable way of seeing if your diet is working or not. There are only two problems that come up.
- Measuring in different places. I give my clients a guide to how to measure and this tends to make things much more repeatable, but if the numbers are varying wildly from week to week, it’s usually because they are measuring a different position each time.
- Not understanding that fat loss doesn’t occur in the same places all the time. It’s often thought that when we’re losing weight, we’ll be losing fat from all the areas of our body at the same time, but it’s very rare for that to happen. Where we lose and hold onto, fat is influenced by gender and genetics. Women are much more likely to hold onto fat around the lower body; losing upper body fat first. They’ll notice that the tape measurements go down quickly around their waist, but it often takes much longer for the hip and thigh measurements to budge. To get around this, I always recommend taking the average of all three measurements at a time, and comparing those, week to week, rather the individual numbers.
3# Target Clothing
This one is as simple as it sounds. You take a piece of clothing that’s a bit too tight and keep track of how it fits. By trying it on every couple of weeks or so, you have a very objective method of seeing if your diet is doing what it should be, or not.
Although this all sounds pretty obvious, it’s important to pick realistic clothing, and I usually like to use different pieces throughout a long term diet. That way, the changes will feel more gradual and doable; rather than putting pressure on yourself to fit into something you wore when you were 19 in three months.
The problem with photos isn’t that they are not effective, it’s because people think they will see visible changes week to week. That’s just not the case. Over much longer periods, though, photos work great. I recommend waiting at least 12 weeks before taking more pictures, as that period in time is usually about right for tracking noticeable changes.
The best photo comparisons span 18 months or more. It can be hard to see the results of different cycles of weight gain and weight loss over time if you only track weight. It’s with these kinds of long term changes where photos come into their own.
For photos to work best try to follow these guidelines:
- Make sure you’re wearing the same or similar clothes in each one
- Try to get them in the same lighting by standing in the same place and taking them at the same time.
- Don’t make your comparison shots totally different. Stand the same way; take back, side, and front pictures.
- Be honest! It’s not a comparison if in your first shot you’re just standing there, but in the second you’re hitting a pose and turning structure, sharpen, lux, and highlights up.
5# Gym performance
I’ll keep this one brief.
It’s super difficult to track changes in muscle growth just by looking in a mirror, and the fancy scans to measure it cost upwards of £120. My solution is simple; if you’re getting stronger in the 5 to 15 rep range, you’re likely adding muscle.
If you could do 4 sets of 8 with 50kg a few months back and are now doing sets of 8 with 65kg; you’ve almost certainly gained muscle, regardless of if you’ve gained, or lost weight.
Only choose the method or methods that you are the most comfortable with. In reality, a combination of methods probably works best. Let me give you an example.
It’s perfectly possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time; maintaining your weight. If you only took scale weight, you might not think that your diet was working at all, but if you used the other methods, you’re much more likely to see the bigger picture. For instance, the scale might not be moving, but tape measurements could be coming down, target clothing could be fitting better, and you might be lifting a ton more weight in the gym. If this was happening with one of my clients, I wouldn’t change a thing. If I was only tracking weight, I’d likely make adjustments when I didn’t need to.
When keeping tabs on your results, the goal is to choose the method that gives you the best feedback for the least amount of stress and time commitment. You don’t have to stick to one type, and you don’t have become a slave to one method. There’s more than one way to track progress.
Want a way to fit pizza and dessert into your diet each week while still losing fat? Download the Ultimate Flexible Fasting System to lose fat easier than ever before.