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Episode 4: Progress Tracking: Objective Tracking

by Shaun Kober
May 27th 2020

Welcome to the Launch series of the Live Train Perform podcast.

Progress tracking tools are essential in tracking the data to identify how your lifestyle, nutrition, sleep, training progra... More

What's up guys? Sean Cobra here of the live transform podcast. Over the next two weeks while I launched this podcast, I'm going to be dropping one episode per day, then I'm going to drop back to one episode per week. The first episode is an introductory episode explaining who I am, my background, my knowledge, my experience. The second episode is all about goal setting, that's going to be followed up by progress tracking, then building habits, doing the things that you enjoy doing consistency, restricting, temptation, meal preparation, accountability, crap foods, getting started and building momentum along with hierarchy of value, motivation, direction and your environment. Now, if you go back and listen to each one of those topics again, they are all relevant Or optimizing your performance and your everyday life. It's not just to do with health and fitness. Yes, I am a strengthening edition in coach. That is my background, that is my specialization. However, I'm a coach first and foremost and I need to optimize the other 23 hours of the day so that I can get the most out of my clients for that one hour that I'm with them.

I'll also be answering some of my followers questions that have posted questions on my Q and A memes and I'm going to incorporate those answers into the pertinent episodes. Mhm Yeah. Hey guys and welcome to Part two of the progress tracking episode. In the last episode, I spoke about a few progress tracking tools regarding overall health and that was heart rate variability, blood pressure and waking heart rate during today's episode. We are going to be going through a number of other progress tracking tools. We're going to keep it general and specific. We're going to cover objective tracking tools and subjective tracking tools. Alrighty, let's get started. In this day and age. We have a myriad of tools that can give a solid data about whether or not we're moving in the right direction regarding our health and fitness or not. I'm going to go through a list of tools that I've used successfully in the past to help my clients attain the individual goals. Will dig into each one of the individual benefits and explain the usages of each one of these briefly as we go.

However, if you want to find out more details about each one of these individual tools, please make sure you do your own research and find what's going to work specific for your circumstances. Okay, point to note is this list is not exhaustive and these tools by no means the only way to measure your progress and make adjustments they do however, give an objective view of what is happening with our body and the data allows us to make any adjustments to nutrition training and recovery as necessary. After all the numbers don't lie. We also have a list of subjective tracking tools. These will not give you solid data, but it is or it does provide anecdotal evidence of the changes that are occurring. All right. So a list of the objective tracking tools that we're going to cover our calorie tracking app, body composition analysis or bio impedance scales, tape measure skin fold measurements, weekly progress photos, how your clothes fit, a training journal or log a fitness test or fitness testing and activity trackers.

The subject of tracking tools that we're going to discuss. Our energy levels, productivity, sleep habits, libido, mood, attitude and wellbeing, hair, skin and nails, et cetera. And the immune system. Let's dive into each one of these components. First up for the list of objective trackers, we're going to lump these two together and that is a calorie tracking app and activity tracker. Now this is going to make a lot more sense once the nutritional pyramid of importance miniseries drops and the second episode there is all about energy balance and this is essentially how we manipulate our energy in and our energy out to manipulate our weight and body composition. So as I stated in the last episode, we really need to get a baseline of where we're at when we start Okay because we first need to know where we're at before we figure out the direction we need to go. Now how I recommend doing this with clients when they first started out with me is by downloading a calorie tracking app that gives us our energy in then buying themselves a Fitbit or some form of activity tracker.

Which then gives us our energy out by using these two numbers, then we can manipulate energy balance to either go up in weight and build muscle, come down in weight, lose fat or maintain our weight if we're a weight class athlete but improve our body composition. How I recommend doing this is by downloading an app and playing around with the app for 3, 45 days just becoming comfortable with it and then for one week logging as accurately as possible without changing anything. Some good options for calorie tracking apps are my fitness power, lose it and fat secret. Uh there's plenty on the market. However, find something that's going to work for you with a good interface that you enjoy using. We do the same thing with an activity tracker. I just want you guys to wear an activity tracker, get a baseline of how many steps you are taking per day, how much movement you're having, get an average of where you're at across the week, as well as any differences between weekdays and weekends. Again, I'll go into this in a lot more detail in the nutritional pyramid of importance, which is going to drop after this two week launch series.

The next progress tracking tool that we're going to talk about is the good old set of scales. Okay, we've got a couple of options here. You've got a normal set of scales and then we've got bio impedance analysis scales or B. I. A scales. This is basically where it has built in sensors that will send an electrical signal throughout the body and it's going to come back with the result and tell you how much muscle mass you have, what your water percentages, your bone density and your body composition. Okay? But let's start with the good old fashioned scales. A normal set of scales is only going to tell you what your gravitational pull is, It's not going to tell you what that weight is actually made up of. So whilst there are some benefits to using it, it's certainly not and should not be the only thing that you look at. So I'm going to share a personal story here from when I first started out as a pt working in Hobart and Tasmania and this happened quite early on in my training career. I've been working with a 22 23 year old girl for a couple of months and things were going really well until one day she walked into the gym and she was kind of dragging her heels and her head was down and I was like, hey, what's going on?

Um you know, she didn't really want to talk about and I said, hey, let's sit down, let's have a chat on, see where you're at today. Um And you know, she shared some concerns with me about not getting the results as fast as she expected. So, um we put her on the scales and she was concerned that she was only down two kg, but that only told one side of the story. Then I started asking her question and I'm like, have you seen any friends that you haven't spoken to for a while? And she goes, oh yeah, last weekend I went and saw some friends I haven't seen for a few months and you know, they're making comments and saying that I was looking really good and asked me what I was doing and stuff and I was like, all right, cool, you know how you close fitting? And she goes, oh you know when I first got back from europe, I was traveling and eating a lot of food and um you know, I'm only two kg down but my clothes are fitting heaps different. My my belt, I've had to um pull it into notches. Alright, cool. Um you know, how are you feeling? Yeah, my energy levels are better and I'm sleeping better and done it up. All right, cool. There were all these things happening in a positive direction, but she was down in the dumps because she was simply focused on the number on the scales.

So what actually did was I put her on the scales, yep, she was down two kg. Then I took her body composition. Okay, skin fold measurements and what we've found is she actually lost four kg of fat and put on two kg of muscle. So yes, she was only two kg down on the scales but her body composition had completely changed and muscle is much denser than fat muscles also metabolically active as well, which means that she was actually burning more energy at rest. So her goal was to target fat loss. And we targeted four kg of fat loss walls also putting on muscle, which is the holy grail. That essentially means that she can burn more energy at rest. Then when she goes and puts her foot on the accelerator and starts training and starts moving. That muscle is metabolically active. So she's actually eating fuck loads more and is able to indirectly target fat loss. I just thought that situation was unique. But the more I've worked in the industry, the more that I've realized is that's actually quite a common occurrence and people pay the scale is way too much respect.

Yes, it is a tool for us, but it's not the only tool. If the scale is the only thing that you're using then that's okay. It's better than nothing. However, just be careful how you use it because you can literally manipulate your weight throughout the day. I can manipulate somebody's body composition within 12 hours simply by adjusting their carbohydrates, their sodium levels, their hydration levels etcetera. So it's very easy to manipulate. So when we go through any of these progress tracking tools, we want to minimize the variables as much as possible. That means we need to set the conditions to be repeatable time and time and time again with consistency. And what this typically looks like is taking any of these measurements doesn't matter what these measurements are. Your progress tracking measurements first thing in the morning as soon as you get out of bed because we've obviously been fasting For roughly 8, 9, 10 hours or so. It's the most repeatable time and consistent time that we can actually minimize the different variables that occur on a day to day basis. So first thing in the morning is normally the best way to do it.

Now you can either jump on the scale every single day and take an average across the week and see how your weight is trending or you can simply jump on the scale one day per week. Now, what I typically recommend is maybe Wednesday or thursday or a friday. And this is because on a weekend, most people have a little bit of a blowout. So if you only test on a monday and last weekend you did fuck all, you sat around and ate food and whatever, binge, watch netflix all weekend, then you probably put yourself into a massive calorie surplus and you're not going to like the number on the scales on that monday. But this week, maybe you went hiking on the weekend and you moved to shitload, you didn't really eat as much and you reduce your carbohydrate levels and now your body is not holding water, you jump on the scales and you give yourself a high five because your weight is, you know, one kg down. But it's really not that simple. It's really easy to, like I said earlier, to manipulate your body weight by manipulating these other variables. So I typically recommend jumping on the scales towards the end of the week.

Normally thursday friday is likely your best bet because at least you've been good throughout the entire week and that gives you an accurate representation of what's going on. The next one will discuss is the next variation of the scales, which is A. B. I. A. Which is the bio impedance analysis scales. Again, this uses some sensors that send electrical impulses throughout the body. Now why? It's important to understand hydration levels here is because when you're more hydrated, that's going to show up as more muscle mass and the more muscle mass you have. Then the scales used an algorithm to work out your body fat and then that's going to manipulate your body fat percentage. All right. So again, first thing in the morning when you're faster than you haven't drunk any water is typically the best time to do this because if you jump on these bio impedance analysis scales, a couple of hours after you get out of bed, then there's gonna be some variation there. An example of this is I actually played around with the scales that I have at the gym. Now these have the foot sensors and also the hand sensors.

There's a difference between just feet sensors and just hand sensors and a combination of both the scales that only have the foot sensors. They pretty much only measure from foot up to the hip, back down to the opposite foot. Okay. The hand measurements just use hand through the upper body to opposite hand. Okay. Now the ones that have both sensors for the hand and the feet, that's going to go foot to foot. Hand to hand, but also hand to foot and foot to hand. Okay, so they're going to be a little bit more accurate but they're not the most accurate. I played around with the body composition machine at my gym at Tiger Muay Thai, I did it like six times in one day. So I rolled into the gym. I was fast erred and I went and jumped on the scales and I said my body fat percentage was something like 8% or something like that. When I had breakfast and then some water, I went and jump back on the scales was literally like 40 minutes later I jump back on the scales and said, my body fat percentage was like 6%. All right. So it told me that I dropped 2% body fat simply because I was a lot more hydrated, which showed up as more muscle mass.

Now I worked for a couple of hours. Then I jumped on the scales before I trained and then I jumped on the scales after I trained and again there was some massive fluctuations before I trained as a back up to 8% ish. After I trained us down like 5.4% or something because I was obviously all pumped up. I had transient fluid, had a little bit of a pump in the muscles and I've been smashing water. So I was hydrated that showed up as more muscle mass, less body fat, which reduced my body fat percentage. Then after I ate it manipulated my numbers again. So you can't count on these numbers. But what they do is they give us a ballpark figure which we can then have an understanding of how certain things affect our body and then we can make adjustments as we go. So again, super important to minimize the variables and replicate the conditions as closely as possible every single time. Now when it comes to these B. I. A. Machines there's many, many different types of varieties. You can buy some cheap ones from Woolworth's for like 30 bucks. Obviously they're not going to be super accurate, but then you've got the more expensive ones like Tunisia and in body and things like that that are going to be a lot more accurate.

However, just again take note that you can manipulate your body composition by manipulating your water percentage. Um The next one I'll talk about is underwater hydrostatic weighing. This used to be the gold standard in the industry for testing body composition, but it's nowhere near as accessible and it's expensive. It takes it has a lot of cumbersome specialist equipment and it's pretty much impractical and expensive. So that's going out of fashion ah and being replaced by the dexter scan. So this is quite an accurate reading here and it's considered the gold standard for body composition testing. And it's roughly 80 to 100 bucks for testing. Uh and you can get these done in multiple facilities. So, um, you know, depending on your circumstances and what you have available, is going to determine which one of these options you're going to likely choose. Next up, we're going to talk about the trusty old tape measure and close, I'm going to put these in together because they can give you a really simple understanding of what's happening with your body.

An example of this is if I get someone and I've seen this numerous times where I'll get someone who will go through a training program, we're looking at a reverse diet and we're actually bumping up their calories to get them into a healthy space before we start targeting fat loss and their body weight doesn't change, but their body composition does change. So this is where the tape measure and the clothes come into play because if someone is the same weight. Again, muscles denser than fat. So if you're the same weight, but now your numbers, circumference numbers around the neck, the chest, the shoulders, the bicep, um, or the upper arm, the waist, the hips, the thighs, the Cavs, et cetera. If those numbers are going down, but you're still the same way, that's a really good indication that you've actually lost some body fat and put on some muscle. This is where clothes come into play. If you're filling out your shirts better if you're a dude or you've got a little bit more space around the hips or the waste or in your pants.

If you're a chick, then that's, and you're the same weight. Again, that's a really good indication that you're moving in the right direction. It's obviously not as accurate as looking at body composition through skin fold measurements or one of the dexter scans or B. I. A. Scales, but it is a good indicator of whether or not you're moving in the right direction. Now, this is the same thing with progress photos. I've seen this happen numerous times. We live in our bodies. We don't see the changes that occurring on a daily basis. A weekly basis. A monthly basis. I've literally had another coach come to me and say, hey, I've got these two clients that are having some problems with losing weight and you know, they're concerned about whether or not they're moving in the right direction and they want you to have a little bit of a look at their training program and nutrition protocols, etcetera. So I sat down with them and I asked them if they had any progress photos and they said, yes, I do have some or we do have some progress photos. I said, when was the last time you looked at them? And they said, oh, it's been a while. I said, all right, show me your first progress photo from day one and show me the last progress photo that you talk.

And they pulled out their progress photos and they put them side by side and they were blown away at the differences. Now, these progress photos were roughly six months apart and they lost only 6-8 kilos or something like that. But because they were living through the process, they weren't seeing these changes happened on a day to day basis. It wasn't until they went back to their first progress photo and the last progress photo and put them side to side rather than the photos from week to week to week to week, where they weren't seeing any change that they actually went, holy fuck, there's actually a lot of change their end. They could tell that their um, their weight had started coming down and again, I connected it to um there close how their clothes are fitting what their energy levels are, like, what they were doing in the gym, were they lifting more weights, were they moving better? How is their sex drive? How is there, you know, all of these other things that we started connecting the dots with and once they saw those progress photos, the penny dropped for them, They went right, we are actually moving in the right direction. So one of the biggest points that I want to make here is it's all about the trend over time.

You're not going to see massive fluctuations from week to week. However, from day one to day 60 for example, there's going to be some change. Then from day 60 today 120 there's going to be some change. So yes, you want to take these progress photos and use these other progress tracking tools along the way. But you want to see at how those numbers are trending over time and that's the most important thing. I remember one of my really good mates actually were on a boat cruise a couple of years ago now and I was only just getting to know him, We had a couple of drinks and um you know, he was talking me through his weight loss process and I asked if he had any data and he actually is the numbers dude, he's an engineer. So he actually pulled out his numbers and I had a look at what was happening with his weight loss progress and there was some massive fluctuations but over a two year period, his numbers were way way down okay. The interesting thing here is once I actually started looking at his data, I started connecting the dots. And I was like right, what happened here? And he goes, oh that was the first time I came to Tiger muay thai and I spent a couple of months there and blah blah.

All right, what happened here? Oh that's when I moved to Hong kong and um you know, started a new job. Alright, what happened here? That's the second time I came to, what happened here when your numbers started bouncing up, got into a relationship and started dating and going out for dinner a lot more and stuff like that. So, you know, I actually connected the dots with him and I showed him these fluctuations that were happening in his body weight and his body composition around his life and what was happening in his life. And that's the important thing is checking in and seeing how those numbers are trending over time. If you're not trending in the right direction, then something needs to change. If you are trending in the right direction, that's fine. You can live your life loosen up a little and get back on track and keep doing the things that were serving you when things were going Well, another great example I had of an online client of mine was a girl that I've been working with for three months now. She told me when we first started working together that she had a chocolate addiction and I was like, that's cool, Like let's work around that, or let's start implementing some practices that can um maybe look at reducing that chocolate intake a little bit because that's going to have an effect on um you know, other systems of the body or maybe other systems of the body are literally saying that we're fucking starving and we need certain components and certain compounds, so or blood sugar levels are crashing or something like that, which then gives you these cravings.

So, you know, we looked at all of these different aspects and there's a few times there where, you know, we check in every two weeks and one time we checked in and she goes, I don't really want to do my body composition scans this week because the last couple of weeks I've been off track, you know, I've started a new job, I haven't been super disciplined with my exercise um and my chocolate addiction has taken over a little bit and you know, I just don't think I want to see those numbers. And I was like, this is exactly when you need to have a look at those numbers because it's all well and good to have a look at what your numbers are doing the progress tracking tools, have a look at your data when things are going well, but we need to have a look at what's happening when things aren't going so well, so then you can start connecting the dots and see. All right, well, you know, I've started a new job. I've been a little bit stressed out um having some relationship issues or whatever. I'm not training and I'm eating more than I should be in. My chocolate addiction is taking over a little bit. All right, well that's been happening for three weeks. Let's see how that's affected your body composition and your your body weight. Okay?

Yeah, your body weight's gone up one kg in the last three weeks. That's fine. Okay. It's not a problem right now. But you need to have a look at those numbers because then it's going to show you that if this happens, those are the results that are going to occur from that, you know? So turning a blind eye to things is not a coping strategy. You need to confront these things head on. And this is why progress tracking is important regardless of whether you're doing the right thing or not. So then you can see the impact that it has on your body, on your energy levels, on your performance, on all of these other factors that come into play. We'll discuss some of those in a little bit more detail in a moment, Jeez, I've just looked at the time and I realized I'd been waffling on for almost 21 minutes. So what I'm going to do is actually break this episode up again and we'll talk about the subjective tracking tools in the next episode and I'll consolidate some of the future episodes into one episode, answer some questions and things like that. But to round out this objective tracking session, let's discuss skin fold measurements.

Which is another way of testing body composition. Now you can test body composition through skin fold measurements yourself. However you do need to practice the technique and become somewhat proficient at it so that you can at least be as accurate as possible. Um And again we want to minimize the variables and we always want to test and check in the same locations throughout the body. So you can get a set of skin fold calipers for roughly 15, 20 bucks for a cheap pair and you can pay up to a couple of 100 bucks for a really good pair. Um and what you can do there is take a number of measurements from different sites around the body. From three sites up 9-10 sites. And then you can put those numbers into a computer and it will use an algorithm to work out your body composition. So you basically put in your age, your weight, your sex, I think you put in your height there as well. And then you punch in these the millimeter measurements from cites numerous sites around the body. So we're looking at the pec, we're looking at bicep tricep, mid axillary, sub scapular um super iliac abdominals, you might use the thigh, you might use the lower back, you might use the calf as well.

And you can just simply punch these numbers in and it's going to come out with a result, which is going to give you your body composition. So what the skin fold calipers do is measure subcutaneous fat, which is the fat underneath the skin. So that's a fairly good indication of health. But what that's not going to do is give you your visceral fat. This is where your dexter scan comes into play. So subcutaneous fat is the fat underneath the skin. It's an insulating fat and then visceral fat is the fat that surrounds the organs. What we'll discuss now are some of the performance based tracking tools. So this is where your fitness tests and your training logs or training journals come into play. So when we're looking at improving performance or any type of fitness goal, for example, if you want to run a marathon or we want to hit a pr in a power lifting competition or if I'm working with a professional, mm a athlete, then I'm looking at um performance based goals. So the progress tracking tools and I'm going to use here need to be specific for the adaptation that I'm going for.

If I'm looking to run a marathon, then I need to build endurance, how do I measure endurance, then I'm gonna be doing time trials over different distances. If I'm looking at breaking some prs for powerlifting, meet, then I'm looking at strength testing protocols, how much force can I produce through the dead lift? The bench press and the squat. If I'm looking in m M. A athlete and my goal is to produce more power with them, then I need to have a look at power Training protocol. So power is a combination of strength and speed. It's your ability to produce high amounts of force rapidly. So this is where we might take a squat, for example. And I'm looking at bar speed, How much force can you produce? One month ago that bar was moving at 0.8 m per second. Okay, we're doing the same exercise a month later, but now that bar speed is moving at 0.7 m per second. Okay, so now we're producing more force faster. Or another way to measure power output is to simply go through a broad jump or a vertical jump.

If I take my baseline testing and then a month later, uh they jumping, you know, a couple of inches further or a couple of inches higher. Then again, I'm producing more force. That would be a great option for the lower body for the upper body. We're probably going to look at some form of throw, it might be a medicine ball throw or a bench press throw or plyometric push ups or something like that. Something tangible that we can actually measure. And the whole concept here is to improve power output. So we're looking to improve strength on one end of the force velocity curve and then the other end of the force velocity curve is speed. Right? So strength on one side speed on the other, they get married, they have a kid and that is power. That is the goal for any athlete is to improve power output. I've got a stronger athlete, I've got a faster athlete. I now have a more powerful athlete. Then I want to build endurance, then I want to build conditioning so they can maintain that high power output for extended periods of time, which then brings me nicely into our training journal.

So training log is very important for measuring these tangibles that are going to tell us whether we're moving in the right direction. Not an example of this is like I just said before, is the force velocity curve? Okay, strength on one end speed on the other end, then powers in the middle. So I might go through a one month block of strength with my high level fighters, then I might go through one month block of speed, then we might do a month block of power where we're combining strength and speed. Okay, this is going to be completely dependent on how long I've got with them. It's going to be completely dependent on who they are. For example, if I've got some heavier class athletes, then they're probably already going to be quite strong. They might need to spend more time on speed. Now, if I've got eight weeks with them, I might spend maybe five weeks on speed and then, you know, we're kind of touching on strength a little bit just to maintain what they've got, but primarily focusing on speed and we're gonna spend the last couple of weeks really focusing on power output and building that power endurance.

All right, on the other hand, if I've got a lighter athlete who is quite fast but doesn't have that much strength, I might need to spend more time building that strength, I might spend again five weeks building strength, Then three weeks building that power. Okay, this is going to be completely dependent on the athlete, but I need to make sure that what I'm doing is fucking moving them in the right direction, because I don't want to be wasting their time. I need them going into their fights in the best shape possible. Right? So, um I'm going to be looking at their training program dependent on who they're fighting and what the game plan is for that individual fight. Now, I'm talking about high level athletes here, but the same principles apply for the average gym goers. If you want to make changes, then you need to track those changes, you can only manage what you measure. So there's no point saying to yourself that I want to just get fitter, Okay, you need to set some rules around that. What do you want to get fitter as because a power lifters, fitness is going to be completely different to a cross fitters. Fitness, which is going to be completely different to a marathon runners fitness, which is going to be completely different to a combat athletes fitness.

So understanding what fitness is and then putting some tangible measurements, um, and results around those goals is going to allow you to see if what you're doing is working or not and then making adjustments as you go. It always blows my mind when I go back home to my mom's place, I've got 32 years of my life packed up in my mom's spare room that sits in the spare covered there. And every time I go home I rummaged through those cupboards and see if there's anything that I can throw out. And I'm always blown away when I find my old training journals, my old army notebooks from my old training sessions back in the day and it makes me proud of how far I've come where I was 10, 15 years ago to where I'm at now in regards to my health and my fitness again, you can only manage what you measure and it's all about the trend over time that rounds out this episode of our objective progress tracking tools during the next episode, I'm going to go into a deep dive into our subjective progress tracking tools. Stay tuned. If you enjoy the content that I'm bringing to you guys, please help me spread the message and like save, share and subscribe and pass this off to your friends, your family, anyone that's relevant in your life that it could potentially help.

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Episode 4: Progress Tracking: Objective Tracking
Episode 4: Progress Tracking: Objective Tracking
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