If your goal is to become stronger, your main focus should be strength training, and it becomes easy to measure progress by recording the reps and amount of weight you lift. If you need to reduce stress, physical activity with an emphasis on mind and body is a good choice.
Physical indicators of progress toward an optimal body-fat distribution include the waist circumference measurement and a waist-hip ratio. Because abdominal obesity is associated with increased risk for diabetes and heart disease, any reduction in these two numbers is a positive step regardless of weight loss.
Aerobic exercise and metabolic strength training will help improve overall body composition and cardiovascular conditioning. Your resting heart rate before starting your program compared to your current resting heart rate (RHR) will give you clear feedback on the state of your heart. In general, the lower your RHR, the stronger your heart is. To see evidence of a healthy shift in body composition, engage a certified fitness professional/personal trainer to perform body-fat measurements.
Pretests and posttests are the surest way to gauge the kind of success you are experiencing with your training program. If you are not making the kind of strides you want, enlist a certified and experienced personal trainer to help you reach you goals.
There's an app for that
That's right. If you want to track activity and monitor progress with a touch of your finger, the iPhones and Androids stay on the cutting edge of tech fitness. If you are willing to log in and be accountable, excellent app choices are iFitness, Lose It! and iBody. Of course there are new apps every day, and one of the newest on the iPhone 4 is Heart Fitness, which actually monitors your heart rate, among other things.
Seeing measurable progress on various levels is the perfect motivational tool. This is why looking better will continue to beckon people from their warm beds and get them to the gym each morning. However, in addition to the visible progress you can track, never underestimate the intangible improvements you will have in terms of energy, performance, injury risk, self-esteem and other dramatic benefits you'll gain from healthier lifestyle habits.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," on her website, www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.