What Gets Measured Gets Managed

At CrossFit Sandyford, we believe that regular measurements of your progress are essential to success. In this email, we’re going to talk about what’s wrong with how most people measure progress, and then suggest a better way.


If you don’t have a way to measure how you’re doing, you could be making the best progress in the world, or the worst progress in the world and you just will not know either way!


Most people knowingly or unknowingly measure progress by a combination of three things:

1) how they look in the mirror

2) how they feel and

3) what their bathroom scales says.


All 3 of these are utterly terrible, discouraging and unreliable metrics! Don’t rely on them!

How you look in the mirror will be affected by a lot of things: lighting, how full your stomach is, are you sucking in or pushing out, what angle you look from, how hydrated you are (which affects the tension of your skin) etc etc  PLUS you see yourself everyday, which makes it nearly impossible to see small daily changes that accumulate over time (good or bad!).


How you feel about how you look is even worse as a measurement – you can just be in a bad mood and be convinced you look terrible. Likewise, you could just be in a good mood and be convinced you’re leaner and buffer than you’ve ever been in your life! The human brain has difficultly in distinguishing between feeling hungry and feeling thirsty. That’s how bad we are at interpreting our own feelings. And you’re going to use them to track something as difficult and subtle as how your body composition is changing? Forget about it.


The bathroom scales is also an enemy. It’s normal when you first start exercising to gain some muscle. If you lose 2 pounds of fat and gain 2 pounds of muscle the scales will have the same number on it (+2-2=0…), but you will look very different. Your waistline will be trimmer, your metabolic rate will be improved, you’ll do better in your workouts, your friends will all think you’ve lost weight…but you won’t have lost any “weight”. You’ll have lost 2 pounds of FAT, but you’ll WEIGH the same. The scales does not tell you anything about fat loss.


So how SHOULD you measure fat loss progress? We suggest 3 methods:


1) Photos

2) Tape Measurements

3) An athletic goal


Photos are a great method for measuring fat loss if they’re done correctly. The easiest method is to just get them done here in CFS – we bring a professional photographer in during the last week of every month for you. This takes care of all the variables like is the lighting the same as last time, is the camera the same distance away, are you looking from the same angle etc etc. The awesome thing about this is you can then compare last month’s photo to this month’s side by side  – tells you all the same things you want to the mirror to tell you, without any of the guesswork. Photos should be taken about every 30 days – long enough to see change, but frequently enough to stay motivated.


Tape measurements are done with a simple tailor’s tape measure. You can pick one up in most pharmacies. For gents, it’s probably sufficient to just measure your waistline, as men tend to store most of their fat around their middles. For ladies, it can be worth measuring a few additional spots too, like upper arm, hips and thighs as women store fat in a more distributed pattern.  When measuring a site, try to measure around the widest point – it will be the easiest point to find again next time, and it’s also where you will see the most change! For most accurate results, measure 3 times and take an average. Measurements should be done about every 2 weeks. Write them down somewhere safe and refer back to them next time!

Lastly, we suggest everyone training with us sets themselves an athletic goal to strive for. Afterall, the best way to look fit, lean and athletic is to BE fit, lean and athletic! This goal could be anything at all, just pick something physical that has meaning to you and start working towards it. Could be doing your first pullup, could be running a mile without stopping, could be entering your first CrossFit competition, could be just getting up the stairs in work without huffing and puffing at the top.  Working towards whatever you pick will help you stay excited about training, and of course, as you get better, your body composition will change as you get closer to the goal! There’s a wonderful and unique sense of accomplishment to be had in training hard and finally doing something you’ve never previously been able to do in your life. You can stand proud atop of a pile of work and preparation, look at back at the thing you’ve done and say “you see that? That was me!”. It makes you feel more alive, makes you take pride in your training and will keep you interested, motivated and having fun while you’re at it.


So, some homework today: buy a notebook, buy a tape measure and start tracking progress towards your goals!

Talk to you soon!

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