Tracking Progress

Everyone wants to know how they are doing. That is why keeping records of your clients' progress makes sense. Keeping track of progress will help them see that they're moving toward their goals. Not only will they be interested to see what they have accomplished, but this is also a great motivational tool.

There are numerous ways to keep client records. First, mark down what your client does during each workout on a chart. They can do the same when they workout on their own. This allows them to see increases in the amount of weight they can lift or the number of repetitions they can perform. You can also periodically perform exercise testing and mark it in their chart so they can see how far they've come from the initial appointment, and whether they are on track to meet their goals in the predetermined time frame. It can be something as simple as a pushup test or a timed mile run, as long as the test performed is related in some way to the client's goals. Having your clients write down how they feel about their program and progress once a week will help track their attitudes. They may look back in six months and realize how much confidence they have gained and how much more they enjoy their workouts than when they started.

If your clients will use them, journals are a great way to track progress. Journaling can be done with a pen and notebook or on the computer. There are also some great online tools available, such as the one offered by trainerforce.com, that offer online journals. If you pay for an account with Trainerforce, your clients can log on to your Web site and fill out a workout or nutritional log, then e-mail it to you for your records.

Tracking Baseline Measurements

Tracking a few baseline measurements will help your client see she is moving in the right direction. A basic number to keep track of is your client's body mass index (BMI). This is a calculation based on height and weight. BMI is a general way to see whether your client falls into a healthy weight range. The formula used to calculate BMI is:

BMI = (weight in pounds ÷ [Height in inches × Height in inches]) × 703

For example, if the client weighs 165 pounds and is 65″ tall, you would use the following calculations: (165 ÷ [65 × 65]) × 703) = 27.4 BMI.

The following guidelines will help determine how healthy your client's BMI is:

  • Obese: over 30

  • Overweight: between 25 and 29.9

  • Healthy: between 18.5 and 24.9

  • Underweight: below 18.5

Next up are circumference measurements. Measuring different areas of your client's body is helpful in determining whether she is losing fat or muscle. Muscle is denser than fat, so if she gains muscle from her workouts, that could make the scale go up. But muscle also takes up less space than fat, which means her measurements will go down no matter what the scale says. It's best to measure as many areas as possible, because everyone loses body fat in a different order. At the very least, you'll want to measure around her chest, upper arms, forearms, waist, hips, thighs, and calves. Use the following guidelines when taking the measurements:

  • Measure both arms and legs, because there will be differences between the right and left sides of the body.

  • For all areas except the waist, measure around the widest or largest part of each area; for the waist, measure around the smallest part, or one-half inch above the navel.

  • Hold the tape measure tight, but not so tight that it's digging into the skin.

  • Don't let the client “suck it in” while measuring.

  • Have the client wear the same clothes each time you measure.

ssential

You might find online calculators helpful for getting some of your baseline measurements. For example, the Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator (http://about.com/exercise/bmicalc) does the work for you. Just plug in your client's weight in pounds and his height in inches and you'll get his BMI, along with information about whether the client is considered underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese.

Tracking the client's body-fat percentage is also helpful. This will allow you to make sure your client is losing fat and not muscle. There are a number of ways to test body fat, some more accessible than others. The most accurate and the least accessible are hydrostatic weighing and DEXA (a kind of body scan). Another option is to measure your client's body fat using calipers (fondly known as the “pinch test”) to measure different areas of her body to calculate body fat. The accuracy of calipers largely depends on the tester, so you'll want to learn this skill from an experienced colleague.

Whichever test you choose, you can use the following table to get an idea of different categories of body fat for men and women:

Body-Fat Percentages

From the American Council on Exercise (ACE)

Categories

Women

Men

Essential Fat

10–12%

2–4%

Athletes

14–20%

6–13%

Fitness

21–24%

14–17%

Acceptable

25–31%

18–25%

Obese

32% plus

25% plus

To make things easy, use the following form to record your client's weight, BMI, body fat, and measurements. Take her measurements every four weeks or so to see how she's doing. Try to avoid taking them every day or even every week, because these numbers don't show small, incremental changes the client's body is making, and that may discourage her, even though the changes are happening.

<tgroup cols="4"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="30%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="20%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col3" colnum="3" colwidth="30%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col4" colnum="4" colwidth="20%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <thead> <tr> <td>Progress Chart</td> <td><para/></td> <td><p>Date:</p></td> <td><para/></td> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><p>Weight</p></td> <td><para/></td> <td><p>Height</p></td> <td><para/></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>Body fat</p></td> <td><para/></td> <td><p>Body mass index (BMI)</p></td> <td><para/></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <h2>Circumference Measurements</h2> <tgroup cols="4"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="30%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="20%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col3" colnum="3" colwidth="30%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col4" colnum="4" colwidth="20%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p>Forearm (R/L)</p></td> <td><para/></td> <td><p>Upper arm (R/L)</p></td> <td><para/></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>Chest</p></td> <td><para/></td> <td><p>Waist</p></td> <td><para/></td> </tr> <tr> <td><p>Hips</p></td> <td><para/></td> <td><p>Thighs (R/L)</p></td> <td><para/></td> </tr> <tr> <entry namest="col1" nameend="col4"><p>Calves (R/L)</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>Keeping track of where your client is and how far she's come is just one way to keep her motivated and on the right track. Remember that the accuracy of body-fat tests can vary widely depending on the test and the circumstances. Instead of focusing on that, have the client look at these numbers as her starting place. As long as the numbers keep going down, the client will know she's on the right track.</p> <div class="npsb"> <h2>Fact</h2> <p>Web sites like <emphasis>trainerforce.com</emphasis> are a nice resource for both you and your clients. For a monthly fee, you can use this site to create programs and give your clients a password so they can access the site. You could charge your clients a small additional fee for this service to cover your costs, or simply write off the expense.</p> </div> <p>There will be times when your clients feel frustrated and overwhelmed. During these times, it is helpful to review their past successes. This is much easier to do if you have kept accurate, thorough records.</p> <h2>Giving Feedback and Encouragement</h2> <p>What you are asking your clients to do is not easy. 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