Seeing improvements in performance is extremely motivating for everyone. Unfortunately, most people are looking for progress in the wrong place. For example people often look to the scale or in the mirror. Without going entirely into a whole other topic of discussion chasing a number on your bathroom scale or your opinion of yourself while looking in a mirror are often futile. The results seem unapparent or insignificant even if real progress has been made. As motivating as you think it might be to weigh a certain number that number itself is not really motivating. So in place of a weight loss number or the generic “I want to be healthy”, here are some real numbers you should measure and appreciate.
There are several different types of workouts and a million ways to measure them. To cover the basics we have workouts that are: for load, for time or for reps completed. When the workout is completed once then some amount of time(weeks, months, year) passes then completed a second time on another date we can draw conclusions about the quality of practices and actions taken in between those two workouts. We can grade their quality with a score or percentage.
THE WORKOUT PR’S
An example would be the workout “Cindy” which is a for reps workout. Complete as many rounds and reps as possible of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups and 15 air squats in 20 minutes. Assuming all the reps are completed to standard you will have a direct measurement of your physical capabilities at those movements at that particular time. Lets say on session one you completed 5 rounds(150 reps), 3 months later your score was 10 rounds (300 reps). You have improved your capacity at 200% over 3 months which is quite impressive, and is also a quite obvious and drastic improvement. It would be a measurement of every choice made between session one and session two, food, workouts, sleep, etc.
Another example would be completing a one rep max back squat. Which is for load. Session one was 100 lbs, session two was 125 lbs. Another obvious improvement.
A third example would be completed a specific task as quickly as you can. Complete 3 rounds of 400m Run and 10 overhead squats at 75lbs. Gain an initial measurement in session one then compare later once you’ve completed session two. If you completed faster the second time, you’ve successfully improved.
Those three types of workouts each have there own way of being able to see a measureable improvement. Each is obvious when it has been improved. Those improvements are motivating and when you are a beginner come relatively easy because in relation to what you were doing before (presumably nothing or exercising versus training) it was low intensity. You will see fast improvements in all areas quickly and for a good length of time.
THE MOVEMENT PR’S
There are however several more subtle ways that you are setting new personal records that you may not have started noticing yet. These numbers could and should be noted in your workout journal as you achieve them.
For each movement/lift you should know your max weight. The most weight I’ve ever front squatted is 200lbs.
For each movement and given weight you should know the largest set you’ve completed. For example the most thruster reps completed at 95lbs. I’ve done 21 thrusters in a row at 95#.
For each movement and weight you should know the most amount of reps completed in a single workout, for example 45 deadlifts at 225lbs.
Knowing these numbers help you set more specific goals for your movements. Even on a bad day (when you might not PR the workout) you can still pick off one of the movement goals and set records there! Your movement PR’s can help you take down workout PR’s more easily down the road. Take the classic CrossFit workout “Fran” for example:
If you’ve never done 10 thrusters in a row at that weight before… you’ve got several cracks at it during this workout! If you hit 15 you’ll have a new movement PR, even if you don’t surpass your best time on the workout you’ve still improved on at least one aspect. When considering a serious trainee who trains 5 days a week, consistently for months or years… there is going to be some bad days where you will be fatigued, tired, sore or otherwise. That’s the day where you need more motivation and you have to seek to find your daily improvement. The small improvements made everyday over time are what make the giant improvements over the long term. Staying motivated is how you stick to the long term goals. Start and continue to find and celebrate even the “small” PR’s. Getting one more rep on your push ups seems small, but that extra rep is one more than you’ve ever done before, so be happy and stay motivated!