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Fitness tracking: watching the changes add up

As mentioned a few weeks ago, last year during my divorce I started biking, and I ended up riding 1,000 miles between April and December 2014.  During that journey I did lose some weight, but most of the really BIG changes I noticed weren’t external – they were internal. They were things like improved cardiovascular fitness, better muscle tone in my legs, overall confidence about life in general as well as my bike handling skills, improved balance, and more.  We all want to see the changes on the outside, but the inner changes are just as important if a little harder to see.  One thing I learned during last year’s 1,000 miles was that tracking those less visible changes can be very rewarding.

Cateye bike computer

My Cateye Velo 9 bike computer tracks distance, speed, and more as I ride.

The way I think about health and my body has changed a bit over the last year. It used to be that the number on the scale was the only measure that mattered to me when it came to health.  Here are a few new measurements I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy tracking during the past year, and my favorite methods for tracking them or gauging success:

  • Total miles biked in a single ride.  Tracked with a bike computer on my handlebars.  A bike computer (aka cyclometer) is a little electronic gizmo that mounts on your handlebars and shows you the time, your mileage, average speed, maximum speed, calories burned, carbon footprint, total distance, cadence, etc., while riding.  I have a Cateye Velo 9 bike computer on my big bike and a more expensive wireless version on Pearl, my road bike. Love these. They’re both motivating and easy to operate.  I also now track mileage using the MapMyFitness app… more on that in a moment.
  • Total miles biked for the year.  Same tracking methods as above.
  • Average speed for a bike ride. Same as above.
  • The level of comfort or discomfort in my legs after a ride (both immediately after, and the day after). Obviously I track this based on how I feel.  When I first started riding I was sore the day after a ride and sometimes even for two days after. But when you’re able to do longer rides and feel no residual soreness, that sense of accomplishment is immense!
  • Calories consumed in a day. I prefer the MyFitnessPal app for Android, but SparkPeople is good, too.  What I love about MyFitnessPal is that it syncs automatically with MapMyFitness.  So if I track a bike ride with MapMyFitness, it will automatically appear in MyFitnessPal and adjust my daily calorie allotment accordingly.
  • Number of consecutive days I’ve stuck to my calorie goal.  Easy to note when using MyFitnessPal.
  • Number of consecutive days I’ve logged in to use my calorie tracker, even if I didn’t stick to my goal each day.  Again, MyFitnessPal does a good job of tracking your consecutive login days and reminding you that you’re doing well. For me, even if I go over my calorie count, there is some inherent value in just logging in and counting everything.  So I give myself props for logging in and tracking my food even if it’s over my calorie goal.
  • Total number of times I’ve walked the dog each week. I do track this with MapMyFitness, but I never walk far so it never adds up to much. The reason this really matters to me is because the dogs love it and it’s so good for all of us.
  • How my pants fit. Enough said, right? Nobody likes to feel like they’re stuffed into their trousers like a sausage.  Right now my pants are really tight because I was lazy over the winter – thank goodness the warmer weather is here!  I won’t make that same mistake again next winter.
  • And, the number on the scale.  I still pay attention to it. But it no longer feels like the be-all, end-all measure of health.
MapMyFitness records bike ride map

The MapMyFitness app records your ride via GPS. This was one crazy ride around my neighborhood!

There’s one more method I use to track my success… I like to watch the miles as they add up over the course of a month and then a year.  As I said, last year they added up to 1,000 miles.  This year I hope to exceed that, and it’s all being logged into a spreadsheet as the year goes along.  Mine’s here: Steph’s 2015 Activity Tracker.  I’ve created a blank version that you can use if you’d like to give it a whirl as well.  That’s available for you to download for free, here: Biking and Walking Mileage Tracker download.

If you decide to give any of this a try, I’d love to hear whether it gives you the same result – helping you take the focus off the numbers on the scale and put it back on the little cumulative successes that add up to real progress.  (In fitness, the little things seem to mean a lot.)

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