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If It’s Not Measurable, Then It’s Not Manageable

I’ve been making a HUGE mistake. I’ve been tracking my workouts, but not measuring them. Before I go any further, I should probably clarify two words: tracking and measuring. There is a difference.

Tracking is the recording of an event, in our case a workout.

Measuring is estimating by evaluation or comparison.

Image by jeysun35 When you combine tracking and measuring, you get progress. I have been tracking, but I have not been measuring.

Here is the major flaw: Each of my workouts is random, from week to week I perform a completely different workout than the week before, and my workouts rarely ever repeat.I had adopted this training style simply because I realized that I adapted extremely quickly with my workouts and could not stand the thought of performing the same workout week in and week out. However, this was before I had discovered fast, intense workouts. This was when I was doing some hybrid form of martial arts and bodybuilding. I didn’t know anything about metabolic conditioning or how to train with your bodyweight. All I knew was that you were supposed to stay in a gym for 2 hours and do “stuff” until the clock told you to leave (or someone from the staff).

To say that I have not been making progress is a false statement. I have. I see it in my movements. I see it on video. And I see it in the mirror. But all this “seeing” is dangerous. There is something about writing down your time and then comparing it to last weeks time with the same workout: it never lies. When you “see” things you rationalize your way into thinking that you are making progress. Or for some people, you rationalize your way out of making progress.

How do you know you are making progress?

This question was actually posed to me by my bodybuilding friend: “How do you know you are making any progress if you keep doing random workouts?” Good question, and one that I really couldn’t answer. I went to the Crossfit forum to pose the same exact question, and they referred me to their benchmark workouts. Benchmark workouts are simply workouts that are used to measure progress and appear in the Crossfit programming once or twice a week. For example, one of their workouts is Fran. This particular workout may be performed on, say, December 8th, 2006, and will not appear again until February 16, 2007. I’m just throwing out random dates here. But the point is that Fran will appear a few weeks apart, but they will have other Benchmarks within the weeks such as Barbara and Nate.

I have attempted to create benchmark workouts in the past. But honestly, at that moment I was not as familiar with Crossfit’s programming as I am now. I respect Crossfit, but I’m not sure if all their methods are a right fit for me.

I have two options in terms of measuring progress:

  1. Create a training program based on five to six workouts per week, and repeat them for six weeks straight, attempting to make as much progress on them as possible. This progress can be measured by being able to complete the workout at a faster time, the amount of weight used in the workout, increasing reps, or increasing rounds.
  2. Develop a series of benchmark workouts that appear in your programming each week along with a few other random workouts. Use these benchmarks as measures of progress.

Ok, so the second method is Crossfit. The first method I’ve actually seen on a few bodybuilding forums. People will choose one workout and then perform it along with their bodybuilding workouts as a form of cardio or conditioning. They’ll choose a goal, say drop total time by 3 minutes, and keep working on it until they reach their goal.

Hmmm…I think this time around I’m going to side with the bodybuilders.

I’ve decided to create 5 workouts, some of which I’ve done before, and work on them Monday through Friday. Each workout will have a set of measurement, a different one for each workout. For example, the Monday workout may be focused around time. The Tuesday workout may be focused on increasing weight. Etc. you get the point. I will try this for 6 weeks as an experiment, and then show you guys the progress I’ve made on this very website. Stay tuned!