by Dan Cenidoza, CSCS, RKC, AKC

Most people that exercise are looking for visible results. That's all fine and good, and a change in body composition is certainly something that can be expected from exercise but lets look at a few things we need to consider when setting our sights on looking better.

The first and most obvious thing we need to consider is attention to diet. In order to build physically bigger muscles, in addition to training, you must eat to grow. What, when, why and how much you should eat is outside the scope of this article and probably not something I'll ever cover in detail. To be honest, the subject bores me. Let's just say that you'll need to eat often and get lots of protein; meat, fish, milk and eggs. Figure it out, you've got plenty of time to experiment. Enjoy!

The same thing goes if you're trying to lose weight, or more accurately, lose fat. Eat less, move more. Again, the details in "losing weight" are outside of our focus here.

A quick note on losing/gaining weight: unless you're an athlete trying to make a specific weight class, don't pay too much attention to the scale. There are far too many factors that go into how much you will weigh at any given moment. And if the scale doesn't read what you think it should, don't be too quick to fault your exercise program! If you're on a balanced routine, you'll probably be building muscle and losing fat simultaneously, which will result in little to nothing in the way of a change in bodyweight. When you think about it, is it weight you're trying to lose or is it fat?

What it really comes down to are goals and the way you measure your progress. Personally, I don't believe that how you look, or especially how much you weigh, is a good method of evaluating the effectiveness of your exercise program. Too many things outside of your program can influence your "progress" in these areas!

What I propose is measuring progress with tangible data - hard facts - performance based results!

There is no question when progress is measured by what you've done. If you knocked 30 seconds off of your mile run/walk, there is no way that can be misinterpreted! When you are able to handle another 5-10lbs, or put an extra rep up in any given exercise, that is marked improvement! It doesn't matter whether or not you had a big breakfast, it doesn't matter whether those jeans make you look fat or not, it doesn't matter how you feel about yourself or what psychological issues you may or may not be dealing with! What matters is that you've improved!

If you've increased your strength, endurance, work capacity or any other performance based attribute that can be measured objectively, you know that you have improved. And you know that if you continue to improve, you will SEE the results that you are looking for. In short, what you do is a lot better indication of progress than how you look or how much you weigh. Focus your efforts on what you are doing in the gym and achieve your goals at pace in relation to how hard you are working towards them! If you want faster results, you had better be willing to work harder for it!