Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How's Your Record-Keeping?

No, this has nothing to do with your Very Important Tax Documents, although I strongly recommend keeping careful track of those as well if for no other reason than that it is conducive to marital harmony.

(A typical conversation chez Tactical Ballerina the second weekend in April: "Honey, where did you put that thing we got from the Monetta Fund?" "Which thing?" "You know, it came in that big envelope. Last September, or maybe it was October." "Oh, that. I thought you had it." And so forth. We have been doing this in one form or another for 20 years now.)

No, this is about your training. You need to be keeping records there as well, or you'll never know for sure whether you're making progress or not.

Okay, that's not completely true. If you're a complete novice it's generally easy to see whether you're on the right track, simply because if you're new to training and on any kind of a decent program you can expect to make progress by leaps and bounds. Still, even at this phase of training it's good to get in the habit of recording your workouts since later on your gains will come in much smaller increments, and unless you keep track you may not always be sure whether you're really gaining strengthspeed, etc., or not. This is assuming that improved performance is your goal. If your goal is more aesthetic you'll still want to record your workouts, but you'll also need to take photos periodically to make sure your muscles are developing in the way you want and/or that you're not losing too much lean mass as you shed fat.

I frankly deplore the necessity of doing this. My own progress photos invariably make me cringe. Have I mentioned that my ribcage basically sits on top of my hip bones? Seriously, I have the world's shortest waist. I'm practically a mutant. Thing is, it's helpful to be reminded of this stuff because otherwise I am in danger of forgetting, for instance, that certain exercises, such as weighted crunches and side bends, are probably not the best for me strictly from a cosmetic standpoint. (I don't care for them from a functional standpoint either but concede their usefulness if hypertrophy of the outer core musculature is desired, which it often is, especially at the start of swimsuit season.)

But, anyway, I suck it up and do it, and you should too. I recommend taking at least 3 photos, one from the front, one from the side, and one from the back. You can flex or not, your choice, but try to do the same thing each time you update so you can compare more easily. If you're preparing for a physique competition you may want to take photos as often as every week when you're in the dieting-down phase, but otherwise once a month is more than adequate.

It's painful, at least to a pathologically vain person such as myself, but it's a whole lot less painful than unwittingly spending months on a program that's not getting me closer to my goals, or that may even be counterproductive.