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How to Track Your Fitness Progress

Learn how to test your endurance, strength, weight, body fat, and movement skills.

By
Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #76

In an earlier episode about the Top 6 New Year’s Resolution Mistakes, I talked about how tracking your fitness progress can help to keep you motivated and set realistic and specific goals. But what’s the best way to track your fitness progress? Should you see how fast you can run a mile? How many push-ups or sit-ups you can do? How much you weigh?

In this episode, you’ll learn the best tests you can do to track your fitness progress, and how to test your endurance, strength, weight, body fat, and movement skills. You should try to perform each of these tests approximately every 4 weeks (e.g. at the beginning of every month).

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How to Test Your Endurance

In What Is The Fat Burning Zone?, you learn how to determine your maximum fat burning heart rate zone with a simple bicycle test. That same test can be used to keep track of your endurance – and since it doesn’t involve sprinting and impact, it can be used even if you have something like knee pain or low back pain.

Here’s how to test your endurance:

  1. Warm up on a bike for 10 minutes.

  2. Pedal at your maximum sustainable pace for 20 minutes, at rate of 80-90RPM (make sure you keep the RPM constant every time you repeat the test). You should be breathing hard and your legs should be burning, but you should be able to maintain the same intensity for the full 20 minutes.

  3. Record your average heart rate during those 20 minutes. If the bike shows power on the screen (typically as “watts”) or speed, you should also record that.

At the end of the test, write down your average heart rate, and if available, your speed and your power. Each month, your speed and power should increase, while your average heart rate remains the same – which indicates that your muscles and heart can do more and work more efficiently over a longer period of time. For an extra test of your cardiovascular health, record your heart rate exactly 60 seconds after you finish the test. You should see that heart rate decrease each month, indicating that you’re recovering more quickly.

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.