"I think there is beauty in everything. What 'normal' people perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it."—Alexander McQueen

"I think there is beauty in everything. What 'normal' people perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it."—Alexander McQueen

woman enjoying the sun

Track Your Way to Better Health with the Right Exercise Metrics

In the world of modern sports, elite athletes don’t rely solely on their natural gifts. They approach training with a high level of commitment and rigorous discipline. And they don’t work alone. Even in individual sports, athletes need a team of experts to support them with training and nutritional advice.

For most people, that level of dedication isn’t necessary. And few can really afford to have a full-time personal nutritionist or trainer keeping an eye on every detail of their lives. We can use radar guns to track personal records in our weekend games, but it’s usually for bragging rights rather than serious competition.

We don’t need to adopt a professional athlete’s training methods, but we can achieve our fitness goals more effectively by using some of their methods. You can customize your workouts to gain better results by keeping track of the right metrics.

BMR

Your basal metabolic rate is a measure of how much energy your body needs to perform basic functions. These include breathing, circulation, and cellular respiration.

BMR is measured in calories per day. And it’s a crucial metric because it serves as a baseline for adjusting your calorie consumption with respect to your goals.

Though there are many other factors involved, some of them unique to each individual. The gist is generally simple. Burn more calories than you consume, and you’ll lose weight. Consume more than you burn, and you’ll gain weight.

BMR is most accurately measured in a laboratory test. But there are online calculators that can give a reasonable estimate without invoking such costs. Simply input your age, weight, height, and average activity level, and you can get started.

Body fat

working out

Fat tends to have a negative perception in the modern age. People obsess over getting their bodies slimmer or achieving better muscle tone and definition.

It’s vital to realize that such aesthetic choices are separate from reasonable health goals. Affluent populations do have a well-documented obesity epidemic. It’s natural to want to shed some pounds. But underweight people might also wish to bulk up. And after achieving a healthy weight, you don’t need to push further.

Knowing your body fat composition is an essential tool for achieving these goals. Slim individuals seeking to gain in bulk must do so carefully, with a healthy diet. Overweight people looking to slim down can do this more effectively by increasing lean muscle mass. Again, online tools can help gauge this metric, or you can use skin fold calipers.

VO2 max

We breathe more deeply and quickly when we engage in intense forms of physical activity. This is in response to the body’s increase in metabolic needs. And VO2 max is the measure of how much oxygen you can actually utilize during exercise.

This metric thus serves as a good indicator of your overall fitness. Crucially, however, it also indicates your metabolic endurance. At some point, your body will have to address its needs by switching from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. From that point, you’re on a downward slope as performance plateaus and muscles experience fatigue.

As always, lab tests set the standard in terms of accuracy in this area. But wearable technology can be sufficiently accurate for the casual fitness enthusiast. Studies have shown that Garmin systems, particularly those with a chest strap sensor, are close to laboratory benchmarks.

Deep sleep

Professional athletes know that rest and recovery are critical to managing not only their day-to-day performance but overall health. It gives the body time to repair micro-damage muscles suffer in exercise, which leads to strength gains.

Getting enough sleep is good advice for everybody that’s too often ignored. Adults need to get at least 8 hours of sleep. Most smartphones and fitness trackers can keep tabs on this metric.

But not all sleep has equal health benefits. Sleep patterns change in cycles over a 90-110 minute period. The stage of deep sleep in each cycle has the most restorative benefits. While most of us can’t get hooked up to medical equipment for this purpose, the right sleep tracking app can provide a decent estimate of deep sleep time.

Performance

The final metric you want to track is actual performance. This will vary each day, across different routines. It’s tied to many other factors that are highly personal in nature.

They could include what you ate for breakfast or dinner the previous evening. Or the time you went to bed, woke up, and began to work out. Your mood and stress levels can influence performance, as well as any fatigue carried over from prior days of exercise.

There might be no single best way to track performance. Since it’s so unique, consider doing things the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. It’ll help you be more attuned to your body in general and achieve better results in the process.

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