In an effort to demystify what makes living a #ScaleFreeSummer so meaningful, I’m breaking it down into five major components: Consistency and Commitment, Compassion, Pleasure, Mindfulness, and Goal Measurement. One per day. Gotta keep up. (Thankfully, now that I’m free from school duty, I can finally keep up.) Don’t forget to tweet or instagram all your healthy habits using the #ScaleFreeSummer hashtag! Some of your fellow #bgg2wlarmy fam is already filling up the tag with their awesomeness, you should, too!

Provided that you have taken my advice and not only found something you love, but found mindful ways to commit to it and fit it into your life without compromise, the question then becomes… how do I measure it’s ability to change my body?

Think about running, for an example. When I first started walking, it took me close to 20 minutes to successfully complete a mile. And, though I was never much of a consistent runner, I’d eventually get down to 15 minute miles.

Approaching pull-ups with trepidation...

Approaching pull-ups with trepidation…

Remember the story I told about the first time I literally ran ten miles? As proud of myself as I was, that took me damned near three hours to do it. Which was why, when I actually ran the Army Ten Miler as my first official race, I was proud as hell that I’d completed the entire thing in two hours and 11 minutes. Running a mile in a hair under 10 minutes, now, feels like witches’ work, when I think about the progress I’ve made. Cutting my original time in half? That’s progress to be proud of – not because there was over 100lbs of pure fat lost over the course of that progress, but because emotionally and mentally, I worked hard, committed myself to the craft, and was able to tangibly measure the results of my efforts.

It gave me a new sense of confidence. It gave me a new sense of drive. A new passion.

Not in running, because I loathe running, but in myself. Damn it, I can do anything if I just close my mouth and do the work.

When you pick something you enjoy, it’s not a stretch for it to be hard as hell in the beginning. You’re new to it, your muscles have to develop the ability to understand the movements. You may even have to develop the muscle necessary to complete the tasks – hence, why people who are new to running may tire physically long before they tire mentally… you likely don’t have the leg muscles necessary to propel yourself forward – and that’ll make it doubly difficult. However, with physical ease, comes physical progress.

Remember when I talked about the reasons to build muscle, and I said the following:

3) The metabolism boost you get from muscle development means you can eat more. Every pound of muscle you carry burns almost three times as many calories per hour as every pound of fat your carry, and because it takes so much energy to develop and maintain muscle? It means… ta da! You can eat more! No, this doesn’t mean you can start packing away the chips, but it does mean that the portion sizes on those delicious, well-balanced meals that you are eating at home can get a little larger. This is always good. Always.

Think about it, though: to “be able to eat more” means what? It means that you’re expanding your daily caloric burn, which allows for you to take in more calories without putting on excess weight… which means that, thanks to the added calorie burn from the activity and the newly-built muscle, you can actually lose weight while eating more than you would’ve been able to without the activity and muscle.

When we talk about finding something you love, we’re talking about something that garners commitment, where you’ll actually develop the desire to continue at it and get better at it. “Getting better at it” constitutes your body changing to accommodate the exercise, but also includes all the many metrics that affect quality of life.

Like what? Here are a few ways to measure your progress as a fitness-focused individual, with a little mini-rubric to help you understand what you should be shooting for in fitness, not merely in your sport of choice:

Stability: Can you stand on one leg? Can you hop on one leg without wobbling? Can you land on one leg without tipping over? It’s a one-legged lunge, or it’s a leap forward to hit the volleyball on one leg… either way, being stable on the legs – or leg, for that matter – that you’re workin’ with make a huge difference. Standing on one leg while lifting the other in the air as high as you can without tipping over and without the lifted leg getting tired? Yes.

Flexibility: How flexible are you? How close are you to being able to do a split? How close are you to getting that knee behind your head? (Don’t ask me, ’cause…) I mean, flexibility matters…………. and not merely for the obvious reasons.

Ahem.

Flexibility isn’t all about how wide apart your legs can go, though – how far around can you twist your torso? How flexible is your spine? How flexible is your neck? Your arms? Can you clasp both hands behind your back and bend forward? Can you bring your nose to your knees? Hell, can you touch your toes?

Being able to hang here is progress, believe it or not! I used to fall!

Being able to hang here is progress, believe it or not! I used to fall! I’ll get to my pull-up some day!

Strength: When the zombies come, can you climb things? And, by climb, I mean, can you pull your body weight up a structure, and push yourself over the ledge as you’re climbing? Are you strong enough to lift up your child and carry them on your back through the legions of blood-sucking zombies? Can you pull them over that ledge you just climbed? This is how you measure strength.

Endurance: When those zombies are chasing you, for how long can you run? I mean, yeah, you can #DoubleTap and all that, but sometimes, you just have to run. It doesn’t have to be parkour, but it needs to be consistent. Zombies might be strong, but they can’t run particularly fast. Outlast them.

Agility: How quickly can you move? Are you graceful when you do it? You know how basketball players can “fake you out” by acting like they’re going to go in one direction with the ball, but instead slip over to the other side instead? Agility, man.

And you’ve never known just how agile a body needs to be until you’ve needed to intercept a child running towards danger. You will leap coffee tables, pump fake around doorways, and you might even slide under something… but you’ll get the job done.

Power: When you move, can you move with force? How strong are your limbs? If I asked you to throw a ball, how far do you think it’d go? Plyometric activities – lovingly referred to as plyo – are largely about power movements, done with body weight. How much do you deadlift? What’s your helicopter push up look like? Gymnastics? Power. Animal flow? Power. Metcon, ViPR, and their offshoots? Power. Hitting a ball with a bat, club, or limb? Yep.

Develop an eye that becomes intimately aware with the shapes, curves and nuances of your body. Do you know where every freckle is? Do you know the difference between your left foot and your right? Do you know what the space between your lower back and your upper thigh is curved like and, just-as-importantly, will you be able to spot the differences that occur once your body begins to change? Spend time looking at your body, beaming with pride at what it’s been accomplishing lately, and excitedly looking forward to what’s to come in the future.

Learn to love your tape measure: Measure the following parts of your body every three to four of weeks, to give yourself some insight on the minor changes that you might not be able to see.

  • Neck: Take a tape measure around the neck, a half-inch above the shoulders, and measure the length of the tape measure.
  • Bust/Chest: Across the widest part of the chest, usually a few inches above the bust measurement.
  • Bust band: Measure the place on the chest where you normally wear your bras.
  • Waist: Usually in line with your belly button, but should naturally be somewhere in the space where your ribs end and your pelvic bone begins.
  • Hips: The widest part of the hips and booty, usually with the tape measure laying across the pubic mound.
  • Thighs: Measure each thigh individually, wrapping the tape measure around the widest part of each thigh

Keep a record of your progress with your measurements, and hopefully they decrease – or, as it were, increase in some spaces – to your liking over time. That way, even if you can’t see changes, you’ll know they’re occurring.

The progress dress. You can’t be a regular around here and not know about the progress dress, can you?

Maybe that’s not a bajillion, but it’s close, right? No? Well, that’s where you come in! Tell me, y’all – what activities are you in, and how do you measure your progress? Where are YOU with YOUR favorite activity?