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 Setting a baseline and looking at your goals

You can choose to just lose a bit of weight by going on a diet and then carry on with your old lifestyle…

But this comes with a price….

As soon as you go back into your old lifestyle, you will get back to where you were quickly…

What would be better is to decide what goals you want and then to plan how to get there.

So after sorting out your goals you need a baseline as to where you are at this moment.

What measurements do you take to see what changes you have made in the future.

Within this article alongside the youtube channel i take a few measurements and compare them every 4 weeks

It really is not worth doing it sooner

Yes record some results every day but don’t obsess about them.

Things like weight will vary day to day – even if you weigh every day at the same time you will vary up and down….

Tape measurements – depending on environmental and lifestyle factors daily measurements will vary and can have a demotivating effect…

But take on board all of the measurements and look at the trend over a longer period.

If the trend is not what you expect then adjust something and wait for another period…check again….is it now doing what you expect….

So what are we going to record

We are looking at :

  • Weight loss
  • Increasing muscle mass
  • Reducing waistline
  • Reducing body fat
  • Improving agility
  • Increasing reaction time
  • Increasing flexibility

So not much really.

Is it possible to do all this at once ….

If you choose it …then yes

If you feel this is too much then tackle one or two at once and then add others after you have progressed….

How to find out your body fat mass

Thee are various ways to determine your approximate body fat mass

And notice i have used approximate – all of these will be approx as every body differs in how it stores various things like fat, muscle, fascia…so unless you want to be divided into piles of different material then put up with the approx methods…

You can use:

  • skinfold calipers
  • Tape measure
  • Smart scales
  • Hydrostatic weighing
  • x ray absorptiometry
  • Body scanner

so which is the best to use….

They will all have a percentage error so i would go for the one or two that give you the ability to monitor it easily….

Skinfold calipers

These are calipers to directly measure the level of subcutaneous ( just under the skin) fat…

They aren’t able to measure visceral ( inside) fat around the organs….

And they really need a second person to use them.

You can get manual ones which rely on the person using them to press in the right places and be able to separate the surface fat, fold it over and get a measurement.

There are also calipers which have a hold function, so you may be able to do this yourself.

What i found when i used them was that on me i can fold the fat and get a reading, but not everybody has fat is like mine.

Some is solid and cannot without pain to the person be folded.

So with Matt we gave up on that method.

If you want to use this method the typical measurements are at three sites – or seven if you want to…

For men it is the abdomen, chest and thigh

For women it is the abdomen, thigh and triceps

For the abdomen it is about 1″ above the hip bone with the fat folded folded vertically.

For the chest it is taken halfway between the nipple and armpit crease and folded horizontally.

For the thigh it is taken halfway between the knee and the hip crease and folded vertically.

And the triceps it is taken midway between the elbow and armpit folded vertically.

These measurements need to be taken at the same place every time to make comparisons – so maybe photograph with identifying marks to come back to the same place.

Tape measurements

The latest measurements have been created by Covert Bailey.

For men you take the largest size around the waist – at belly button level

The hips – around the largest part of the butt

The largest part of the forearm and the smallest part of the wrist.

For women you measure

The widest part of the hips – over the butt

The largest part of the thigh

The largest part of the calf and the smallest part of the wrist

These measurements are put into a formula dependant on age ( above or below 30) and the % body fat is calculated directly.

Is it accurate- it is within a few percentage…so for me close enough…

If you have anything over 24% then you really could do with losing the extra percentage…

So being 26 or 28% doesn’t really matter…

Use the calculator below to find out what approximate % body fat you have.

Smart scales

These work in a couple of different ways

Bioelectric impedance analysis

bioimpedance spectroscopy

But essentially they send a small electric current up through one leg and down the other ( you really won’t feel anything).

The system them analyses the results and sorts out the masses of each of the fat, lean body mass, bone density and water content…

All of this in less than a second of you standing on a set of scales in bare feet.

Most of these scales have an app that allow you to track most of the statistics.

These are the ones we are using in the case study in youtube and work quite well.

One note is that you do need to use them on a hard floor – if you are carpeted throughout you may consider using a board to place the scales on before weighing yourself….it may need to be a thick board to prevent bending as you weigh…

The scales tell you your body weight, fat weight, fat percentage, visceral fat, bone density, water content, and body age….

Along with a few more figures.

These can be tracked over time and you can see the difference as you change your lifestyle.

As i say above don’t be too concerned about day to day fluctuations..it can look like last nights dinner made you put on about a pound…but it may have helped you retain some more water or still be in you….so a bit later you will be back to normal or less….

It is an average over a week or two that is the important bit and as long as the trend is towards your target goal then brilliant – if not then another twaek to your lifestyle is needed.

The next two

  • Hydrostatic weighing
  • x ray absorptiometry

Can normally only be done with specialised equipment and it would be unlikely that you have access to this every couple of weeks for a weigh in.

But the x ray looks into the body ( and would not be a good idea to have every couple of weeks…) and from the results they can calculate the % body fat fairly accurately….

The hydrostatic weighing is a method of weighing you underwater – you need to be completely submerged. when underwater and breathe out.

The difference between the density of you out of the water and in the water is used in a calculation to determine your % body fat.

Body scanner

The last one looks interesting as the number of body scanners increases.

There are apps that can try to determine your body fat percentage from taking an image in skin tight clothing and comparing it to hundreds of other images – these may work well(ish)…but you never know what is happening to your data…..

It is useful for you to take pictures and do a comparison to see what has changed

So every 4 weeks or so take a new set and see if you can see the difference.

so that’s determining the % body fat approximately.

But that’s not the only measurement that is useful to record.

You aerobic performance is a useful one

How to measure your aerobic performance

If you are going to be exercising and creating a calorie deficit to lose weight and lessen the muscle wastage then seeing how the exercise is improving your cardio performance is very useful.

A step test will allow you to take a measure of your recovery heart rate and follow the improvement your exercise routine is having on you.

To perform this test you will need a 12″ step that you can easily step up on and down off.

I use a step stool ( not quite 12″ but close enough and will be used in the future as comparative measurement…)

The test comprises of stepping up and down off this step at a rate of 90 steps per minute for 3 minutes.

Then resting for 60 seconds and your heart rate determined at this point.

Taking into account your age you can determine your cardio level and it can be used for future reference.

The best way i found of doing this is to use the soundbrenner metronome and using the interval timer apps on the phone

Oh download the heart rate monitor app as well

This way you can setup the metronome and then goto the timer

Setup the metronome app first by clicking on player at the bottom

Setting the time signature to 1/1

And the bpm to 90

Press the play and then the back button

Click on interval timer

Set it up for 1 set

With 3 min work and 50 seconds rest

Stand in front on your step and march in time with the metronome and press start on the timer when you are ready to step on the step

You are stepping up one foot followed by the other then down one followed by the other.

Continue this until the bell for 3 mins.

It is a surprising test which most think is very easy……

After a couple of mins you start thinking ‘hey this is getting tiring’

Keep going for the full 3 mins

After the timer stops finish the last step down and sit down.

After the rest period then stop the timer and go back to where the heart rate monitor is and start that.

Put your finger lightly over the camera lens and press start.

Record the bpm of your heart rate

insert table for results here

You can look up in the table what your heart rate means and see in the future any improvement you make as you progress.

So we have looked at calculating your approx body fat and your aerobic performance …the next is the flexibility test.

How to determine your flexibility

The simplest one is the reach test

Where you sit in front of a box or wall with your legs outstretched and flat on the floor and reach forward – no bouncing as this can damage your lower back – try this four times to warm up the muscles and measure between the fingertips and the wall.

This shows how tight your back and hamstrings are – most people could do with a bit more stretching to make them more supple….

Then there is the ‘zipper ‘ test

Where you place one hand behind your back and reach up while the other goes over the top and reaches down

Measure between the fingertips

And the last flex test is the trunk lift test

Where you lay face down arms by your side and lift your head just using your back muscles and measure how many inches you can raise your head.

And so onto the speed of your reactions with the reaction test

How to determine your reaction time

As we age our senses become dulled and reaction times suffer.

Some will say that it all comes with age …

I tend to say you have two ages …

Your body age and your lifestyle age…

If you don’t need to do things quickly it is like any muscle you tend to lose it with your reaction time.

So can you test your reaction time simply at home and determine a baseline to improve on.

The easy answer is yes if you have another person to work with.

The tool…

A very simple printout to stick onto some card and use….

Download the stick test pdf and print it out …

Use some paper glue to stick it to some thin card and cut it out…so you are left with a sort of ruler.

Another person holds near the top of the ruler and you stand there concentrating on the bottom of the ruler with your fingers either side of the zero mark.

Your helper lets go without warning and you need to pinch the ruler to prevent it falling.

Record where you stop it.

Repeat this a few times and average your times.

You may find that you are improving for the first few tries but then sort of stay at a level…

It is that level you want to record.

Don’t try for to long as your brain will ‘go off the boil’ and you will start increasing in reaction time.

But both of these parameters can be improved on…

Reaction time and concentration stamina….

Record your baseline to improve on

All of these tests are to set a baseline – somewhere to start from

Record all of your results on the downloadable form and use them as a starting point….

Go through an exercise routine to build up your fitness where you want it and periodically revisit the tests and check back against your baseline…

What has improved …what has got worse…are you heading in the right direction….yes…good…no…change something to get you back on course…

Is there one fitness course that will do everything you want…probably not…so why not design your own to get the results you want…

If there is an area you want to improve on…say working on a car…then flexibility, strength and agility training would come in handy at the start…

If you want to take up a new sport….say archery…posture and upper body exercises will improve your chances of getting proficient quickly….

But fix a baseline of overall fitness and work from there upwards….

Good luck and revisit soon as there will be a lot more material coming on Matt’s journey from flab to fit over fifty….

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