It's sometimes hard to measure my progress as an athlete. I faithfully keep logs of my workouts (both handwritten in a notebook and online on dailymile), but as I'm still a slow back-of-the-pack half marathoner and triathlete, it's hard to see how far I've come. I've been back into running for a year and a half now, and started biking and swimming a year ago. I thought it would be good for me to really MEASURE how far I've come.
I'd like to measure by how strong I've become. Some people may use their weight as an indicator of how their workouts are going. However, I've actually GAINED about 7 pounds or so since starting triathlon training. I have gained so much muscle, which weighs more than fat. I have strong muscles that have built up in my legs from running and biking, and more muscles in my arms, chest, back and shoulders from swimming. Plus, I do weight training in the gym 3-5 days a week. I rarely step on the scale anymore, as the number I see doesn't reflect the athlete's body I am working on.
So, without further ado:
I first got into the pool at the end of last June. My first few swims were 18 laps (a lap being there and back). I would rest for several minutes between each lap, and have to incorporate a rest stroke like the side-stroke or breast-stroke to keep going. Now, my average swim is 50 laps (2500 yards). I can do it all free-style, and take no breaks at all between laps. Last week I did a 70 lap swim (3500 yards) which was my longest swim ever. Also, when I first started to swim, I didn't really put my head in the water! Then I worked on breathing, but only breathed to the left. Now I keep my head in the water and an adept at bilateral breathing.
When I first started to ride last June, I was very slow on the bike. Today, a year later, I am still very slow. However, I am getting stronger! Hills that I couldn't get up last year without stopping midway to catch my breath I am now able to get up nonstop. I still have a LOT of work to do on the bike, especially with hills, but in doing routes now that I did last summer, I can easily see how much stronger I have become.
I have been running on and off since 1998, and I have always been slow. However, even though I am still a slow runner, I have improved drastically. My first half marathon was back in 1999, and my time was about 3:04. I didn't run another half marathon until 2010. Earlier this month I set a PR (personal record) with 2:31. It is still my goal to break 2:30, which I hope to do at either Long Beach or Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas this year, and I know I will.
I have always LOVED weight training, but this is the first time I have noticed major results. Maybe it's because all the cardio I do has burned a lot of fat so the muscles are easier to see. Regardless, I can see the subtle but strong definition of the muscles in my arms, legs, upper back and tummy.
When I look back at this, I can really SEE my progress! My strength, endurance and stamina have dramatically increased. Since I'm now addicted, I can't wait to see how much stronger I am this time next year!