Back in the early 1900’s, in far off Austria there was a little dude who was getting exposed to more mind blowing things than you and I could’ve ever hoped to experience. People like Sigmund Freud and Joseph Schumpeter come to his house just to hang out and talk to his dad. This tells us two things. 1) He was probably exposed to some crazy ideas and theories at a young age. 2) Those dinners were probably really really awesome. It’s no secret Freud was a fan of cocaine.
Usually when exposed to such great minds, young people become great minds themselves. This little fella was no different. He became a bit of a rebel himself. Turning into someone who was widely known within Nazi Germany, and publishing papers that were so critical of the Nazi’s and their treatment of Jews that he was forced to move to London.
In London, a few years later, our guy is sitting in on a lecture by John Maynard Keynes, basically one of the biggest economic badasses in history, and he has an epiphany. That epiphany being this: He enjoys studying the behavior of people. So what does our guy do? He starts studying people, of course. He devotes his life to figuring out people, and how to get people to do great things.
Our guy is none other than world renowned management guru Peter Drucker. Drucker is essentially the father of modern management practices, and is cited by successful executives all over the world as huge influences in how they work. Drucker was a stud when it came to people, books, and quotes.
One of his most popular quotes of all time is this little gem you’ve probably heard before:
What gets measured gets managed. – Peter Drucker
There’s a lot we can learn from Drucker. Whether you’re a business owner who has employees working under you, a middle level manager in a large organization, or just some regular ass person who is mediocre in every imaginable way. One of my favorite Drucker applications is using his teachings, and applying them to health and fitness. Specifically when it comes to measuring and managing.
One of the most effective tools you could ever hope to implement into a diet program, training program, or anything else is measurement. Measurement of all variables, and evaluating those variables in relation to your goal.
We suck at the big picture.
We’re notoriously awful at considering the big picture. We think in a world of right now. It’s only natural, and part of that is evolutionary. It pays off to pay attention to what has just happened, or what is about to happen. This doesn’t pay off when we’re working towards a big goal though. Especially if that goal is physical.
It’s natural for us to create a cause and effect narrative in our minds. We do something, and expect an immediate effect. Unfortunately things very rarely play out like this when it comes to our health, weight loss, or training efforts. Success is the culmination behaviors enacted day after day, for a long time. A really long time.
Two types of goals. Behavior goals and outcome goals.
Outcome goals are the ones you’re probably most familiar with. Think something like:
“I want to lose 50lbs.”
“I want to deadlift a small house.”
“I’d like to hurl a small child 60 feet.”
Outcome goals are easy to think about, because these are what we’re most familiar with.
Behavior goals are a little bit more difficult for us to get down, but they are far more important. Behavior goals are what make outcome goals possible. Behavior goals are usually something like:
“I plan on working out 5 times per week.”
“I’ll eat one large salad every day this week.”
“I will not become a sloppy drunkass after 3 drinks this weekend.”
Without behavior goals, outcome goals are virtually impossible. This is the exact reason why it’s not only important to get behavior goals down, but to measure them. Just as Drucker would have you do.
Behaviors you need to measure:
1. How much food you’re stuffing into your mouth hole.
I’m not talking about some Weight Watchers program or something similar. There’s value in having a point system that will tell you how you’re doing, but it isn’t a sustainable solution. As evidenced by the fact that Weight Watchers folk regain the weight 99% of the time.
What I’m talking about is actually measuring your food intake. How many calories per day, and how those calories are broken down between protein, fat, and carbs. This requires tools like a food scale and measuring cups. Super intense, I know.
If you’ve never measured how much food you’re eating before, this is actually a valuable skill to pick up. You’ll probably be shocked to find out where the bulk of your calories actually come from, and the calorie count of some things you never would’ve suspected to be so high. It’s valuable to learn what actually constitutes a serving of sour cream, and how calorie dense cheese, sauces, and other toppings really are.
Learning what 4oz of chicken breast, 1oz of cheese, and a cup of vegetables, actually looks like can help someone immensely in estimating how many calories are in a meal when they’re eating out. Eating at restaurants is usually tough task for any dieter. Even if they’ve looked up the menu and nutrition facts before.
Learning how to calculate total calories, and make accurate estimates is an invaluable skill that benefits any dieter in the long run. It’s also a badass party trick. I guarantee you’re the only friend in your social circle who can guess how many ounces that New York Strip weighs, and factor in the butter when determining total calories. You will be envied, imitated, and loved by all. It’s going to be great.
2. How much you’re exercising.
How the hell do you know if your program is setting you up for success and getting you closer to your goals? The quickest way to figure it out is to measure it. Record the sets, reps, and weight lifted. If you’re doing cardio, then record how long it took you, how far you went, and write down notes on how it felt.
This is by far and away the quickest, and most effective way to evaluate a training program. It removes the very subjective, “well I really feel like it has to be working, I’m so exhausted after” completely. Who gives a shit if your program feels good? What matters is that it works.
Generally when evaluating a weight training program one of the keys we look at to determine the effectiveness is total volume. Volume is basically total work done. How many total pounds were lifted in a session?
Suffering through a grueling plateau? Maybe you’re not lifting enough total weight to make the program work. Or maybe you’re lifting too much on the assistance work and not enough on the important stuff. The only way to figure that out though is record the workout and find the volume, or total work done.
You might have a goal of building tree trunks for legs, but your weekly volume shows you’re only lifting 10,000 total pounds in your leg workouts. You’re barely giving those twigs enough stimulus to respond at all. You may feel like you’re really pushing yourself, but until you measure you wouldn’t know for sure.
3. Progress markers.
Progress markers an important way to evaluate the overall effectiveness of a program. Some of my favorite progress markers include weight, measurements, and pictures. These all used in conjunction can do a fantastic job for a few reasons.
- Progress doesn’t happen in a nice and neat linear fashion. It just doesn’t. It sucks at times, but the scale weight sometimes won’t drop exactly 1lb per week just like you want it to. If the only way you measure progress is via the scale, this can really piss you off.
- If you measure via the scale AND a measuring tape though, this can help put things in perspective. Scale weight not moving, but the tape is dropping? Congrats. That means you’re dropping fat.
- Measuring weight, the tape measure, and still frustrated? This is where progress pictures are really important. Progress pictures that are taken every 2-4 weeks allow you to look back and see just how far you’ve come, and the total amount of progress you’ve made. Often times we don’t notice this progress, because we see ourselves every single day. However when staring at a very unflattering picture of ourselves, that really does a good job of putting progress into perspective.
There are other ways to measure progress for sure. How clothes fit is a really good example. Another good example is by going off of what people who don’t see you regularly say about your look. That isn’t one that you should depend on by any means, but it can definitely help reinforce that what you’re doing is working.
Anything and everything can be measured. Measuring variables is a factor 95% of all successful dieters have in common. They’ve measured some sort of variable and use that variable to gauge progress, and reevaluate as time goes on. If you’re not measuring, the late Peter Drucker would be highly disappointed. Don’t disappoint a man like that. He might come back from the grave to haunt you.