You Manage What You Measure — Fitness Edition

By | December 11, 2017

I’m working on Operation Get Strong, You Weakling! and reading some of my past articles for advice. No, I don’t think that’s embarrassing.

When I was walking myself through learning to cook like my mom and thinking about what worked for my early retirement dream, I decided I needed to:

  1. Formulate a good story for why the dream matters
  2. Make time for the dream
  3. Break the dream down into smaller dreams
  4. Measure the dream

Last week, I told you the story I tell myself; I want to get strong. I’d like people to look at me and think “badass” and not “I could take her.”

And before that, I told you how I make time for fitness. I do it as soon as I get up. I’ve exercised 6-7 days a week for the past twelve weeks. I’m dedicating mental space to it, reading books and blogs about fitness and nutrition. I’m learning so many things. All the things.

Now I want to talk about measuring and breaking the dream down.


You’re probably sick of me preaching about visual aids to motivate you toward your goal, specifically, my beloved retirement chart. But visual aids work. I might go so far as to say they are necessary and vital.

My main visual aid for Operation Strong is pictures of my body when I remember to take them. Pictures document 1,000 words of progress, plateaus or missteps. Your body will show you how it’s feeling. Look to see what’s working and what’s not.

I’m sorry if all these photos of myself on here come across as narcissistic. This is 11 weeks of working out.

Appearance is a consequence of fitness. This is a phrase I now repeat to myself daily.

I also have my Resolutions Chart that I grade myself on every day. I wrote an article in the beginning of 2016 outlining my resolutions for that year. They were:

  1. Be a writer
  2. Avoid time-wasters
  3. Grade my resolutions chart

When I started grading my resolutions chart, I really understood what worked for me and what didn’t. And having a main goal is vital. I would do anything to ensure I got an A on my “be a writer” goal. I tackled that by timing my writing each day. Two hours, at least six times a week, for at least a year. That spurred enough of a habit to write a book. You know this.

But for the six-pack bucket list items, “do forty minutes of youtube fitness videos,” wasn’t cutting it. I needed more specificity and more micromanaging. It was the same for my retire early dream. I had a ton of mini operations and sub goals for that dream.

Here are some of my resolutions trying to keep my body happy.

Recent resolutions

  1. Do a fitness video on youtube
  2. Floss
  3. Put on lotion after you shower
  4. No booze
  5. Walk 10,000 steps
  6. Count your daily calories

Start with a small change and learn as you go. Implement what you’re reading and try new things to see what works for you and what doesn’t.

Counting calories is a huge pain, but putting on lotion each day is a delight. Touching and feeling the changes in my muscles really works as a motivator to get in shape. It’s about checking in, acknowledging. The body thrives with attention.

Change only a couple of things at a time. It will be too overwhelming, otherwise. Maybe it won’t be for you. I don’t know you.

But here’s what I do. I brainstorm a few ideas on what would make my life better and that don’t sound too controversial or terrible to me in relation to the Main Goal. Then I start doing something small as soon as I wake up every day and try to catch the momentum. Finally, I keep doing the changes that I find easy to keep and like and add on more tentative positive changes as I learn. Always be learning.

More resolutions as I accumulated knowledge

  1. Track how many push ups in a row you can do with perfect form
  2. Don’t eat any obvious sugar
  3. Eat dark green veggies
  4. Track how long can you hold a plank.
  5. Track the number of carbs you eat.

You must monitor what you’re doing every day. Some way. Laying it all out in black and white shows you exactly how you’re faring. Numbers don’t lie. The devil is in the details. Measure it in a way that’s best for you.

There were a lot of workout stations in Qatar.

Please notice that I don’t have any goals in regards to my actual weight. Fixating on a specific number of pounds holds no appeal for me and not because it’s the far inferior imperial system. Kilograms wouldn’t be interesting either.

Muscle weighs more than fat. Your water weight varies throughout the day. I care about how I look and feel and what my body is able to do and not what a scale tells me.

Remember, you need your goal to be super specific. Not “retire early,” but rather “generate enough passive income to cover my expenses.” Not “get a six-pack,” but rather “follow a nutrition and exercise routine to get my body fat percentage low enough to see six abdominal muscles.” Be able to articulate what you’re doing to make the dream a reality.

17 thoughts on “You Manage What You Measure — Fitness Edition

  1. Julie

    Have you tried rock climbing/bouldering at indoor gyms? Recently got into it a few months ago and it’s soooo fulfilling. If I had all the time in the world, I would go rock climbing! Also, it really tones up your muscle since there are lots of muscles you don’t otherwise use if not rock climbing. And rock climbing doesn’t feel like working out… just feels like playing on a jungle gym all day!

  2. Graham

    There’s a saying: you can never be too thin or too rich. And you’ve done a great job debunking the second part of this — you only need enough money to live a happy life. I’m worried that you aren’t applying your own logic to the first part. You already look great; and getting and staying fit and healthy is a terrific journey, but there are risks in following a path of counting calories and obsessive exercise. I made some mistakes there. Also, dark green vegetables suck but giving up alcohol is good.

    OK…how long can you hold a plank and how many push-ups can you do? You don’t look that badass; I am pretty sure I can take you.

  3. Anjani

    I think you are being very strict with yourself, not eating sugar, counting calories… 🙂

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      It’s on the resolutions chart for things I try. It doesn’t mean I succeed each day. 🙂 I’ve found counting calories incredibly annoying, so I abandoned that pretty quickly. Same with counting carbs. It’s more about being aware. And I don’t have a sweet tooth, so avoiding sugar isn’t a sacrifice. That’s the point. Do the things that are easy for you to keep.

  4. Joe

    I don’t want to sound creepy, but you’re looking hot and I am confident that a good guy is sure to be attracted to all of your strengths, beauty, mind, and attitude. Prediction: He will fall hopelessly and helplessly in love with you, and together you’ll make each other even better people! Then in 2018, we read about Thriftygal’s romance and 2019 it will be Mr and Mrs Thriftygal and the power-couple’s financially savvy partnership in life. Keep us updated !

  5. Shane

    Love your blog. Your style of writing is engaging and you’ve made me laugh out loud with clever funny phrases.

    I’m currently feeling swamped by work and a Masters I’m doing, so much so that I’ve mentally shut-down, but reading your blog post that came into my Inbox has lifted my spirits and spurred me on to get after it.

    I havn’t broke my goals down into a whole load of detail (due to feeling like the finish-line is so far away) but I think I will do that so I can feel like I’m making progress.

    Thank you for all you do for us out here in the Interwebs.

    (Irish guy, in Ireland, here btw)

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Thanks for making my day with this comment!

      Do cut yourself some slack. When you’re swamped with work or school, it’s hard to focus on anything else. Good luck!

  6. Anjani

    Retirement before reading your blog was doing nothing, you have changed the definition. You have personal goals and working relentlessly to achieve them. Please inform me when you are coming to India, would like to meet you.

  7. C

    This would be a cost if you go to a gym, but for the antidote to “I could take her” I recommend weightlifting. You can totally do body weight exercises but I find it ridiculously motivating to do reps with free weights at a gym in front of a mirror so I can see my muscles doing their thing and also see my form. Planet fitness is pretty cheap and it’s not like you need anything beyond the basics. Weightlifting got me through grad school. I would imagine being able to totally beat the crap out of the leech of a lab manager who was the bane of my existence and it helped me limit my frustration in real life to snarky comments.

  8. C

    Also — good luck with your fitness goals regardless! Did I mention going to the gym got me through some hard times? I think it is very helpful for sanity, generally, even when it totally sucks in the moment (and even though I would classify myself as a “gym rat” there are still many moments when it totally sucks — but I always feel SO MUCH BETTER after). I transformed myself from someone who had no muscle and couldn’t run a mile unless my life was literally on the line to someone who can leg press more than twice my body weight, do 6 pull-ups, and do a 5K in 35 minutes. I never did have a 6 pack but my shoulders and arms are a truly excellent feature. Not quite Sarah Connor in Terminator II but close (she was my inspiration). You can totally do this and be the badass you want to be!


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