black mom breastfeeding her baby

When it comes to postpartum exercise, there are better ways to track fitness progress than simply “losing the baby weight”.⁠⠀

New parents are often surprised to find that their bodies feel SO different after having a baby.

Even if you maintained your fitness during pregnancy, you might feel like you’re starting from scratch after giving birth.

Moving Beyond “Losing The Baby Weight”

Too often, I see folks jump to weight loss as the barometer of the effectiveness of their workouts. But what about making progress in your workouts that has nothing to do with weight loss? Weight loss is complicated, particularly in the first year postpartum. During this first year after your pregnancy, sleep, stress, nutrition and hormones are working against weight loss. This doesn’t mean you can’t make a ton of progress in your workouts; you just need a different measure of success. I encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to defining progress as you get back in shape postpartum.

Here Are 8 Ways To Track Fitness Progress Without Fixating On A Scale:

1) Start a workout journal.

Workout journals are fun to maintain (and motivating!) because they let you see your progress over time.

Keep track of all your nitty-gritty data including:

  • the date
  • the day of the week
  • exercise selection
  • the number of sets and reps completed
  • the amount of weight or resistance used

Jot down notes about how your effort feels. Did you experience any aches and pains? Did you experience any pelvic health symptoms (leaking, pelvic floor heaviness etc)?

If you use a fitness tracker, record information about your resting heart rate and heart rate variability. While I don’t talk much about those variables on this list, they are nice metrics by which to track your progress as well.

As you read through the next tips, you’ll get a few ideas for how to use the information you collect in your workout journal.

2) As you get stronger, you’ll be able to lift more weight.

One way to measure your strength training progress is by tracking how much weight you can lift.

In your workout journal, keep track of the amount of weight you can lift for each exercise, and strive to lift more over time.

Postpartum mom lifting a barbell in a gym

3) You can lift the same weight more times.⁠

Keep track of the number of reps you can do for each exercise, and work towards doing more over time.

This will help you see progress not just in terms of strength, but also in terms of endurance.

4) You’re becoming more consistent.⁠

As you track your fitness progress, you will see yourself becoming more consistent over time.

Maybe this means showing up for a workout once a week. Twice a week. Maybe this frequency will increase over time.

Consistency is way more important than intensity or the absolute length of workout.

Record and celebrate your short workouts as well as the long ones.

5) You achieve performance goals.

Learn new exercises, improve your skills or work towards an event.

Set a goal of learning to swing a kettlebell or do your first 10 full push-ups. Sign up for a race.

Performance-based goals are super effective because not only to they serve as a carrot, they can also put more focus on enjoying the process.

What are your fitness goals? What is a sport or fitness skill that you’ve had your eye on?

Two moms sitting on a bench high-fiving each other

6) You’re moving better.

What does moving better mean to you?

Maybe it means developing more confidence, control and stability in your movements:

Perhaps you learn to control your movement throughout the full range of a squat.

Perhaps you notice that you’re more stable standing on one leg or during single leg movements.

You might also notice you’re more mobile:

You have an easier time looking over your shoulder.

You can reach overhead without arching your back.

You can bend over and touch your toes.

7) You are managing your pelvic floor symptoms.⁠⠀

⁠If you are someone that experiences a pelvic floor dysfunction (e.g. such as incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse) learning to manage your symtoms during exercises is an important skill. Mastering your symtoms is a major benchmark worth celebrating.

What this might look like:

You’ve learned to deadlift without leaking.

You’ve learned to squat in spite of your prolapse.

You’re able to increase the load you’re lifting or pressing without triggering leaking or sensations of heaviness.

Your workouts are an amazing laboratory for learning to manage your pelvic health symptoms during exercise and activities of daily living.

If you’re learning to move more and manage load while experiencing these conditions, that’s major progress.

8) YOU FEEL STRONGER!⁠

⁠In my opinion, this is the real goal. The ultimate way to track your workout progress.

You want to feel good in your body. You want to feel strong and capable.

The goal of any strength training program or fitness program should be to prepare you to feel strong in your activities of daily living.

If you begin to feel more comfortable lifting your kiddos, juggling the groceries or moving the heavy furniture, you’re winning! It’s an added bonus if you also start to feel like a bad*ss in the gym😉.

A mom and her daughter flexing their biceps and celebrating their strength.

What do you think of these measures of success?

Remember that there is no one “right” way to measure progress. Everyone’s fitness journey looks different. Progress can be viewed through a lot of different lenses so do what works best for you.

And give yourself time. Postpartum is complicated and progress is not always linear. I am consistently impressed by the amazing things I see my postpartum parents achieve- and I’m confident you’re going to do great things too!

I’d love to know how YOU choose to track your progress as you recover postpartum. Please scroll to the bottom of this page and leave me a comment!

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Redmond, WA-based Seattle birth doula Laura Jawad, headshot

My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.

Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I also offer personal training services and consultations to folks locally (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and online.

Certified Prenatal & Postnatal Coach, Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach and Postnatal Fitnesses Specialist.

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