We document our fitness journeys - charting weight loss, taking measurements, snapping photos - but could analysing the changes actually be hindering us? PT and author Tally Rye thinks so

Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

For Tally Rye, fitness isn’t about a certain “look", rather it’s “a feeling”, a philosophy that sets her apart from many of her Instagram fitness influencer peers. As she explains in her book Train Happy: An Intuitive Exercise Plan for Every Body.(£10.26), she champions  “intuitive movement”, which is essentially listening to what your body wants (much like intuitive eating). Rather than feeling like you have to go the gym, or need to do a certain exercise, it’s about doing what feels right for your body - going to yoga if you want a bit of headspace, not feeling like you have to do a HIIT class because it's part of some ideal body goal.

It has been a journey though. The 33-year-old Londoner grew up believing that exercise was something you did to lose weight or to offset what you ate. It was a necessity, a chore to be endured not enjoyed. She would track her food obsessively and the need to exercise purely to work it off became all-consuming. Being online to promote her work as a PT didn't help: "Social media had created a fitness body ideal I felt I didn't live up to," she says.

Things clicked when she discovered the book Intuitive Eating, £9.03, by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and began trust her own instincts. "Their principles have been an integral part of my journey to self-acceptance," she says. "Subsequently, discovering intuitive movement has also opened up a whole new way of approaching fitness."

Fitness is now an important part of her life and the way she looks after her physical and mental health, but it's no longer punitive. "I look forward to my workouts as a form of self-care... I love food and it no longer has power over me - I don't know what I weigh and I don't care."

A key part of the intuitive movement is losing the focus of how you look on the outside. As such, you won't find any 'before and after' progress pictures in her book or shared with her 129k Insta followers. And she’s currently doing the Lord’s work by dismantling the toxic idea that you have to lose weight before you get married: ahead of her imminent wedding, she’s set up an offshoot Instagram account @antidietbride – “wedding content without the diet culture”, as she puts it.

Inspired by Tally's fitness philosophy? Read on!  Here, she explains why it's time to ditch the scales, stop taking gym selfies with which to torture yourself and track your progress in a 'weight neutral' way.

Intuitive exercise: why it's time to stop weighing, measuring and taking progress pictures

"Traditionally, diet culture has told us to track progress by stepping on the scales, testing body fat percentages, taking measurements and progress pictures. But this constantly reinforces the idea that exercise is not valid unless you are losing weight and transforming your appearance.

"This is how a lot of the fitness industry operates - in a weight-centric paradigm that considers ‘results’ to be weight loss and fat loss. But we know it’s about so much more than that! You CAN have improvements in fitness, strength, balance and flexibility without the number on the scales changing. What I find most frustrating is that often progress in strength, endurance and stamina are overlooked, because the number of inches or the weight loss seems to bear greater value.

"A person may have gone from being able to do zero press-ups to being able to complete five full bodyweight press-ups, and yet if their weight stays the same, to them it might still feel like a failure! In my eyes, that improvement in strength is the real achievement to be proud of and celebrated. I believe in actually tracking what matters: the physical, tangible progress AND the overall happiness, confidence and wellbeing of each individual."

My 3 'weight-neutral' ways of tracking progress

1. Log your workouts, not your weight

"I choose to log all my PT clients’ workouts in a book, where we write down the exercise completed, the weight used and how many reps. It’s pretty simple, but week-on-week we aim to progress the programmed exercises by increasing weight or rep count. This means we can track progress in strength and each new PB (of any exercise) is celebrated with a high five and a star in the book! The logbooks belong to my clients, so they can update them when they’re not with me too, and look back to see how far they’ve come."

2. Take fitness assessments that focus on your PB

"This can include a series of exercises that get tested every four to eight weeks depending on the programming. For example, a generic test may include number of press-ups 'to failure', timed full plank to failure, timed wall-sit until failure and how long it takes to row 500 metres. In the workout guide included in my book, I include a personal best test at weeks five and ten, where you perform the same chosen exercise and aim to improve or match your PB. My hope is that by the end, you'll realise how far you have come and celebrate your improvement, no matter how big or small."

3. Keep a mood diary

"As you start your training, note how you feel in your body, in your mind and in spirit. Perhaps that may be noting how you feel before and after an individual workout. Or maybe it’s journaling about how increases in fitness and strength over time have positively impacted your confidence and self-esteem. It’s just as important to be aware of improvements in happiness and wellbeing, as that is what this is truly all about."

Alternative 'weight-inclusive' fitness goals

Strength: This could be increasing bodyweight strength, for example, completing full press-ups, holding a plank or completing a full pull-up etc. It could also be increasing the amount of weight lifted and/or the number of repetitions for any resistance-based exercise.

Endurance: Within your chosen discipline such as running, rowing, swimming, cycling or hiking etc. see how far you can cover in distance. You could also take into account how long you can maintain a certain pace for over a set distance.

Speed: How quickly can you do something within your chosen discipline – sprint 200 metres? Or row 400 metres? You can also combine speed with strength to focus on power as a fitness goal, and you could think of this in the context of plyometrics, for example, measuring how high or far can you jump?

Balance: You can focus on improving balance in practices such as yoga, with a focus on how long you can hold challenging poses for.

Flexibility: Working on lengthening muscles and improving mobility will increase your flexibility. You may notice improvements in everyday functional movements, or with exercises such as overhead squats, deadlifts or the ability to reach new levels in disciplines such as yoga or Pilates.

Mobility. Increased range of motion is most noticeable in areas such as the ankles, hips, back and shoulders. You can aim for things like increased depth of squats and ease of movement in shoulder press exercises, for example.

Coordination: This is often sport-specific. Think about improving agility and reflexes to become better at your chosen sport, for example, tennis or netball.

Joy: This one doesn’t have a specific target to reach or an event to prepare for, but is an ongoing thing you can feel.

"But, plot twist! - you don’t have to have a specific goal if you don’t want one. I’m well aware that some people thrive off of working towards specific goals and tracking progress and others just enjoy moving their body because it makes them feel good. At different points in our lives, we might have specific goals for personal reasons, such as raising money for a charity or cause close to your heart by training for and running a marathon. But by practising intuitive movement, we can work with our bodies and decide what’s best for ourselves as each new year comes and goes."

This is an edited extract from  Train Happy: An Intuitive Exercise Plan for Every Body (Pavilion Books, £10.26)