When we embark upon a new fitness program, we naturally assume that over the course of those workouts we will progress in our ability. Whether that means we can lift more weight, or perhaps run faster, or recover quicker.
But if you are a human, I recommend that you do not worry about the quantitative numbers when you are thinking of progression. Instead, think about the qualities that you want to progress.
I made a distinction in the last paragraph between quality and quantity. Specifically, in fitness I mean that the quantity refers to the cold hard numbers. How much weight did you lift? How fast did you run? How many reps did you do? These are very easily quantifiable, and because of that easy to track and determine whether not you are progressing.
But tracking numbers only can be limiting. Mainly, It sets us up for externally-driven results. And instead of trusting our own inner guidance, we are being driven by numbers, data, and analytics. This is why I don’t wear a "smart" watch when I workout. Frankly, I don’t give a $*!+ what my watch says about my workout. My experience of the workout is much more important.
I will admit that tracking qualitative data is more difficult, but, in my opinion, far more valuable. Tracking things like the ease at which you lifted a weight, how it felt when you ran up that hill, or which muscles you felt in a specific exercise are incredible ways to gauge progress.
I’m very fond of saying that fitness is just a two-step process: step one is figuring out where you are at this moment right now, and step two is taking the next logical step or progression.
Where people get into trouble, and by that I mean injury, is either they are not honest with themselves in regards to where they actually are. Or they think they are taking one step when in reality they are trying to take seven. Or, of course, they could be doing both.
So how do you know if you are progressing to quickly? I love using this little graphic to explain this to people. Especially people who don’t think so kindly of the fitness Industry. The whole “no pain no gain“ propaganda in the past decades has scared off so many people. When you were a little kid, recess was your favorite subject because it was fun and you got to play with your friends. As an adult, exercise should be your favorite subject. If it’s not, one reason might be because you have accepted some of that no pain no gain garbage as gospel truth.
You have a specific ability level that can be represented by a circle. All movement within that circle can be done by you easily, with good form, and you feel all the right muscles. Any motion that falls outside of that circle, does not feel good, you can compromise or form, and you feel all wrong muscles.
The no pain no gain philosophy will have you do workouts all over the place, with little regard to how it feels or how it looks. This is a recipe for disaster. Not only are you going to get injured eventually, but you really are not even going to get the results that you want because you’re not targeting the right muscles properly.
Instead, our goal should be to do exercises and workouts with in our ability, but just pushing up to our limit.
And because our abilities change every day, based on a lot of factors such as how much sleep you got last night, how you've been eating, sleeping, and the stresses in our lives, etc. We should track qualitatively how we are doing in our workouts. Yes, we should use “soft“ assessments such as feelings.
Living in Silicon Valley, I am constantly inundated with people's over reliance on technology. Technology has a place, but for the most part outside of your workout. No amount of technology is going to help you get to your pinnacle level of fitness, because your pinnacle is inside of you. Ultimately, getting fit, healthy, and happy takes a connection to the deeper part of you, your spirit. The more you gauge your progress based on the needs of your spirit, the better off you will be.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know below, I’d love to start a dialogue about this.