How to recognize progress when you feel “stuck”

Progress is a key motivating factor in all things goal oriented.  It’s why when we’re trying to get to work on time and we get stuck in unexpected traffic, we get mad.  Or when you’re eating like a baby rabbit and you don’t lose a pound you go back to eating crap.

But wait.  Progress is also really hard to recognize. Progress is within the eye of the Beholder. I know, I sound so poetic. But let me explain.  It depends on your goals and how you see it that makes it progress.

I’ll use myself as an example.  When I first started my journey in health and fitness, I honestly thought the measure of my progress was how far/fast I could run and how skinny and weightless I could get myself.  Would some of you agree with this?  I am totally not saying that being skinny and fast isn’t a good fitness goal!  No no no.  What I’m saying is that it wasn’t the right goal for ME.  For someone who’s a marathoner, being fast and being able to run far is paramount in the sport of running (I believe).  Being skinny and weightless would be optimal in ballet (right?).  None of those were what I wanted to aspire to.  So then, what did I want????

My first night meeting my then trainer Jon (who introduced me to Crossfit), he asked me what one word would I like to use to describe myself after I’ve accomplished my “goal” in health and fitness.  After some careful thinking (I didn’t expect this type of open-ended questions) I said “BEAST”.  As soon as I said it, I got clammy and hot.  I was so scared of this trainer! He made my previous personal trainer nervous!  When we worked out and saw him, he was doing handstand pushups and throwing weights around.  Like holy shit now he’s MY trainer!!!!!!  Anyways, that was a year and a half ago.  It’s kind of crazy now that I train with him! *that’s PROGRESS!*

My goals have changed.  And along with it, I’ve learned to recognize progress better.  I’d like to share those!!!

1) Your scale is stupid.  Throw the thing away.  I’m at 138# wearing a size 0/2.  I was the same weight about 6 months ago wearing a size 4/6.  Makes no sense. I weighed this much in College (10 years ago thankyouverymuch) and I was a size 8/10.  What did I learn? I only use the scale to weigh my luggage when I’m packing for a trip. Now don’t get me wrong, I went on this thing twice a day EVERY DAY a year ago. Your clothes and the way they fit is also a great way but stupid way all at the same time.  Clothes get old and start to fit terrible too.

2) Pictures don’t lie.  That’s why they’re so embarrassing.  That’s why you’ve untagged yourself in all your friends’ photos (those assholes!).  And that’s why now, as you’re seeing progress, you’re much more of a camera whore.  If not, you will be.  Trust me.  You will not recognize yourself sometimes. So take lots of photos, even if you don’t want to.  It will come handy later when you compare it to your current progress.

3) Progress needs to be recorded.  A PR (personal record) is such a strong tool to use, yet not a lot of people care to use it.  I get it.  It’s time consuming to write things down.  But seriously, it’s so motivating!  I still have a book from a year and a half ago.  I had workouts in there written with how I felt after them. Like three rounds of squats to overhead with 10 pound weights (better known as thrusters), 10 pushups, and 10 jumping pullups.  I used to DIE at these types of workouts like OMG you want me to do 30 each of those moves?? WTF???   Now? They’re nothing! Nothing compared to what I now do normally.  Here’s another great example of a PR.  The first time I ran a 5k I did it in 37 minutes.  That day I went home, showered and napped all day and barely could walk for days afterwards.      Two weekends ago, I not only did a 5K, I did three different wods (Crossfit workouts) that same day.  I did handstand pushups, 185# deadlifts, and gymnastic ring pullups with 125# front squats.  I still felt like napping and was sore but nothing to write home about.

4) Which reminds me.  Hitting performance goals is my favorite way to measure progress.  How much faster, stronger, and better you are at something you did before is super motivating.  Like that three rounds of thrusters, pushups and pullups? I can do 75# thrusters and kipping pullups now.  Progress!!!

5) Your mental clarity is progress.  Are you addicted to working out? Do you enjoy your workouts? Do you feel more awake? Alive? Do you feel more energized? Do you feel like you can rule the world when you’re done with your workout???? NO?  Well geez.  Must be just me then.  But I used to DREAD working out. I even had nightmares about them. Now, it is my sanity.  I need to go six days a week.  On the seventh day, I watch workout videos.  I know, I have issues.  That’s a separate blog entry.

6) Stop being such a fucking baby.  If you still make excuses about how busy you are, how much work you have to do, how there is not enough time/money/motivation in the day… grow the f#%& up.  Today, I discovered that someone that attends my box is having his leg amputated.  Despite years of chronic pain and illness, a busy job, and I’m sure an equally busy life, he still makes it to Crossfit.  And still plans on coming after his surgery.  Another member recently had a brain tumor removed.  She is 20 years older than I am and can do strict pull-ups.  Stop being so whinny.  No one is impressed with how good your excuses are.  How old are you? That’s how long you’ve been babying yourself.  Break time is over kids.  Go do some work.  That’s progress. When you stop giving yourself a fucking break.

Okay, enough progress talk.  Here’s a photo a caption that explains my favorite measure of progress – getting stronger.  One day closer to being a BEAST!!!

This was taken back in October 2012. Grace is 30 Clean and Jerks with 95#. Back then I did Grace at 75# and finished at 5:30. In May 2012, I finally stepped it up to 95# and finished at 6:55.

This was taken back in October 2012. Grace is 30 Clean and Jerks with 95#. Back then I did Grace at 75# and finished at 5:30. In May 2012, I finally stepped it up to 95# and finished at 6:55.  Today, 3 months later, I finished at 5:48 with the 95# RX weight. In three months, I’d like to do it again and finish under 4:30.  

08-27-12This was back in August 2012.  It was the very first time I threw 95# about my head.  I felt light-headed when I put the weight down that first time. My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my throat.  As soon as I was done. I wanted to do it again but could only do it three times that night.  I felt the same light-headed, giddy in the heart feeling today.  Only I lifted 95# twenty-seven more times today. PROGRESS!!!! 

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