Happy 2015! Ah, a new year. A clean slate, a chance for us to rewrite our destiny, right? As a fitness blogger, there is a lot of pressure when it comes to the New Year’s post. Typical New Year’s resolutions often involve some kind of fitness related goal. This could be the post where I give advice on better nutrition, more effective workouts, how to get ripped abs, toned biceps and a fantastic butt. But I won’t. Instead, I’d like to address how we can measure progress this year. If we have a clearer picture on what “better” is, then we can approach goals differently and define them more easily.
I recently read two articles on this subject: My Definition of Better by Diane Fu and How We Define Progress in the Gym (also a podcast) by the folks at Barbell Shrugged. While both articles were written by people in the weightlifting community, the message can be applied across the fitness realm: expand your definition of progress. Progress in the gym is often defined by decreasing weight on the scale and increasing weight on the bars. But these articles talk about the mental and emotional progress as well. Are we more confident when we approach the barbell? Are we mature enough to decrease the weight so we can move more efficiently? Do we have more refined movements? Have we moved past achieving Personal Records (PR’s) in terms of numbers and can we look at personal bests from an emotional standpoint?
These articles hit home with me because in the past year, my own definition of progress has changed a lot. I let go of my old ideals and ironically I’m in the best shape of my life. I think it finally happened once I started defining progress and goals in my own terms. When I look back over the past years, here are some things I have noticed about myself:
1) I have more patience. I’m not necessarily patient…but I have more patience than I used to. I’m guessing it’s motherhood that has changed me. Before kids I had more control over the things I wanted to achieve. There were checklists. I knew how to speed up the process and what steps I could skip. But being a parent made me realize everything comes in good time. I no longer look for the quick, short term fix – which usually ends up hurting us in the end anyway.
2) I’m more efficient with my time. I have less time to workout, and I’ve learned to make the most out of that time. Sometimes that means combining family time with fitness. My kids understand what exercise is, they aren’t strangers to the gym and I hope I set the example of healthy living.
3) I’m more careful. And this is because I’m old. Well, older. My body doesn’t recover as quickly. And I have more people depending on me. So I’m more aware of my limits especially when it comes to injury. I know how to prevent injury and move efficiently through my workouts. Not surprisingly, my body feels better.
4) I’m a better student. I’ve put my ego aside. I’m “humble enough to do the work” as Kino McGregor would put it. I read more about yoga, crossfit and running technique. I’ve learned I have so much more to learn! But by studying more, I have improved performance.
5) I have a longer term goal. My vision now goes beyond “getting ready for summer”. That kind of thinking didn’t provide the right kind of motivation. It was too attached to a physical outcome and when I do that, I never know when to stop. Now I stay active because I can, and want to for a very, very long time. I want to grow old with my ever changing fitness routine.
As you can see, these improvements aren’t things I could have assessed on the scale or in the mirror. Some of this came as a result from working towards specific goals like increasing weight on a lift or getting a faster race time. However, when I look at my overall progress as an athlete, it’s these mental advantages that stand out. I have become less attached to the results of the physical goals and look for improvements in these areas instead.
You probably already lined up your New Year’s resolutions, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive for the body YOU want. We all have our different goals and versions of what “better” really means. I encourage you to stick to your guns. But at the same time, I hope you remember to look at the bigger picture when assessing your progress – and realize your goals might change along the way. Sometimes in working toward what we think we want, we get what we actually hope for. We just have to realize it.
Good luck and Happy New Year!