PSA to all you Type-A overachievers out there:
"Progress" can be an insidious thing. You can't infinitely get stronger, faster, leaner, better.
At some point, you reach the upper edge of what you can safely do as a natural athlete & human. Can you push past that edge? Absolutely. But it comes with a cost. And usually that cost is your health -- whether physical, mental, or emotional (or all 3!) -- and quality of life.
It's inspiring to say things like, "You can do anything if you put your mind to it." But the reality is, if you push for too much for too long, the damage to your health & sanity starts to outweigh the rewards. In other words, if your self-improvement quest requires you to constantly do more, your well-meaning, earnest efforts will not make you better...but make you worse.
When your mental demons start pressuring you to be-better-do-more...it helps to remind yourself what your actual goals are:
Do you really need to do 1 more chin-up?
AKA Are you planning on competing in the CrossFit games?
Or do you want to feel pain-free & confident in your body?
Do you really need to lift heavier?
️AKA Are you planning on competing in a powerlifting competition?
️Or do you want to dance/move better in rehearsal tomorrow?
Do you really need to get leaner?
️AKA Are you competing as a fitness model?
️Or are your expectations skewed by the constant barrage of ripped bodies on social media?
Sometimes just maintaining your current level allows you to be better. When you're at that upper edge of what you can do, just preventing yourself from backsliding is a win.
Sometimes even backsliding is what allows you to get ahead. When your body has years of built-up stress & your hormones are all out of whack, taking a step back from what you used to be able to do in order to heal is a win and will get you further in the long run.
We are so quick to beat ourselves up when we see our numbers go down. But progress isn't linear. And self-improvement certainly can't be judged by numbers and constant progression. Sometimes you have to veer off the path & take a detour to get the outcome you want. True progression means your quality of life goes up...even if your numbers go down.
To let you in on my personal life, I'm going through a phase where I'm forced to turn things down a notch. After dealing with devastating stress and loss over the past 3 years, I'm now feeling the damage that caused my body & emotional state.
So, I'm shifting gears from my usual hard-core self-improvement stride to aggressively focus on healing. That means cutting back on the volume and intensity of my workouts. It means saying "no" to things that feel like a push. It means eating nourishing foods & listening to my cravings. It means putting a pause on my fat loss goals. It means being gentle with my performance goals. It means making choices that will stress my body & mind as little as possible.
And that's scary. As someone who has always bulldozed through adversity with my stubborn determination and ability to absorb pain...doing LESS is terrifying. It's hard to justify to my mental demons.
But if I listen to my deeper wisdom, I know taking this step back now will allow me to be better in the long run. If I keep barging my way through in my usual stubborn fashion, refusing to accept less from my body...I'll only dig myself into a bigger hole and regress despite my hardcore efforts. But choosing to regress -- intentional backsliding -- will allow me to get ahead long-term.
"Progress" doesn't mean constantly doing more more more. It means constantly evaluating where you are and what you want (versus getting caught up in the hype and competition with what everyone else is doing)...then, adjusting your fitness & health plan to meet those current needs.
But don't feel like you are failing if you see your numbers declining at the gym. Keep your goals in mind. If you're a dancer, you don't need to look like a fitness model or compete in a CrossFit competition. You need to be able to dance. That doesn't require being able to do more more more. It requires feeling confident in your body.