Progress is NOT Linear

Now that you have your goals set, are working towards them, and tracking your progress, you are well on your way to accomplishing them!  Every week you’re going to add 10lbs to your squat, add 5lbs of muscle mass, and lose 5lbs of body fat, right? Maybe in a perfect world!  Unfortunately progress in the real world is a little more nuanced than that.

If you could add 10lbs to your squat every week, it would add up to an increase of 520lbs in a year, and you’d soon be setting world records!  If you could gain 5lbs of muscle each week, you’d end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a matter of months, and if you lost 5lbs of fat every week your body would soon stop producing hormones and you would keel over dead in no time.  A linear approach to training cannot be sustained for more than a couple of weeks.  Real progress is made by consistently sticking to a plan that is designed to help you reach your goals over months and years, not days or a few weeks.

Day to day or week to week fluctuations are basically meaningless in the grand scheme. Maybe you just bench pressed a personal record weight, and now your training program has you lifting lighter weights for a few weeks.  During this period you may feel like you are going backwards, but these weeks serve as a break from heavy weights for your joints, muscles, and nervous system, and they allow your body to recover and prepare itself to lift heavy again.  When gaining muscle, you may look in the mirror each day and not see any progress. However, if you take a picture a year after you began training seriously and consistently and compare it to pictures from when you first started, the progress will be obvious. When losing weight, you may reach a plateau where it seems like you’re making no progress.  This can happen when your body is adjusting to a new lower metabolic rate, but it is only temporary and weight loss will continue with proper training and nutrition.

When you aren’t training with your heaviest weights or when you are getting impatient with your weight loss or muscle gain, it is important to remember that progress is not always linear.  There are no shortcuts or quick fixes for these things, no matter what you may read in magazines or hear on the TV/radio infomercials. Changing your body takes months and years of dedication, so remember that you are in it for the long haul, and short term decreases or plateaus in performance or body composition are all part of the process.  Keeping a training log makes it easy to look back on your past training and see how much progress you’ve made since you started. I’ll leave you with this simple equation that you can refer back to any time you’re not training at your best:

Hard Work+Dedication/Time = Goals Accomplished

-Nik Aston