I’ve been training for almost fifty years. And “progress” in my training, nutrition, and lifestyle does not come as quickly as it did when I was starting out.
Neither will progress come as quickly for you.
There are reasons for this.
If you start a diet or training program and you’re basically out of shape and unconditioned–assuming the program is good–you can expect pretty dramatic results (in the beginning) if you stick to it.
But the more conditioned you become, the smaller the noticeable gains will be. Think of the elite athlete. They are so finely tuned they are looking for very small gains to give them the edge over the competition.
Once you’ve embarked on a health and fitness program, you need to begin thinking like the elite athlete.
The Expectation Trap
Understanding that health and fitness gains typically come slower, the more healthy and fit you already are, is key to gauging progress. For example, over the past week, I’ve been consciously adding more water to my diet, to flush out the junk, and to get my body working more efficiently. Proper water intake has been linked to many health benefits, and particularly, I felt a need to increase water intake for improved sleep, which has been a challenge for me for some time.
While I can say that I have experienced some improved health benefits, including some improvement in my sleep, I have not experienced a huge difference. At least not yet.
What I’ve noticed is something similar to other lifestyle changes I’ve made over the years–based on what someone has said, or someone’s stated experience is using a particular strategy, an expectation has been set up in my mind to expect a particular outcome in a particular length of time. That’s what’s known as a setup, my friend!
In nearly every case, my progress did not match my expectation. This can cause a serious drop in motivation if you’re not aware of the role expectations can play in your mind.
It helps to step back mentally from the day-to-day, and note the overall progress you’ve been making. Health and fitness can be a bit like the stock market–a series of gains and setbacks day to day, but if done correctly, an upward trajectory overall.
Put in another way, you have to be prepared to deal with what seems like failure in some of your efforts. In the past fifty years, I’ve dealt with plenty of “failures”–some situations were indeed outright mistakes–but many “failures” were in reality just the fact that changes I made often didn’t result in obvious and fast health and fitness benefits.
Serious Gut Check–the Setback
“Slow” progress is one thing, but what about the setback? This can be a sticky one. In my experience, and in those I have worked with, the minor injuries can be some of the toughest challenges.
One reason is that it is often unclear what the best course of action is. Often, minor injuries will work themselves out in a few days. Of course, when in doubt, see a medical professional immediately.
You don’t want to leave something unchecked–particularly if it’s worsening.
The more obvious injuries are easier to deal with in some ways, because they essentially make it impossible to train, and there’s typically more noticeable pain involved, and therefore less temptation to “work through the pain.”
The Mental Challenge
But the mental challenge of setbacks and nagging injuries can be the hardest part, particularly for the older trainee. As someone who himself is in this category, I can attest that age can be an additional temptation to worry–“Am I going to get better?”, “Is it all downhill from here?”, etc.
Mastering the mental game is a big key to mastering the physical game.
I believe our bodies were created to be active to an advanced age, perhaps indefinitely. In fact, a number of scientists have stated they believe there may be no limit to the human lifespan.
What all of this tells me is that it’s imperative that we do not allow our minds to give us expectations regarding how long a particular improvement should take to reveal itself; or provide us with limitations, or feed us morbid thoughts about our supposed imminent decline.
You must be willing to play the “long game” to win in the realm of health and fitness. Yes, the more finely tuned your body becomes, the slower your outward progress will come. That’s just the way it works and it’s best to understand that, so that you do not set unreasonable expectations for yourself.
I can tell you that health and fitness have been a fascinating life-long study for me. I have focussed on enjoying the process, and keeping it fresh and fun–following my interests in strength, aesthetics and athletic skill.
I’m a lot closer to sixty now than fifty, that’s for sure! But I’m still in the game–and still getting stronger, still improving–and still enjoying every minute!
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Winning in the world of health and fitness can be a bit of a war if you’re de-conditioned, a little older, fighting injuries, or weak–but it’s a war you can enjoy fighting and winning! So why not start getting healthy and fit today?
Patrick Rooney is the Owner of GREEK PHYSIQUE™, LLC a Personal Training company located in Middle Tennessee, which specializes in body sculpting for men and women. Patrick is certified through the National Association for Fitness Certification (NAFC). Patrick is available for Personal Training and Lifestyle Coaching, both in person and via phone and Skype. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.