Defining Progress in the Gym - It's Not All Chasing Numbers
There are countless ways to measure progress in the gym. Here, I am going to focus on a few that you should take the time to consider. I am not going to focus on the easy ones though. Did the scale move? Did you increase weight used or reps performed in a set? Could you complete more rounds in a set time period? The ones with numerical data attached to them are easy, and the least important of them all. Don’t get me wrong, those can be important at the right time for the right person, but there are some measures of progress that a lot of people totally miss the importance of because they are chasing numbers.
The one people always forget is the most basic of them all. It is one of the first things that I ask most people when the come into the gym.
“How are you feeling today? "
How you feel each and every day can be an important indicator whether you’re doing well in the gym or not. When training is going well and you are gaining strength and improving your mobility – you just feel better. For each person, this can be different. For you, it could mean getting through a day of gardening and it not making your back sore or effortlessly moving you son into his college dorm on the fourth floor. For someone else it could be hike that didn’t leave them out of breath when they reached the top or not having sore knees after a day full of stairs. It could be just waking up and being energized for the day or not needing that extra cup of coffee any more.
So, how do you feel right now? How do you feel compared to last month or last year?
How do you look to yourself? Do you see any changes? Sometimes we can get caught up in whether or not other people are noticing our changes and forget about what we think. Noticing and appreciating your hard work is important and can help build your confidence. Not to mention make you more motivated to keep working hard.
How does the movement feel?
Another way to measure gains in strength, motor control and mobility is how an exercise or movement feels. How does you squat feel now compared to three months ago when you were just learning? Sure the load has increased, that’s easy to see and appreciate. But you should really take the time to appreciate the quality of the movement. How your hips feel as you pause on the bottom of a squat or how your now healthy shoulders crave push-ups and rows.
The biggest indicator of progress is being able to do something that you couldn’t before. This can be something in the gym, doing a push-up, reverse lunging 30’s this week when last week you had 25’s. It can also be something outside the gym too though. Being able to change the water cooler at the office without having to ask for help, carrying more grocery bags, or being able to do something as simple as being able to sit on the floor with your students at school:
That is progress.