How to Stick to a Fitness Regimen When You Haven’t Noticed Progress Yet

We all have a slump at the start of a fitness program. Not at the very beginning, when we get excited before starting work – rather, after a few weeks. It can take six weeks to notice muscle growth or increased endurance, but how do you get through this time without losing hope?

My own fitness journey has had many ups and downs as I have taken vacations over the years due to pregnancy, injury, work projects and (yes, I admit it) general laziness. So I’m very familiar with this recession. Not long ago, I collapsed to the floor after a hard CrossFit workout, and I asked the coach to promise me that things would get easier. (He reminded me that this never happens; just lift more and move faster .)

But when you get past this recession, the days will brighten. You feel like a beast. A few weeks after this conversation, I became the leader in the Cyclebar sprint. I made 100 burpees . I lifted weights that I hadn’t been able to lift for years.

Throughout this recession, I was getting stronger – I just didn’t know about it yet. You can feel progress earlier in the process by simply creating opportunities for improvement. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Lift something heavier . Experienced lifters struggle to add a pound or two to their exercises; newbies can often put on weight every week. This works best for movements like the deadlift, where even five or 10 pounds is a small percentage of the weight you are working with. (As always, don’t put on weight unless you’re sure you’re in good shape.)
  • Time yourself . Choose a workout as a reference that requires a certain number of repetitions, but you can do it as fast or slow as you like. The Nike Training Club app has several test workouts at different levels, or you can create your own. If you are working on pull-ups, try hanging from a bent arm . It takes very little progress to get ahead of your time.
  • Train for longer . Once you have run a few miles, your speed may plateau; this is normal. So instead of running faster, try running a little further . Instead of three miles, try three and a half. Then, after a week, try four. Then five. You must end each long run by saying at every step, “This is the farthest distance I’ve ever run!”
  • Practice the skill . Many exercises focus only partly on strength and partly on skills. Have you ever tried kayaking or rope climbing? Can you do ballet exercises to the beat of the music? Pick something that seems a little difficult to you, feel confused the first time you try it, and then try a few more times.
  • Go back to what you haven’t done lately . After concentrating on one type of fitness for a while, you may find that old exercises are suddenly much easier. For example, you might run faster after several weeks or months of resistance training.

Any short-term goal can work as a motivator, but beware of anything that depends on uncontrollable factors such as other people or the weather. You can run faster, but the heat has slowed you down so much it’s hard to tell. Try to relax mentally, but keep exercising and you will soon see success.


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