Friends, progress is not linear.
This is more what it looks like: You make progress. Then you backtrack ALMOST to zero again. Then you make a bit more progress, and then you backtrack ALMOST to the point you were last time. Progress, backtrack; progress; backtrack. Gain some weight, lose more weight. Get 20 unbroken pull-ups, fall to six again.
But here’s why this is real progress: every time you loop back, you won’t go quite as far back as before. The loops get smaller.
Eventually, you will see that the cycle of backtracking shifts. You make progress for longer and longer stretches before you have a dip. Someday you’ll look up and think, “Wow, I’ve gone a whole year without gaining any major weight.” And when you have little bumps, remembering all the times you overcame them will keep your perspective.
Think about it this way: while problems will never go away, they get smaller in magnitude and less frequent over time. Did your deadlift drop from 500 to 450? Bummer. At least you can still pick up FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY FREAKING POUNDS OFF THE FLOOR!
Many people get stuck in that first loop of fitness forever: try something, make progress, fall off. Sometimes their methods are unsustainable. Sometimes their goals are unrealistic. Sometimes life turns in a direction they didn’t expect.
But usually, after six weeks, the exerciser is a bit further along. And even if he or she falls off, the fall won’t be ALL the way back.
Maybe after a tough month at work, you’ve fallen backward. But you are still fit. You can still show up. You haven’t lost your touch. And next time you hit a rough patch, you’ll be starting from a different place.
If for no other reason, go to the gym today because today’s problems are slightly less horrible than last year’s problems. And today’s problems will be next year’s victories.
Inspiration provided by Chris Cooper at Catalystgym.com.