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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Process of Progress


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OK, let's get something straight, right now. Simply getting out there and doing the same thing, i.e. running the same speed/distance or lifting the same weights will not lead to improvement. If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got! There is nothing wrong with lifting the same weights if maintenance is your goal, but don't spend the next two years lifting the exact same weights or running the same 3 mile loop and wonder why your squat or your 5k times haven't improved. The following three factors, in order, are essential for improvement.

Consistency Leads to Dedication

Consistency is the foundation on which a successful training program is built. The body requires a constant cycle of overreaching beyond your comfort level, followed by adequate rest and recovery to lead to supercompensation, i.e. your body becoming stronger, faster, etc. A good analogy is pushing someone on a swing. By consistently and repeatedly timing the small amount of force that is a single push, you can move the person much more than you could with only a single push. Randomly timing those nudges won't result in any significant movement. Focus first on consistency before mucking things up with complicated strategies to improve.

Intensity = Effort

If you are religious in your consistency to following a plan, next concentrate on intensity. Workouts must be done with the intensity necessary to force your body to adapt. Consistency may be the foundation, but without the proper intensity, you will never get off of the ground. Workouts should never be painful, but overreaching, or pushing a little beyond your current level of comfort, by definition will be uncomfortable. Your muscles may experience a burning feeling. Some soreness the next day may result. These effects are common if you are working out with the intensity needed to get stronger or faster. Again, if your goal is to maintain your current state of fitness, you don't need to cross the threshold into discomfort, but if your goal is to improve on your current level of fitness, you must push beyond your comfort zone.

Progression Requires Planning

Progression is at the top of the graph because it is not possible without the previous qualities. Consistency and intensity are required to make progress, but ironically, they don't guarantee it. Progression must be planned. If your goal is to run a half marathon and you can currently only run 3 miles, what steps must you take to increase the amount of distance that you can run? Running the same 3 mile loop will not magically result in the ability to run 13.1 miles on race day! You must slowly add to the distance that you can run increasing your maximum distance by small manageable amounts. If your goal is to get stronger, how can you expect to get stronger when you lift the exact same amount of weight for 6 weeks, or God forbid, 2 years. The answer: You can't!

By applying these to your workouts, given enough time, you can achieve your goals, whatever they may be. Never stop pushing!

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Bryan said...

Nice article. You've really become a very good writer. My blogging hasn't exactly taken off...it is hard to come up with stuff to write! Nice work keeping your blog fresh and meaningful.

Fit Club Scott said...

Thanks, but I don't know about "very good". I would say "fair to midland"...on a good day.

And yes it is tough to come up with things to write about.

Kristen said...

Scott, I always enjoy your blog as well. On a side note, ever thought of becoming a virtual fitness coach as a side job?

Fit Club Scott said...

Kristen, thanks.

Honestly, I have had very good paying side jobs in the past, but I always come to hate them because they start to eat away into my personal time. So I stay away from them to keep sane.

Thanks for asking, though.