Continuous is not the same as constant

In the last four years I’ve developed, for the first time in my life, the habit of working out. I love weight training — purely love it. I love lifting heavy weights, I love moving my body (itself a rather heavy weight) through the world in new and novel-to-me ways. I love the growth and improvement, the sense of accomplishment I get from learning to do new things.

I enjoy reading fitness books. The New Workout This, the Ripped Body that. 30 Days to Whatever Things We Put On the Cover. I find these books, while frequently implausible in their claims, to be inspirational. The more reasonable ones are still laughably out of my reach for the most past. I am not a testosterone-fueled twenty-year-old cis-male. I am never going to look like your cover photo. But I find them encouraging — aspirational rather than despair-inducing.

There is one thing, though, endemic to fitness books and programs, that I must willfully ignore. The idea of constant improvement.

There’s a mantra in fitness that each workout ought to bring some small modicum of improvement over the last one. A bit more weight. A better time. One more rep. A bit farther. If I adhere to this thinking, I inevitably hurt myself. My tendons get horribly sore and inflamed to the point where I can’t go about my daily life activities. The idea that continuous improvement must mean constant and unceasing improvement is a recipe for disaster for me.

So I read the books, and watch the YouTube videos. And I go and work out. And I ask myself what a reasonable metric for improvement might be. Measurable improvement each week? Each month? I’m past the age of forty — maybe simply Not Losing Physical Ability is metric sufficient unto the day?

I don’t have a clear answer on this point. But I do know that, each time I go to the Y and lift, I should NOT exhort myself to lift heavier weights every time.

Nopetopus says nope.

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve been doing yoga for almost a year now, and at some point it switched from going out of sheer stubbornness (but not enjoying it) to actually digging it and looking forward to it each week. I’m not very good at it, but I had this moment about a month ago, when I realized a shirt was pulling too tight around my shoulders and arms. Because wow: my arms have genuinely gotten stronger. There are some muscles there now. It’s not a huge change, but it makes me happy when we do pushups and I realize I *can* do them, that my body is stronger than it was, and that’s so cool. (I really want to start lifting weights.)

  2. @allreb Progress! It’s so neat! 😀

  3. I am, well. This is a thing I am not good at remembering. When I’m sick, and Becca reminds me I promised to lift light, in my head that translates to “do exactly what I did last time instead of *more*.” I’m still in the mindset that each experience has to be better than the last. Better form, more weight, less rest…

  4. Trust me that sometimes just not losing a step or a lift or a breath is a victory. Savor it.

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