The Three Dimensions of Progress

Progress is a holy word at the gym. We come here for progress, to get better, to move the needle. Progressive training- starting with something doable and incrementally increasing the challenge is the cornerstone of what we do. But what is progress? Surely there are broader dimensions than just more weight or faster times- here’s how I tend to think about it:

  1. Progressing Understanding: Picture yourself stepping into the gym for the first time. Everything feels foreign, from the equipment to the terminology. You’re like a lost adventurer in a vast wilderness of fitness. But fear not, for this is where the journey begins. Progressing understanding is about increasing our awareness and competence in a movement or principle. Lest you think this is only for newbs, understanding isn’t a one-way street. As we advance in our fitness journey, we often come full circle, gaining deeper insights and refining our understanding even further. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion, discovering new nuances with each level of mastery.
  2. Progressing Consistency: Ah, consistency, the unsung hero of progress. It’s one thing to nail that perfect snatch or crush a killer workout once in a while, but true progress is about doing it day in and day out. Progressing consistency means building from being able to do something well once in a while to being able to “never get it wrong.” It’s about showing up, rain or shine, and putting in the work, even when motivation wanes and life throws curveballs. Consistency is the glue that holds our progress together, transforming fleeting moments of brilliance into lifelong habits. Whether it’s hitting the gym regularly or practicing mindfulness daily, consistency is the secret sauce that turns dreams into reality.
  3. Progressing Capacity: Increasing our max strength, endurance, or repetition ability is often seen as the gold standard of progress. But here’s the truth bomb: capacity is probably the least important of the three dimensions. Shocking, I know. You see, capacity is merely a byproduct of the other two dimensions. It naturally improves as our understanding deepens and our consistency solidifies. But the opposite isn’t necessarily true. You can chase capacity all day long, but if your understanding is lacking or your consistency is shaky, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle. It’s the most tenuous and the one most subject to the “interference of life.” Chasing capacity can lead us to chasing the destination, often in spite of the journey. Don’t lose the forest through the trees! Chase capacity for sure but make sure it’s increasing due to increased understanding and consistency, and you will be building a more stable platform for future progression.

In the gym and in life, progress is a multifaceted journey, encompassing understanding, consistency, and capacity. So the next time you lace up your sneakers or tackle a new challenge, remember that progress isn’t just about how much weight you can lift or how fast you can run. It’s about the depth of your understanding, the steadfastness of your consistency, and the limitless potential of your capacity. Fitness well, my friends.