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Fitness

Progress & Success & The Journey To Understand The Difference

Looking back at pictures from a year ago gives me all the feels (not necessarily good ones). It’s almost overwhelming to look back on nearly 13 months of hard work, progress, plateaus, injuries, etc. and so, to be honest with y’all, I don’t do it that often. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed of the body I lived in 13 months ago, but part of my fitness journey since September of last year has been about retraining the way I think about progress: I try (pretty darn hard) not to measure my successes by looking backwards; instead, I try to view this journey as one that’s all about moving forward.

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For a long time, I measured my success in the gym and the kitchen by the number on the scale and whether it had gone down since the last time I weighed myself. I was looking (obsessing) over yesterday’s number because, at the time, it was what motivated me and let me know that I was working hard. It’s not like that was the wrong thing to do, I needed to lose a few pounds, and I needed to stay motivated, but if I measured the success of my fitness journey by that same rubric now, I’d be living in a constant state of disappointment, and so I’ve had to lean out of that habit and develop a new attitude toward what success and health means to me today.

These days, I try to think less about yesterday’s stats and more about tomorrow’s goals.

These days, I try to think less about yesterday’s stats and more about tomorrow’s goals. The two are linked inextricably, of course, but I’ve found that this small mental course correction makes all the difference in the world to me. Instead of hopping on the scale every morning and immediately determining the success or failure of my diet and exercise routine from the number that shows up, I focus on other measures of success and progress. Some are still numbers, like the number on the weights I lift or the amount of minutes it takes me to run a 5k (and they’re important to me, don’t get me wrong), but some – and I like to think these are the really important ones – can’t be measured objectively. For one: the confidence I have in my body to accomplish things I had no idea it was capable of doing is pretty.freaking.great. Moreover, I seem to have a better handle on a few of my anxious tendencies, which is motivation enough to continue this journey. There’s others: like feeling more comfortable in my clothes or not being as utterly terrified of the fact that apparently, in Arizona, one must be bikini-body ready 12 months outta the year (can’t a girl get a lil’ chunky sweater weather?). But none of these measures of my own success or failure have to do with how much the number on the scale has changed since yesterday, and that’s probably the biggest transformation that I’ve undergone in the past year.

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The ability to view this journey as being more about what lies ahead than what I’ve left behind (51 pounds, sleeping in, and binge-fests at any restaurant with nachos on the menu) has been really, really difficult, and pretty unnatural for me. I think it’s very…human to determine how you’re doing today by comparing it to how you did yesterday, and it’s darn near impossible to adjust that way of thinking. The difference for me has been to acknowledge the difference between progress and success. I’m gonna have to look backwards to see if I’m making progress (Am I lifting heavier weights? Am I running faster? Am I getting stronger? Have I changed my diet? The list goes on…), but determining success isn’t gonna be measured by those same criteria. Success, for me, will be continuing this journey, sustaining this lifestyle, getting mentally tougher and not giving up on myself even when those objective measures of my progress seem stagnant and slow.

Success, for me, will be continuing this journey, sustaining this lifestyle, getting mentally tougher and not giving up on myself even when those objective measures of my progress seem stagnant and slow.

I suppose it’s been said a million times, and I run the risk of sounding derivative and unoriginal, but this fitness journey – this so-called transformation – has been about WAY more than losing 51 pounds. That part is fun – it’s nice to lose weight and see muscle – but the transformation has been the lifestyle change and the attitude adjustment. Because, at the end of the day, weighing less, or getting a six-pack, or running faster, won’t make my goal of changing careers any easier, it won’t change the fact that my fiancé lives 6,000 miles away, it won’t pay off my student loan debt and it won’t actually make me crave nachos any less…losing 51 pounds hasn’t been a miracle cure for all that ails me, but the confidence I’ve gained in my ability to make something happen for myself, to reach a goal and exceed it, has been all the transformation I could’ve hoped for; and that, my friends, is success.

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