Fitness Progression Will Never Be Linear: The Key To Staying Motivated


Your journey will be a bumpy ride — it’s all about perspective.

Photo by blueberry Maki on Unsplash

Ifthere is one problem the majority of humans have, it’s the ability to see less of themselves. We only see what we’re failing at and what we have to improve, but never how far we have come since the beginning.

This was a trap that I’ve been falling into since the beginning of my fitness journey back in 2019, but something that I’ve especially had to change since the world was struck by a pandemic.

Having to train at home for more than a third of my entire fitness journey has wreaked havoc on my ability to see my progress and has made me miserable.

All I would focus on for the greatest amount of time was how much I could have been progressing and how insufficient my home workouts were.

I felt like I had hit a brick wall and wasn’t progressing at all. As soon as I shifted my perspective, my workouts became a whole of a lot more meaningful and enjoyable. I finally had learned how to change from feeling like I was failing — to feeling an intrinsic self-appreciation for even the smallest blips of progress.

Here’s how I made that important perspective shift and how you can feel motivated on this bumpy journey of highs and lows.

Stop and focus on the ‘why’

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Have you ever doubted yourself?

That's a stupid question, I know you have. I doubt myself most days. Where does the doubt come from?

  • Do you think you aren't good enough to achieve your goals?
  • Do you feel like a failure?
  • Do you feel like nothing ever goes your way?

If along your fitness journey you have asked yourself any of these questions, then you need to go back to the beginning. The beginning is your ‘why’. Your ‘why’ is where your true potential lies and it's where all your motivation stems from.

The ‘why’ is a simple concept that I’ve used to give me the kick up the arse that I need when I get discouraged by halted progression.

This is your reason for starting to work out in the first place. For me, my ‘why’ is: To boost my damaged teenage confidence and to make people admire my body by seeing the hard work that's gone into it.

A bit egotistical, yeah I know, but it works for me, so I’ll carry on using it to fuel me.

Every time you feel like your progression is going down the drain or that your lack of achievements is bringing your motivation down — take a moment to just sit out. Stay with your thoughts for a bit and think hard to yourself:

  • “Why am I doing this?”
  • “What am I trying to achieve”

As soon as you gain the answers to these questions (which will most likely come from past insecurities) then your motivation will feel like It’s just been shot into orbit by a SpaceX rocket. Disconnect yourself from the journey and go back to the start.

Focus on why.

You are a mirror reflection of your past

“Every man carries with him through life a mirror, as unique and impossible to get rid of as his shadow.”
W.H. Auden

Photo by Alex Lopez on Unsplash

What does a mirror do?

It shows you who you are. Your true reflection.

What does looking in a mirror from the past do?

It shows you how far you’ve come and how much you’ve developed on your fitness journey.

Looking in the mirror has by far been my biggest motivator. Figuratively and also literally. Looking at your past and where you were in life before your fitness journey will motivate you beyond comprehension.

There is no doubt that consistent exercise and working out will change you over time. It will instill a hardworking ethic and a ‘no excuses’ attitude. But most of all, your body will change. Whether that's losing weight, building muscle, or general health.

Looking at your past is where all this progression will become blatantly obvious. It will make all your worries and self-doubts of “I’m not progressing anymore, what’s the point?” disappear in a matter of seconds.

Being the egotistical guy that I am, I have somewhere close to a thousand images and videos I’ve taken in front of a mirror or in the gym since the very first day my fitness journey became serious.

Comparing them to my physique now is my biggest motivator. Especially when I feel like I'm gaining nothing from all this physical torment.

If you are at the beginning of your journey, take as many photos of your body as your phone storage can hold. It will be your bank of motivation, seriously. Looking back on the physical developments that this hard and draining physical journey has created is what has kept me so consistent over the years.

If your past insecurities rendered you to never take photos of your body at the start of your journey, then start taking them now.

It is never too late.

If you take a set of 20 photos and videos right now, even if you have absolutely zero in this current moment to look back on, in a little under six months' time, these will fuel you on those low days. You will also see the joys of progression and how truly quick it will be.

Disclaimer: This only works with a profound sense of commitment. If you teeter your way through the next six months by not pushing yourself or skipping sessions you may as well stop wasting your time.

Consistency and moving out of your comfort zone is the only way you will change your physique.

Track, track, track and track some more

Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

Having visible written numbers of how you’ve progressed (or not progressed) is important for two reasons:

  • It keeps you on a steady track of progressive improvement, allowing you to see what you need to improve or focus on.
  • You can see how much progress you’ve made over a given time period, and as we've discussed, seeing progress from the past is also a huge motivator.

In the simplest of words, you need to be writing down numbers every single time you work out. If you're a runner, this is easy. Write and record timings and personal records and try to beat targets.

If you're a lifter you should write the sets and reps of every single weight you lift. This can become tedious and often I forget during my session, but it is of utmost importance.

If I don't keep a track of how heavy I bench-pressed last week, I’ll likely forget how heavy I went, or just make a rough estimate which in turn, won’t be good enough. When lifting, even 0.25kg makes all the difference to your progress.

I do this in the notes app of my phone during rest periods. It’s the easiest way I’ve found to do it. Here are just one of my notes files from recent months.

It’s more important to do this when gyms are shut. This is because home workouts can often be seen as a means of only “maintaining’, rather than progressing, because we know it's a temporary setup.

However, over the last 6 months, gyms have been closed for most of this time period. If I recorded sets and reps of various exercises since the beginning, I’d be in a much more solid place to progressively overload, make more gains, and dial into my weaknesses.

This screenshot is how I keep track of what I’m doing. The best part is that I can make extra little notes as you see e.g ‘(don’t do again)’ which helps me pave the track to improvement in a more effective way.

Tracking your progress will not only help you see what your doing right but also keep you in check through hard evidence that shows you your lack of improvement.

This will force you to finally get back on track and back to progressing at a rate that you are happy with.

How to stay motivated

Motivation comes down to intrinsic accountability. If you show yourself what you are doing right and how far you've come, it will help you along your path. Similarly, if you show yourself how badly you've fallen behind, this can also help you feel awakened to chase the progression we’re all so addicted to seeing.

  • Go back to the beginning and question why you started. If you feel down on motivation, going back to the root cause of what pushed you to start in the first place will help kickstart the progression. Most of all, this will remind you how far you’ve come, rather than seeing the negatives. You will be able to see how much closer you are to reaching that initial goal (or maybe you already have reached it. This is even better.).
  • Look at the mental and physical progression you’ve made. Look back at old family photos or transformation photos to help you realize how much your body has changed. Even the tiniest of physical changes will be obvious through pictures. This forces you to see the positives of your progression on the ‘off days’.
  • Tracking numbers and current progression will make sure you consistently improve, rather than stalling without realizing it. Stalling is another major factor as to why motivation will drop. Tracking what you do in the gym or on a run provides you with proof of where you are and where you need to be.

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I am an entrepreneur from London with a passion for reading and writing about self-improvement, productivity, fitness, history, philosophy, and happiness.


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