We all want to see success in our lives, in our fitness routines, in our diets. But what happens when you get to a point, where for some reason or another, things seem to plateau? It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel like your hard work is getting you nowhere, especially if you’re someone starting out on a new routine or a new challenge.
But the truth is, in the world of health and fitness, big successes are often few and far between. It’s the daily grind, the tiny baby steps that bring us to our bigger goals, and those need to be celebrated just like the larger goals, or it can be difficult to realize that you are making progress, no matter how small.
This happens to all of us though — not only those who are just starting out on their fitness journey. For example, my workouts lately have been a little bit sub par for what I expect of myself. Work and life stresses, and a few random viruses here and there have meant that some of my training has taken a step back. My deadlift right now is not at my best, and I’m doing pull-ups in sets of 4 instead of 6-8. I went for a run last weekend that made me feel like I hadn’t run in years.
I could use these as reasons to hang my head and get discouraged, or I can decide to look at the whole picture and find the positives in all of this. The small successes that are bringing me back toward my goals after a little bit of an off time.
So what are the small successes that I’ve had lately in my training?
- I pulled 185 on my deadlifts last week for sets of 3, sans lifting belt. Why is this a success when my 1RM is/was 235? Well, after not doing a ton of heavy lifting all summer, singles at 175 were really tough for me coming back in the fall. 185 is now starting to feel much easier, and although I’m not up to where I want to be in terms of strength, I am seeing progress and that’s what really matters right now.
- I completed multiple sets of 4 pull-ups. Again, when I’ve done sets of 8 in the not-so-recent past, I could get discouraged with only 4. But pull-ups are something that I’ve found tend to decrease if you don’t do them very regularly, and I let myself slack on them big time this summer. A couple of months ago, I was struggling to complete multiple sets of 2, but now 4 comes pretty easily. I’ll be back in the higher rep range before I know it!
- A great 5-mile run on Sunday. I’ve been running most Sundays recently, and while some days are certainly better than others, I tend to stick to around 4 miles. Yesterday, I went out with the intention of running my usual 4, but got to 4 and felt so great that I kept going to 5.3. I honestly felt like I could have easily run 6 or 7, but didn’t have time as I had to get to work. To my surprise, when I looked at my splits, mile 5 was my fastest mile! I’m no speed demon, but when I haven’t run 5 miles since last spring, I’ll take a great negative split, especially when I was running into a good amount of headwind. Small success yes, but for me, great runs like that are exactly what I need to motivate me to keep moving forward.
Mile 5 my fastest full mile? I’ll take it!
None of these are groundbreaking. None of these will put me in the elite class of any type of fitness category. But they’re all successes for me, right now, and that’s what matters the most. Even if you just improve by 1 rep or 1 lb, that’s still 1 rep or 1 lb more than you could move last week. Small successes may not be flashy or get you a lot of outside attention, but they are the building blocks to get you to where you want to be. Recognizing these can keep you motivated to move toward those bigger goals, even when they feel so far away. Because every little step gets you closer, and before you know it, you’re exactly where you want to be.
Readers: What are some small successes you’ve enjoyed lately? Do you take time to recognize the small successes in your life or are you more focused on the bigger goals? How do you keep yourself motivated during times of plateau?