I think this word gets thrown around the health and fitness industry more than any other word. Weight loss progress. Pull up progress. Progress over perfection. Progress photos. Progress, progress, progress.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not hating on the word, nor on the concept. I think progress IS valuable to keep in mind, and I like that it keeps the idea of a bit-by-bit, step-by-step journey front and center.
But there's a dark side to focusing so much on progress, and I've really noticed it start to come out of the woodwork lately. And I don't hear many people talking about this in the fitness space, so I wanted to bring it to your attention, cuz that's part of what I do around here.
When you hear that word, what do you think of? Do you imagine yourself at the end of Progress Road, all finished and shiny and perfect?
For so many of us, "progress" elicits a vision of a linear journey. Like if you just keep showing up, putting in the work, and doing what you're supposed to, you'll arrive at your destination.
We get told to stop competing with others and only compete with ourself, to look at how far we've come, and let that be our guiding light on Progress Road.
We are made to believe that progress is equivalent to being better today than we were yesterday.
And this is where things get sticky.
What happens if you're not "better" today than you were yesterday? What if you're currently in a season of life where by all measurements, you are on a backslide?
What if your mile run or Fran time is at an all time slow? What if you can barely deadlift 60% of what you were once able to lift?
This is where the emphasis on progress starts to mess with our heads, and fully makes us feel like we have failed. This is where comparing ourselves to even a previous version of our own selves leads us to sink into disappointment and shame.
We couldn't keep up with being better today than we were yesterday, so we have officially lost all of our progress. What a waste, what an embarrassment, what a shame, right?
Not so fast.
This is the part that most of the fitness and health industry leaves out of the conversation entirely, and it's important for you to hear:
Everyone's idea of "progress" looks different.
Meaning, for some people, showing up to the gym 4 days a week is progress. For others, hitting PRs and seeing real, measurable improvements in the gym is progress. For others, losing 70 lbs is progress. For others, sticking with a program far after motivation has faded, is progress. For some, not thinking about their body or fitness AT ALL is progress.
No matter what road you're on (and man alive are there LOTS of different roads we are all on), progress will never be linear. If you stick with anything long enough, there will be a point of plateau or even seeming digression (gasp!). And what's more, your focuses and priorities are also guaranteed to shift along the way.
And as so, for some of us, learning to be completely content with where we currently are, no matter how it compares to yesterday, is progress.
Progress isn't always a PR, a measurable output in capacity, a body fat percentage, or a goal hit.
And that's the problem. In our Instagram world, we believe "progress" looks like one road; one linear, ever improving path, and it just ain't that simple, fam.
Progress can be also be a mindset, an ease and compassion with yourself, time without judgement against yourself, and one step forward on the road to acceptance.
A place where we take the pressure off of ourselves and needing to outperform our old self in every way, each and every day, and instead embrace the internal, quiet, and slow progress towards embracing what is.
And here's the kicker: this IS progress! This does make us "better than yesterday" in so many senses, just not the kind that you see all over Instagram. But I promise you that *this* progress is some of the most powerful steps you can take in your life.
And hey, if you don't love or accept yourself more today than you did yesterday, that's ok too. That doesn't mean you failed.
Remember that sometimes progress just looks like being able to see yourself clearly in your current moment or experience, without wishing it looked differently or trying to control it.
So the next time you feel discouraged because you can't quite compete with yourself, or that your graph of progress looks more like an EKG than a straight, upward line, remember this:
No journey, whether it be in fitness, health, self love, career, or anything else, is linear. There will ALWAYS be times where you feel as though you're taking two (or twenty) steps backwards, and that your progress is lost.
But know that it's in these moments, in what the outside world might mistakenly judge as dips or backslides, that you are still progressing. Below the surface, you are on a path of growth that no one is seeing, but one that takes just as much attention and effort and devotion.
Learning to be patient and non-judgmental with yourself through the highs and the lows and the moments where you don't care much either way, is the progress that counts the most.
By showing yourself even the slightest amount more acceptance for where you currently are right at this moment today, I would argue that you are, in fact, better than yesterday.
What does progress mean to you right now? Tell me in the comments: