When Fitness Results Are Slower Than You’d Like

Imagine for a second that embarking on your fitness journey like a sculptor turning a giant piece of rock into a masterpiece.

Most would agree this takes vision, time, and it takes joy and perseverance in the process.

To the sculptor , the finished piece is already there because she visualises it beneath the rock before beginning about to chip away.

The Seeds of Doubt

Many of us know that fitness results take time, but I think we still expect it to happen quicker. When it doesn't, people often feel they must not have the right tools, or their body (the piece of rock) must be the wrong kind.

I understand that we want to know that what we're doing is working, but "results at a certain rate" isn't the best evidence to use. Just think for a second how subjective that is, especially when we're often comparing ourselves to other people (or our younger self).

I believe much of this frustration comes from not really trusting:

A) the process

B) your body or yourself

The process is as much about how as it is about what you do. Meaning, how you see the road ahead and your steadfastness.

Does it feel like "such a long, arduous journey and I'm not getting anywhere fast enough" or could it feel like "I'm on the right path for me, this level is just what I need".

Is the process really about "do I look any fitter yet?" or "did I do enough?" (so it’s still about results) or is it "I'm showing up for myself and these efforts (chipping away at the rock) count, these efforts are my own hard work, and they are revealing not just an amazing body underneath, but they are revealing that I already have an amazing body that can persevere, and take this next step"?

The Fitness Industry Fans the Flames

It's ironic, but there's a chronic lack of body-trust in the fitness world today (it's encouraged, actually, and I'll be writing another post about this WITH examples).

If our body isn't as nice as we'd like it, we find it harder to value it until it does. Then, if we see results as the main measure of our success, of course we'll feel even worse when results are slower than hoped.

Add to that the reinforcement from the fitness world to basically always find something wrong with your body (either aesthetically or functionally), is it any wonder so many people struggle to tolerate "slow results", because it keeps them feeling broken. Results have become about "when I'm fixed". 

Here's a message I see a lot (on my content and others'): "I'm doing all I can since my life is crazy, but changes are happening slower than I'd like… where do I go from here?"...

Honestly, you just keep on keeping on.

If you're doing " all you can", then adding more stuff will become unsustainable which will make it more likely you'll burn out. AND, even if you did do more, there's NO GUARANETEE it would speed up your results.

 More is not necessarily better.

Any real person out there who has a real life - not one that affords you time and energy to only focus on your body and fitness - must focus on what works for them. Do not compare yourself to another person, or another time in your life. Just don't, because there are too many variables at work to really know what that "magic ingredient" is or was.

Where you go from here is less about what physical stuff you do, and more about how you see your journey.

Do you hope you'll hit the chisel and feel disappointed if only a small piece of rock falls off, wishing for the entire side to fall off for all to be revealed? Boom! A masterpiece!

Or do you see each chip - the skill and perseverance in that effort - being of equal value, no matter how much came off?

I totally understand how hard it is to see effort as its own reward, and I'm certainly not anti-results or goals, I just see how we need to focus MORE on our efforts and how there's no mystery to be solved, or brokenness to be fixed.

Do you even see this as YOUR journey at all? Or it is some impersonal road that everyone is suppose to go along? Somehow there's only one fitness journey (which also feels like a race) and there are people who are farther along (more successful) or struggling to keep up (losers).

I think understanding your true beliefs about what you're actually doing matters deeply.

The analogy of the sculpture is imperfect because there does come a day when the masterpiece is complete. With fitness, though, it's never done…

  • Sometimes rock grows back LOL
  • Sometimes the artist has other stuff to attend to
  • Perhaps he burnt out because it was taking too long to finish the piece so he worked around the clock

Does that mean any effort he can manage to put toward the sculpture is pointless?

The best thing to do when you're struggling to see the results you're getting as enough, is to just ask yourself questions (or better, get someone else to help you look at it differently).

I'm not joking, if you're doing all you can (and, hey, even if you're not), the "answer" probably isn't "do more workouts or try harder" or "I must be missing something".

It probably has something to do with a disconnect between what we think we should be doing and what we actually need to do (and why do we feel these "shoulds and have-to's"?)...

Or there's something underneath that's keeping you stuck in a cycle of "not enough" because on some level, no matter how fast or great results are, you just can't value yourself, so you'll never be worthy of them.

And I'm not being preaching here. I speak from pure experience, having been trapped by this very thing for years. The funny thing is, I'm pretty much "cured" of it as it pertains to fitness results, but I still struggle with it sometimes in other areas of life, like business.

What really swung the pendulum was seeing the TedX talk below, about how women especially, grow up self-objectifying. It connected so  many dots about why fitness/body/outer results and appearances have driven so much of my behaviour, my anxiety, and my feelings of not being good enough:

What do you think: Do you feel slower-than-hoped results mean you're not doing enough (or enough of the right things)?

  • July 7, 2020

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