On Progress

What is progress, and am I making any?

Don’t worry, I won’t include a dictionary definition of every word I write about. Besides, I often like to create my own definitions of the things that…well…rule my life. Progress is one of those things.

Progress, to me, is moving forward, upward, or onward; basically, progress is any movement at all. Progress is especially important when you’re trying to move away from something, be it a bad habit, a burdensome relationship, or an unhealthy way of thinking. We can make progress in all areas of our lives, but the progress I’m touching on today is that with regard to fitness and health.

A quick background, if you don’t know me: I’m down about 20 lbs from my highest weight (or my rock bottom, as I call it). I achieved this mostly by lifting weights and tracking my macros. I began my “fitness journey” after relentlessly researching, asking a LOT of questions, and good old experimentation. 

Mentally, progression is especially hard to gauge. We can’t weigh our brain, take pictures of it, or measure it. We can go only on how we feel. Unfortunately, this too can be ambiguous. I have bad days, as I’m sure you do. They come and go and, rather than going against the tide, I choose to embrace my emotional state (more often than not). Feel like your own worst enemy? I get it. About to rip your hair out and burn the world to a crisp? Been there. Scream into your pillow, cry hysterically, stomp your little feet. Who cares—you’re not hurting anyone. What matters more is how you feel on your good days, and how those good days compare to those of the past. Even if I think back to a few short years ago, I don’t remember having many good days at all. I remember hating my body all the time, day in, day out. So, have I made progress since then? Absolutely. I moved away from my negative way of thinking and unhealthy lifestyle. However, the physical aspect of my progress occasionally comes in—like a wrecking ball—and starts raining on my parade.

Lately, I’ve been feeling as if I don’t look like I’ve made progress. Despite having made great strides mentally, I don’t entirely feel as if my body “matches up.” I actually uttered the words, “I don’t look like I work out,” as if everyone who works out has noticeable vascularity, monstrous quads, and a perfectly taut tummy . I know that the culprit is the little voice in my head that gets off on telling me I’m not good enough; however, I still have trouble drowning it out. I know, in my heart of hearts, that I have gained strength (in more ways than one). I know that, underneath the layers of self-doubt, I am a confident person. I know that, if I keep pushing forward, aiming high, and venturing further and further outside of my comfort zone, I will begin to recognize the changes in myself that others already have. I just have to remind myself of a few things sometimes:

  1. You are your own harshest critic. No one sees you exactly like you see you, and that is a fact. All too often, we are brutal in our critique of ourselves. Listen to your loved ones—they see the changes that you don’t, trust me.
  2. These things take time. Like all good things in life, physical fitness has a locked door in front of it. Time, patience, and hard work are the key.
  3. Practice forgiveness. As in, “Please forgive me for that door analogy,” but also as in, “It’s okay that you skipped the gym today. You’re still making progress.”

Do yourself a favor and read this list out loud. Read it while you maintain prolonged eye contact with yourself in the mirror. Read it when you feel like you’re about to blow a gasket. These are not new, original, or even particularly wise thoughts. However, they are helpful—at least, to me! Let me know how you feel after smashing these thoughts into your brain.

Abby


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