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What to Do When the Gains Ain’t What They Used to Be

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What motivates you to do what you do every day?  To go to the gym?  To eat clean?  To go to bed early?  To me there is nothing more motivating than visible progress.  Progress is the ultimate motivator, because you can clearly see that you are getting better.  This can come in many forms depending on your goals.  Progress could be looking better in the mirror, improving your blood pressure numbers, increasing your weight on a lift or any number of things.  When your progress is clearly visible, it creates a snowball effect.  You see positive results and dedicate yourself to your goals and continue to see improvements, as a result.  But what happens when despite all of your best efforts, your progress seems to grind to a screeching halt?

Why does this happen?  Your effort hasn’t changed, but for some reason you can’t seem to make any improvements.  So you ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong?!”  Well, it is quite possible that you aren’t doing anything wrong at all.  You could be doing all the things that you need to reach your goals.  But why are you struggling to see results?  The answer is simple.  The longer that you are on the path to a long term goal, the more difficult it becomes to see improvements.  Think about it this way.  Remember when you first started lifting and you seemed to add 5 lbs. to your lifts every other week?  Well, if this never slowed down, then you could just keep adding weight each week and you’d eventually be lifting 1000 lbs.!

While that example is extreme, it shows that the more advanced or closer to your goal you get, improvements will come fewer and farther between.  Now, that doesn’t mean that you are going to stop seeing results, you may just need to be patient and trust the process.  A big mistake that people make is that as soon as progress starts to slow, they question their program and jump ship to something else or worse; abandons their goals completely.  If you do this over and over again, it’s no wonder why you don’t see significant progress.  It’s because you haven’t stuck to anything long enough to deliver long term consistent results.  Coach John Welbourn of CrossFit Football has an analogy for this.  He says that progress is like moving dirt from one pile to another.  Some days you’re feeling great and the PR’s are falling like rain.  On these days you get a shovel to move the dirt from one pile to the next.  Other days may just not be your day for whatever reason.  One these days you may only get a spoon to move the dirt.  While some days will be more productive and feel better than others, the key is that you are always moving dirt, no matter how slow.

So, what should you do when you are experiencing a dry spell of improvements?  I know it can be frustrating and difficult mentally to continue on a path when it doesn’t seem to be producing results, but the real key to success is not a new program, supplement or diet.  The key to success is consistency.  If you keep doing the right things, you will achieve your goals.  I know that is not the easy answer, but if it were easy everyone would do it.  And the great thing about the CrossFit lifestyle is that there are so many things you can PR on!  Not losing weight?  Try to add 5 lbs. to your back squat.  PR!  Not gaining strength?  Try to get an extra hour of sleep at night.  PR!  Conditioning doesn’t seem to be improving?  Focus on your movement mechanics and moving the best you can.  PR!  Lifestyle, nutrition and exercise all contribute to your success.  So when you feel like you are plateauing in one area, add more focus to another area and you may be surprised to find that doing this will get you closer to your primary goal.  And when in doubt, just know that if you keep doing the right things, good things will happen and keep moving that dirt!

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