Why progress isn’t (and shouldn’t be) linear

We’ve all been there, great progress for a week, fortnight or even a month then we seem to hit the brick wall.  

This applies to so many things, weight loss, strength gains, speed, flexibility, endurance and many more.  

So why does it happen?  

Well for a start, when we start something new, we have lots to learn, experience and process. We’ll start with a set of assumptions, let’s take weight loss as an example. We start eating healthier and exercising. From this our body is getting a better quality of fuel and is given a new way to expend it in the first few weeks, this equals weight loss.  

Our weight loss begins to slow, or even go back up slightly, this could be for a number of reasons and we tend to think ‘oh I must need to eat less’ when there could be many other reasons, these could range from increased water retention, muscle gain or hormone changes.  

The same can be said about strength, during the first few weeks/months we get stronger, lift more etc. after a while these tail off and we aren’t progressing at the same pace. Again, this could lead to us thinking I need to push harder, do more of a certain movement.  

At this point, what we are really looking at is our body just putting a safety break in, allowing other parts to catch up, think about all of the supporting parts for the movement.  

With the two examples above, both are leading us to change, in the example of weight loss it’s a change in the way we look at the overall picture.  

What if our weight stays the same but we have less body fat and more muscle? – would that make us think about changing our diet or happy at staying the same weight?  

With strength, incorporating additional work to support and maximise the amount we can lift, concentrating on our technique with lighter weight to get every bit of performance we can. The list goes on, however the outcomes are the same, when we reach a stage where progress plateau’s we have a chance to re-evaluate our performance, make changes to continue our progress and gain a greater understanding of our goals and gain insight into what we are trying to achieve.  

So next time we reach a plateau (or think we’ve stalled) rather than be disheartened, perhaps we should ask what can we learn from this, trust the process and accept that progress is never linear.