I was chatting with someone after a workout the other day (no, I don't remember who it was), and they said, "my pull ups just never get any better". Those same words have been repeated by the vast majority of us around pull ups, wall balls, OH squats, muscle ups, or insert any other challenging movement here. Sometimes, my response to that is asking them what they are doing to work on them. Or, when was the last time they just came in and worked on that skill? While I do believe that with enough laser focus on ANY skill or movement, you can affect a massive change in your proficiency, my point today is a different one. You see, that same person that was commenting on their pull ups has actually made TREMENDOUS progress over the last 6 months. They now use less bands. They string more reps together. They have the capacity for much more volume than they previously had. But all this is lost on them because they no longer remember from where they have come.
Many of you are religious about recording workout results, loads, and modifications. Others of you keep track of benchmark workouts and one rep maxes. We encourage all our athletes to track results either through Zen Planner or in your own personal notebook. And here is why. Inevitably, we all hit a wall at some point. We come to a place where we feel like we just aren't getting any better. Everything feels hard and we are certain that we are losing ground. The problem comes when we let these thoughts rob our motivation. A workout log gives an objective measure of how far we have come. It is far more reliable than just a gut feeling on where our fitness is. This can be a lifesaver when our motivation is low and we don't feel like we have progressed adequately in recent days/weeks/months.
Tracking workout metrics can serve another purpose as well. Once you decide on a skill or movement that you want to improve, hone in on measuring every workout, warmup, or skill session that includes that movement as a component. Just by focusing on it and recording your encounters with it over a few workouts, you begin to have a better understanding of how to improve it. Sometimes our failure to improve is rooted in having fallen into a pattern of "default" weights or rep counts. Your coach is always willing to help you think through this too and offer some variations on your "standard" approach.
Let's cut to the chase here. There is nothing wrong with flying by feel on a daily basis. One of the nice things about coached workouts is that you can let someone else do the thinking for you. If however, you have a movement or skill that frustrates you or that you really want to move, you need to record some data. Give us 3 data points on what you've done with a movement in recent workouts and we can tell you precisely how to modify it for today's workout to begin to move the dial. Describe a general feeling of not getting better, stronger, or more fit and we may kindly suggest that you buy a notebook.
Not focused on gaining ground in a specific movement? No worries. How about working on consistency? I can't tell you how many times an athlete comes to talk to me about "results" and I ask them how often they are coming each week. Often they will say 3-4 times per week on average. When we then look back at attendance history, they've been here twice a week on average with 4 times happening once in the last 2 months. An honest assessment of your baseline is critical to evaluating progress.
As we move into November and dare I say it, "Holiday Season", give some thought to where you would like to be in a month or 3 months or 6 months. Pick an area or two and do some tracking. Maybe even set a goal. If you really want to move the dial, share that goal with your coaches and fellow athletes for some added accountability. And remember, we move what we measure.