Why we need plateaus and a do-anywhere calisthenics workout

Happy Monday,

There’s no getting around it: plateaus suck.

I know, because I’ve been in one for the past couple of months in my jiu-jitsu training — and I can’t wait to get out of it. I’ll be honest, there have been plenty of moments during that time where the voice in my head tells me that I’ll never get better, — and I might as well just give up (I refuse to listen to it!).

When he was alive, George Leonard, one of my favorite authors (he authored Mastery among many other books about human potential), wrote a lot about plateaus, noting that for most people, “plateaus are a form of purgatory.”

But here’s the thing: we need plateaus.

While they’re undoubtedly frustrating, plateaus have a purpose.: They give us a chance to practice what we’ve learned. It takes time and repetition to learn something new and cement it into our long-term memory. The bigger the challenge, the more time we’ll likely need to internalize our new knowledge.

So next time you hit a plateau, don’t freak out — recognize that it’s just part of the process.

(Still, plateaus shouldn’t last forever. If you’ve been stuck in one for a while, here are some ways to get out of it.)

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Why it’s so important to track your workout progress and a medicine ball HIIT workout

Happy Monday,

Do you keep track of your workout progress? If not, you should. Here are a few key reasons why:

  • Tracking helps you pay more attention to that area of your life (this is called the Scoreboard Principle in psychology)
  • It helps you make our goals a priority — and allocate time and resources toward them
  • Seeing proof of your progress also helps keep you motivated on the long road to mastery

I’ve kept a training journal since I started my fitness journey over ten years ago. Doing so has helped me see that I have made progress even when it feels like I’m going nowhere.

And celebrating that progress — no matter how small — is also key. If you focus only on your long-term goal, you might get overwhelmed by the long road ahead and give up before you get very far.

Small wins act as a checklist of progress points on the way to our larger goals. They remind our brains that no matter how futile our efforts may seem at times, we are making progress.

Keep track of those wins. And keep going.

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The Surprising Truth About Reaching Your Goals (it’s Not About Big Gains)

Recently, at my jiu-jitsu academy, the instructor began the class like this:

“I know you all want to be great. You want to make progress, fast. But always aiming for big gains is a mistake. They’re not going to happen very often. Instead, aim to get one percent better — every single day.”

And he’s right. When working toward any goal, we rarely make big leaps overnight. Instead, we should expect our progress to add up little by little over time.

Of course, this is easy to tell others and hard to practice ourselves. Each time I step onto the jiu-jitsu mat, I’m secretly hoping for a breakthrough. Instead, I have to remind myself that pushing myself just a little harder every day will eventually result in significant long-term progress.

Whether your goal is to become a better artist, musician, writer, or jiu-jitsu athlete, your focus should be less on the big gains and more on small, daily, incremental progress. Here are three things to pay attention to when trying to get better at any craft:

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How fitness changed my life and a full-body equipment-free workout

Happy Monday,

I “found” fitness when I was twenty-two years old.

At the time, I was struggling — a lot. I was lost, hopeless, and disillusioned with life. At that point, I had tried and failed at so many life paths that didn’t fit, I felt like I had failed as a human being.

I started with a single push-up. That push-up changed everything for me.

Before fitness, I believed that everything about myself was fixed, from my physical abilities to my personality. Fitness showed me that I could have a say in the person I was becoming and some control over the direction my life was taking.

Remaking myself from a person who had no obvious athletic abilities into someone who identifies as an athlete made me wonder what else I could do to shape myself — and my journey.

Fitness helped me learn to believe in myself. It taught me how to set and achieve impossible-seeming goals. More than anything, it taught me to take risks, to give something my all — and to try.

Has fitness changed your life in a profound or meaningful way? I’d love to hear your story! You can reply directly to this email to get in touch.

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Learn to expect bad days and an equipment-free calisthenics circuit

Happy Monday,

You know those days when you end your workout feeling like you crushed it? Maybe you got a new PR, a skill you’ve been working on finally clicked, or you felt super strong or in great conditioning shape.

Well, those days are awesome — but they’re not going to happen every time. Progress isn’t linear, and not every workout will be great.

More realistically, you can expect about 30% of your training days to feel great, 30% to feel mediocre, and 30% to feel pretty bad.

Those numbers will vary based on the challenge level of your workout — the more you push yourself, the more you can expect some bad days.

The key is not to let them get to you. Bad days don’t mean you’re going backward — they’re just part of the process. Accept them, don’t dwell on them, and move on.

Since progress compounds, what matters most is that you keep showing up.

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How to choose fitness goals and a circus-inspired flexibility routine

Happy Monday!

One common trap I see many people fall into is that they choose too many fitness goals at once.

I recognize this because I used to do this, too. I’d choose five to ten goals to work on — and then wonder why I wasn’t making much progress toward any of them.

This is why when choosing goals to pursue, it’s important to be realistic. If you only have an hour or an hour to work toward your goals each day, you can’t expect to make significant progress on a lot of things.

Instead, pick a few goals and go deep. The less you’re focused on, the more progress you can make toward your goals.

And remember — you don’t have to be tied to those goals for life. You can choose to pursue a few things for six months, a year, even a few years, and then switch to something else. Phasing your goals this way will actually help you make more progress toward more things in the long run than trying to do too many things at once.

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The importance of mindset when starting something new and an equipment-free workout you can do anywhere

Happy Monday!

Any time you begin something new, you can’t expect to be very good when first starting out.

For example, when I first started learning handstands, I was terrible at them. I could barely hold myself up against a wall, and my form wasn’t anything to be proud of. It took me years before I was able to hold a consistent freestanding handstand.

Recently, I started training jiu-jitsu, and I’ll be honest — I’m not very good at it yet. I have so much to learn. Every time I step onto the mat, I realize how much I don’t know. But I know I’ll get better — I have to give it time. To chip away at it inch by inch, just like I did with handstands.

Learning something new can feel daunting at times. When you realize just how far the road ahead is, it can be easy to want to quit before you even start. This is why your mindset is so important at all stages of your journey.

Most people these days have heard of a growth mindset. But so few people apply it to their actual lives. Having a growth mindset means you believe that your effort will make a difference. It means you allow yourself to try — and that you trust in yourself and keep going even when it feels like you’re getting nowhere.

So don’t be so hard on yourself when you try something new. Accept that you’re not going to be great at anything when you first start. The more challenging the goal, the longer the journey ahead of you.

Keep putting in the work, keep trying, and most importantly — keep going.

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On experiencing awe and a warm-up routine for strong wrists

Happy Monday!

When was the last time you experienced awe or wonder? Both are experiences that most of us may not be great at prioritizing in our everyday lives — but we should.

For example, research shows that experiencing awe is important for our well-being and mental health. Even little moments of awe or wonder can help us feel energized, renewed, and inspired.

There are so many ways to do this — from going on a hike, listening to beautiful music, reading an inspiring story, spending time with people who energize you, or experiencing flow in your favorite hobby. When in doubt, get out in nature, since nature is almost guaranteed to produce some awe.

Keep in mind that these experiences will be different for everyone, so it’s important that you start looking for things that make you feel fully alive and fully present in the moment.

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How to work out if you’re short on time and a stability ball circuit for handstands

Hey there,

Have you ever skipped exercise because you didn’t think you had time to do the workout you wanted to do?

Lack of time is probably the number one reason most people skip their workouts. But exercise isn’t so all or nothing. Something is always better than nothing when it comes to workouts. Even a five minute workout can result in strength and fitness gains. Consistency, more than the length of time, is most important when it comes to working out.

If you’re short on time, the key is to stay focused and be efficient. Pick a few full body exercises and do a circuit or a HIIT workout. Oh, and don’t look at your phone 😉

Here’s an example of a 15 minute workout I did the other day:

Warm-up: 3 minutes
Jumping jacks, walking lunges, air squats, inchworms

Workout: 12 minutes
Kettlebell swings, pull-ups, goblet squats, push-ups, hanging leg raises

Follow this approach and you’ll be in and out of the gym in no time 💪

Looking for more short, efficient workout ideas? Try the 12 Minute Athlete app: 12minuteathlete.com/app

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The cost of maintaining the status quo and a resistance band strength workout

Regularly choosing to do hard things is — not surprisingly — hard.

As goal-driven as I am these days, even I have times when I’d rather take the easy route and coast rather than challenge myself to grow.

When I feel that hint of complacency creeping in, I ask myself this question:

What is the cost of maintaining the status quo?

Which will you regret more: the time you spend working hard toward something that you’re deeply passionate about or allowing yourself to become complacent and not push toward your dreams?

I know my answer. What’s yours?

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