Logically, most of us know that any time we’re trying to get better at something, whether it’s fitness-related, learning a new language, or picking up a new musical instrument, our progress won’t be linear.
Non-linear progress means we should expect brief spurts of improvement followed by long periods where we seem to be getting nowhere. Looking at it this way, this means that plateaus are part of the process of getting better at anything.
And yet, most of us basically freak out anytime we reach a plateau. There’s a reason George Leonard, author of Mastery wrote that plateaus are a “form of purgatory” for most people — there is nothing quite so frustrating as being in a plateau and not knowing when (or if!) we’ll ever get out of it.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. When I was learning to do a freestanding handstand, there were so many times when I wanted to give up during a long plateau (I’m so glad I didn’t!). Now, six months into learning jiu-jitsu, I’m going through the same thing. Now, like then, there are times when I feel like quitting because it seems like I’ll never make any progress (luckily, I know enough about the learning process not to give in to this feeling).
But what if we reframed this way of thinking? What if, instead of being something, we thought of plateaus as a sign we simply need more time to practice what we’ve learned?
When I think about it this way, it takes some of the pressure off. The spider guard that I’ve been working in jiu-jitsu? It may feel awkward and clunky now, but give me six months to a year of consistent practice, and I know I’ll get better at it.
It can also help to remember that the more challenging our goal, the longer we’ll likely need to practice — and the more (and lengthier) plateaus we’ll encounter along our journey.
As usual, the best advice I can give you is: just keep going.
What I’m reading (book)
Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck
“A lot of things you believe to be impossible are actually well within your reach.”
What I’m reading (article)
Adult Halloween Is Stupid, Embarrassing, and Very Important by Faith Hill / The Atlantic
“Studies have shown that play—something done purely for enjoyment—is linked to higher life satisfaction, boosted creativity, and improved cognitive health. It can help people cope with stress and facilitate learning, bonding, and communication. Some researchers warn of “play deprivation,” which can leave you tense and grumpy, like a Sim with a depleted fun meter.”
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” — Buddha
What I’m training
Traveling? Here’s a workout you can do in a tiny hotel room or studio apartment.
Three new workouts
228 Rep Sandbag Strength Circuit (Time challenge, sandbag or equivalent)
Hotel Room No Excuses HIIT Workout (12-minute, equipment-free)
Super Explosive Medicine Ball HIIT Workout (12-minute, medicine ball)
You can get these and all future workouts right in the 12 Minute Athlete app when you subscribe as a Super Athlete.
Questions? Feedback? Content requests?
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