The Power of Progress - Why Consistency is Overrated

Written by J.H. Gibbons

18 years ago, I entered into a weight room for the first time. And I am not talking about one of those fitness centers you see in an apartment complex. The first ever weight room I have stepped foot in was at my high school. Wheaton High School’s weight room was another milestone that I needed to figure out. You know me and my goal-setting ways would never allow me to step in and fail.

So, since I knew how to workout with cable resistance, I thought I could walk in and bench press 225 lbs. I was completely wrong. I was also embarrassed and I felt defeated because I knew how strong I was when I was in the fitness center. In fact, I became too strong for the fitness center. That meant I had to elevate if I wanted to become stronger, but I was not ready at all.

It was obvious that I had now reached the bottom of a new mountain. I was looking to get to the peak without climbing to the top. The easiest thing for me to do was just stick to the rivers and the lakes I was used to (TLC reference). Yeah, sure I would not have gained anymore strength but at least I would have been the strongest in my immediate circle. But, because of my mentality, that wasn’t going to happen.

So, I had to swallow my pride and fail early and often to achieve my weight lifting goals. Let’s look at the bench press exercise, for example. When I first started lifting in the weight room, I kid you not, I could not even push the barbell off of my chest! That’s right, I literally needed a spot for the bar. The barbell is either 35lbs or 45lbs. Now, once again, I could have packed my bags and walked my weak ass out of the gym. I decided against that.

Instead, I came back and I kept coming back. I came back for that entire summer my sophomore year into the football season. I came back after that year and the year after that until I graduation. Even after I graduated, you guessed it…I came back. I went from struggling to bench press a barbell to bench pressing 405 lbs. earlier this year for the second time in my life. I am on the road towards bench pressing over 500 lbs. before the end of next year and the best part about all of it is that I know the formula to make that a reality.

I have acquaintances who have doubted my abilities for so long. I am sure you have those same people in your life as well. I call them acquaintances because friends will feed your passion. Seeing you succeed means that they have succeeded as well. After all, they are the support system that holds you together.

Let me tell you something about this journey that you may not understand. Consistency alone did not get me to the point of bench pressing that much weight. In fact, consistency is somewhat overrated. Shocking, right? Not really. Let’s break this apart, shall we? How many times have you been truly consistent with your new diet plan?

Did you start and make it work for about a week until you through your hands in the air and quit? Maybe it was a month. If you were really skilled, you may have forced yourself to drink kale shakes and eat tofu sandwiches for three months. However, there was something else that was consistent about this process: you quitted. You quit once things became too overwhelmingly difficult to continue. You quit because there was something else in your life that took first place. The problem here was not consistency. It was the lack of progression. Let me explain.

You didn’t allow yourself to make enough progress for the habits to truly stick. Your progress ended when you decided against adding in different foods that could have truly made a difference. You knew that what you were doing was unsustainable and you tried to continue the unsustainable method because that was what worked for your favorite celebrity. And, it may have worked in the short term, but most people aren’t looking to get into shape for a short term.

Most people want to live a long healthy life but are struggling to make their new lifestyles stick. You must make progress. You must learn more about your body and how it reacts to certain foods. Still hungry after dinner, add in another complex carb. Not losing enough weight, add in more cardio exercises and stop powerlifting.

For me to get to 405lbs. on the bench press, I had to consistently add weights to the barbell. I didn’t care if it was 2.5lbs. on either side of that barbell. That meant that I was 5lbs. stronger than the last time I lifted. I continued this progress in the gym. However, it was more important what I did outside of the gym. I had to make sure that I was getting enough protein in my nutritional plan. I had to make sure that I was stretching and resting adequately.

As I was lifting, I had to make sure that I didn’t get too excited when I reached a new peak. This was the most difficult part of all. I knew I had more in the tank during some of my lifts, but that was not the point. The point was linear progression over a period of time. I knew EVENTUALLY that I would reach my one rep max. However, before I made it to that point, my form had to be perfect. One false move and I could tear a muscle. If my body wasn’t prepared for the stress of those heavy weights, I could be seriously injured and completely derail my dreams.

So, what is my point?

All of these accomplishments I had in my life would not have been possible without progress. I had to make sure that I didn’t quit 15+ years ago or else I would have never made it to this point. I know my purpose. My goals have been set and I am on the path towards accomplishing them. This could be you, too! Make sure to measure your progress, regardless how small it may seem. Just know that 5lbs. a week for any exercise you’re doing equates to 260 lbs. in a year! If you use this logic for other parts of your life, there is no telling how far you can go.

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