ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Progression
Critical Concept: Going Beyond Your Limits
Focus on progression, not perfection.
You will make exceptional gains, while enjoying an extraordinary experience, if you simply focus on progression, not perfection. Your body and mind both thrive in environments of consistent stimulation, discovery and challenge. You benefit from the plastic effect when you are stretched beyond the limits of where you’ve been before. You grow when you progress.
We love to stay in our comfort zone. The COMFORT ZONE is a great place to rest, repair and reflect on what has been experienced – but no growth is found there. One concentric ring out from the comfort zone is the STRETCH ZONE. This is where we choose to turn up the heat and explore new territory. Beyond the stretch zone is the STRESS ZONE. This is the place that we visit to test our metal. We choose to temporarily step into this zone to accomplish specific things – and then get out of it as soon as we’ve completed our task or have decided that it is wise to retreat and regroup. If we don’t, we end up in the BREAKDOWN ZONE. This is where the wheels come off of the wagon – either mentally, physically, or both. We want to stay out of the breakdown zone.
Your brain will create new synapses and your muscles will adapt and grow with every additional challenge. The benefits of continually stretching yourself include, but are not limited to: increased strength, flexibility, stamina, speed, agility, balance, focus, alertness, memory and coordination.
“Emerging research shows that physical activity sparks biological changes that encourage brain cells to bind to one another. For the brain to learn, these connections must be made; they reflect the brain’s fundamental ability to adapt to challenges. The more neuroscience discovers about this process, the clearer it becomes that exercise provides an unparallel stimulus, creating an environment in which the human brain is ready, willing and able to learn.“ Dr. John Ratey, Neuroscientist and Author (Spark, page 10)
It appears that exertion triggers the release of the neurotransmitter BDNH (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Hormone), which is the equivalent to “Miracle Grow” for the brain. And apparently, as we gradually increase the intensity of the challenge over time, the progression in our exertion is matched by the production of BDNH. The harder that we exert our selves, the more benefit we enjoy.
This should make us rethink our approach to schooling children: “Sit still and listen! Stop your fidgeting and pay attention!” How about the elderly? The research that supports activity benefiting seniors is compelling. How many people are left idle and wasting away in nursing homes? Budget restrictions cannot be the argument – exercise is free. We might even consider changes to our work spaces. Dr. John Madina, researcher and author (Brain Rules) has set up his computer monitor in front of a treadmill.
So whether you are a top athlete or a recently reformed couch surfer, progression is your new mantra. That may mean more minutes walking or seconds off of your 500M row. A Bonfire best practice is to journal your training. Write down your training schedule, routine, times, weights, distances or personal bests. Keeping a journal allows you to track your progress and keep yourself honest and objective. It is nice to feel like you’re making progress; it’s another thing to know that you are. Dreams become goals when you write them down, and accountability is king when it comes to progression.
Nudge yourself into pushing a little harder every time you workout or exercise. Recruit a friend, hire a personal trainer, watch training videos or train for a contest or event. These kinds of extrinsic motivators have been shown to increase the effectiveness of your efforts by multiples.
Often people are held back by the fear that they aren’t good enough or that they can’t do something perfectly. This never serves you. Focus on the growth that you enjoy just from the experience. Just do better than yesterday. Remember: progression, not perfection. The only thing that you can perfect is your effort.
- Add activity every day in every way
- Calculate Energy Balance
- Add Functional Training
- Use variety in your workouts
- Focus on the Intensity of your workouts
- Gradually progress to a higher intensity