What counts as PROGRESS? 150 150 Stephanie Thompson

It’s about the journey not the destination.

Systems over goals.

Progress over perfection.

Process over outcome.

This article is rewritten based off of notes from Episode 33
The Stoics, corporate leaders, coaches & elite athletes can all agree on one thing:
  • Focusing solely on the outcome goal is a distraction. You will find more success by focusing primarily on the things you can directly control right now in this moment for best results in the gym, school, relationships or on the ice.
  Right now, these are just quotes you might fling around when talking about motivation and training. But when you take a moment to think about it, they have a deeper meaning that is truly important if you want to use the next few months for getting stronger, fitter, and become a better curler. Each of these quotes centers around the idea of progress and the process’ you use to get yourself to an outcome.   

I love goal setting.

There’s something so satisfying for me to help someone tease out what their deepest dreams and desires are, then have them look at where they are now through a detailed assessment. Creating that dissonance between where you are now, and where you want to be in 3 months, a year, or a decade gives the mind some urgency and provides you with a target.   But if all you focus on is winning that National banner, or getting rid of that low back pain, then you might spend your time spinning your wheels. James Clear points out the importance of streamlining your systems to help you get from point A to point B, without getting distracted by your end goal. Have you ever been in the middle of a game where your competition was really good and you thought maybe you had a chance to really win it. But your focus shifts to the idea of winning the game and away from your team routines and the game starts to slip away from you?   That ability to focus on your systems, routines and individual processes is what separates the good players from the best players.
What we repeatedly do, each and every day, ultimately forms the results we enjoy and the goals we achieve.
It’s not one big moment that makes a champion, but a culmination of all the small habits and routines done consistently over time.    This concept of developing small habits, and mini routines to give you structure and purpose within a long-term goal provides you with not only satisfaction, but MOMENTUM. To me, it isn’t about finding more motivation to exercise or do your meditation, or meal prep, or go to sleep at a good time. It’s about MOMENTUM. I like upgrading Clears concept of using mini habits and routines to slowly step your way closer to your goals, with monitoring for mini wins each day and each week.   An off-season training plan can be time consuming. On one hand it’s our offseason and we need to be able recuperate from a gruelling competitive season, while also filling in our performance gaps ahead of the upcoming season. We need to balance that push for success with the mental rest that comes with a break in competition. I find the easiest way to do that is to set mini goals, and to monitor mini wins.  

So what counts as a mini win? What counts as progress?

A mini win for me is a way to look at progress, not only in terms of outcome goals, but performance and process goals as well. It gives us a chance to find the “win” in every week, even if it did not go exactly the way we planned. We can also use this win-reflection time to think ahead to the coming week and determine, “in what ways WILL I win this week?” It’s an exercise in reflection on the small wins that slowly add up, and a PLANNING around making more wins!   It’s important to first off note that what counts as progress or a mini-win depends on a few factors such as:
  • your goals,
  • your current abilities,
  • and your time commitment.
I like to stress the importance of looking at your own personal progress and wins, and avoiding comparing with others. If every single one of your teammates, improved their consistency to training by just 1%, their adherence to getting more sleep or water, or reviewing game film by 1%. If you got 1% stronger or improved your VO2 max by just 1%, your teams overall improvement would be huge! And that’s just 1%. So please, as you go through this with yourself and your team, you don’t get anything but distracted by comparing yourself to others. This is your own journey and your own goals and what progress looks like to you is completely your own. That being said, if you and a teammate want to get into a pushup competition or see who can close more of their rings on their smart watch, then by all means go for it.    Ok, here are the types of progress and mini wins that I like to teach my athletes to look for and cherish:  
  • Habit of training
    • This is the first habit or win that I have my athletes look for. I include a variety of movement and training options into my programs, so finding a routine that works for you and your time commitments is critical. If you go from never working out, to once a week, then twice a week, then 3 times a week consitenyl, then that in itself is a win. All my VIP athletes will tell you that the first month is all about building a foundation; of number of sessions, of technique, and of work capacity. I can make the prettiest program with the best exercises and set/rep schemes, but if you don’t do the progress it is a useless program. Building the habit of training is first and foremost critical to completing a successful offseason training program. Overcoming weekly obstacles, planning ahead and getting creative with sneaking in your workouts is fundamentally important to a great training program. 
  • Maintenance
    • This might sound ridiculous, but maintaining strength and fitness is always a win. This win comes in handy after a week where maybe you didn’t workout as much as you’d like (you got sick, busy, or took a much needed vacation), or if your max squat stayed the same while you were busy working on improving your max bench, then that’s a win. Maintaining fitness is always fantastic. 
  • Technique
    • Just because you can deadlift 300lb doesn’t mean it looks pretty. In fact, you might find that you have to raise your hands in a pushup in order to perfect your technique before lowering your hands back down to the floor. I always value technique over weight lifted or reps completed. The quality of each movement is much more important in the long run than creating a compensation for the sake of higher weight on the bar.  Especially as a high performing athlete with long-term goals outside of 5-10+ years!
  • Comfort and/or lack of pain
    • This one is underrated. About 2 years ago I started a movement mentorship program through a brilliant woman named Katie St Clair. Within the mentorship program we got to access a progressive 3 month program following along on her movement theories & protocols we were learning about int he mentorship. After the 3 month program I was feeling invincible, but upon testing I was surprised my max numbers didn’t increase more than they did. BUT when I watch back the videos of my max lifts in month 1 to month 3, and I compare how I felt during and after each lift, after 3 months of working on technique and movement control, my lifts felt better, easier, and I experienced less back pain the day following. Comfort is in a sense a measure of your stability and mobility in the body. I was able to move better and more efficiently at a previously difficult weight. Don’t forget that it is progress too. That and, starting a new workout program can be uncomfortable. It can be uncomfortable to get out of bed a little earlier, to run a little further, to put yourself out there and try a new exercise. Learning something new is always a bit uncomfortable, and if over your 3-month EPVIP or DIY program you find comfort in the process a little more here and there, then my job is complete!
  • Better tempo
    • This kind of goes with technique, but if you can control and own all 3 parts of a movement; when the muscles are lengthening, contracting and especially if there is a pause (like how we hold the slide position during delivery), then that is huge. For instance, so many people just lift and lower during the bicep curl mindlessly, but if you can do the same weight with a 2 sec up 2 sec down tempo, then BAM consider that progress and enjoy the bicep gains. Control along with comfort is a linchpin to avoiding injury and athletic literacy.
  • More weight
    • This is kind of an obvious one. If you can lift more weight then you’ve adapted to training and you are getting stronger. Voila.
  • Feeling stronger/fitter
    • It’s one thing to see the weight you can lift increase, or the speed that you can run increase, and it’s another to actually FEEL stronger. If you find it easier to get out of a car without baack pain, or feel like your breathing recovers faster after going upstairs, or maybe you can now carry all the groceries into the house in one trip; those are wins. Those are the wins that make curling easier, which can make a skilled player pretty deadly at an event. If you don’t have to worry about an injury, sore muscle or running out of steam you can put your focus on being an awesome and strategic teammate and not just sweeping that last rock to the button in the extra end for the win.
  • More reps
    • So many people get distracted with muscular strength, when in fact muscular endurance is just as important. If you read my article about the 8-12 rep scheme, being able to do more reps is a huge win, especially for curling. Being able to sweep harder and recover faster is accomplished with a combination of increased aerobic and anaerobic capacity, as well as being able to manage multiple reps and bouts of activity. Be specific with your goals -do you wish to be more powerful, or be able to work hard for longer? Your training will need to dictate this.
  • More volume
    • This is either an accumulation of more repetitions over a workout, or even an accumulation of workouts/bouts of physical activity over a week or a month. If before you could only training every other day for 20 minutes; either because of your time management, or how slowly your body was adapting to the training and getting over any muscle soreness and now you can do something physical 4-5 times a week, then that’s a win! This is why it can be so important to take good stock of your fitness and routines ahead of a training program, set realistic goals and readjust your goals as the offseason progresses. If you never workout it isn’t a good idea to decide to do 2 hours of training 6 time a week. Because your body isn’t used to that much activity, but also because mentally that’s a HUGE change in your routine.
  • Faster times
    • Not only is it important to be able to lift a weight, multiple times, and to control all parts of the movement, but if you can do movements faster and with more bouncee and control; including power/plyometric movements and sprinting movements, then you are getting fitter. Trying to run a 5k? If at the start of the summer you do it in 35 min, and then end you can break 30 min, then WIN! If it takes you 30 seconds to get up that monster hill in week 1 of your sprint program, and you can consistently do it in 25 sec by the end of the summer -win!
  Now, this is not an exhaustive list, as well some of what I list above might not be meaningful for a lot of people. What I want you to take away from this is that progress isn’t just about what you do, but also how you do it. Your efforts, mindset and small wins all add up, especially in an off-season of champions.  

A big part of an EPVIP program is the Win-day Wednesdays!

To finish off, this is how I use this concept of monitoring progress and measuring wins.  Every Wednesday I send a check-in text and encourage you to reflect on a few ways (I like asking for at least  3) that you “won” last week. It could be from anything listed above, or even more process-focused like: scheduling your training in your calendar, or turning off your phone at a set time each night, or making yourself a snack for before your workout, or purchasing that new piece of exercise equipment. There really isn’t a “wrong win”. Next, use the momentum from those 3+ wins you had last week to provide you with motivation for the next week. In what way do you plan on winning next week? Is there something you can focus on that will help you take that 1% improvement towards your goal? An easy hack, set a realistic accountability goal, make it your primary focus, and let it be a win heading into the next week!   So you’ve got the motivation and understanding of how to measure your own progress, but you don’t have a program to follow? Check out the Offseason Menu. I’ve got DIY programs, group workout classes, and programs specific to your goals. Emails steph@empoweredperformance.ca for more info or if you’re not sure if and how I might be able to help you get that 1(or hopefully waaaay more)% closer to your goal

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What counts as PROGRESS?