The Progress Mindset

This weekend, I took a 75-minute Power Zone Endurance ride on my Peloton. It was tough, and I wasn’t in the right headspace. I had stepped on the scale moments before the ride, and to my disappointment, it registered a pound higher than it had the day before.

What the fuck.

I’d been eating right, working out daily, sleeping well. It was so discouraging to see the scale moving in the wrong direction, however slightly. I started my ride in a horrible mood, repeating, “you suck, you suck, you suck” with every pedal stroke. I was going to punish myself with this ride.

The Moment that Changed my Progress Mindset

About halfway through the ride, coach Matt Wilpers said something that almost stopped me mid-turn of the wheel. He was talking about progress. I’ll have to paraphrase, but it went something like this:

We’ve been trained to use the scale to tell us if we’re making progress. I’m here to tell you that there is a better way. Instead of watching the scale, ask yourself, am I stronger? Am I faster? Am I more efficient? There are way better markers for your progress toward health and fitness than the scale.

I looked down at my output on the screen. Although my body felt fatigued, my metrics told a different story. I was riding with heavier resistance on the bike than ever before. My heart rate was stable, not jackhammering. I was keeping up with the ride as coached, not scaling back. Had I ever done that on a ride this long before? I didn’t think so.

Suddenly, I cared a lot less about the scale. In fact, to hell with the scale. I’ll be damned if I’m going to be shamed in my own house by a $30 piece of glass I stand on every morning. I’m doing the work, seeing real progress. I know I’m heading in the right direction, even if some days look like a setback. The scale is just one data point out of many. I won’t let it define my progress.

A Progress Mindset for All Parts of my Life

It’s not just the scale. It’s all the stupid ways I measure my success or failure in life that I need to re-evaluate. I’ve realized that Matt’s words don’t apply just to my mindset about fitness — they apply to almost every aspect of my life.

Whether it’s my health, my marriage, my parenting, or my career, I can’t measure my success by how it’s going that day. I have to zoom out, look at the big picture. My mindset has to shift from looking for steady improvements every day, to embracing the ups and downs that naturally come with progress.

Not only that, I also need to recognize that there is more than one way to measure my success. There is no single indicator of whether I’m doing well or not. Maybe I argued with my husband today, but I stayed calm instead of losing my shit. Or maybe I didn’t check off everything on my To-Do list today, but I accomplished one major thing that I’d been putting off for a really long time. I can recognize the setbacks without feeling defeated because there are wins all along the way. And although it may feel like I’m stagnating, or even moving backwards on some days, I am still gradually making my way toward my goals.

Progress is not linear. It can’t be measured by one single factor. And maybe sometimes I have to redefine what progress looks like to me. Loving myself, and caring for myself well, means having a mindset that sees my progress in the big picture. It means celebrating myself on the big win days, and giving myself grace on the days that feel like a loss.

I am moving ever forward, ever higher. Even on the low days.


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