Progress Makes Perfect
Progress, in my eyes, is what life is all about. And truthfully, this is where Balancing Bicycle started. My love for the Albert Einstein quote, “Life is like riding a bicycle. You must keep moving to maintain your balance,” fueled my passion for helping people find their balance through exercise and healthy habits. And as the saying goes, you must keep moving (making progress, growing and learning) to maintain your balance (live life to the fullest). In order for all this to happen we must first learn how to progress activities once we’ve mastered the first step. This applies to just about any activity from learning to play the recorder to meditation to exercise. We’re going to stick with exercise for now.
From a scientific perspective, progression of exercise is widely unknown. Currently, the ACSM (American College of Sport Medicine) has vague guidelines when it comes to progression of exercise. But this certainly doesn’t mean we avoid it. It just means we proceed with caution.
As I’ve said in the past and will forever say in the future, we are always going to try our best to prevent injury. For this reason, I always care more about your form when performing an exercise than how many reps you can do. Quality over quantity here. If you are performing every repetition in every set perfectly and with ease, you should progress that activity. From my own clinical experience, when a specific exercise is performed consistently (yes, consistency is still important) progressions should occur in about 2 weeks. This time frame is not set in stone. You still need to be assessing how your body feels after each activity.
In my recent blog post about exercise recommendations, I mentioned that the proper resistance for a strength exercise means the last few repetitions of a set should be the last you can do with good form and without a rest break. When you progress, this same rule applies. In addition, this same concept can be applied to both cardiovascular exercise and flexibility training.
Side note: If you do not know what it means to have proper form during exercise consult your local physical therapist as they are experts in how the body moves.
Now, depending on what your goals are, you can progress different aspects of the activity. For resistance training this means increase resistance (for strength), sets or reps (for muscular endurance), speed (for power), etc. Change in position can also be a way of progressing as shown in today’s image. For cardio, you can increased duration, speed/pace, rest breaks and type (ex. walking to jogging to running). For flexibility, you can change positions or intensity of position. This is where you can start to get creative. Just make sure you’re keeping form in mind at all times.
Progression is probably the toughest concept when talking about exercise. The key is to progress slowly, pay attention to form and listen to your body. Progress is not about comparing yourself to what others are doing. Everyone is different and their bodies respond differently to different activities. Progress is progress no matter how big or small. As long as you are moving forward at your own pace you will find your balance. Please. Please. Please. Please talk to your physical therapist if this is something you need help with. I’m sure they would be more than happy to help you. Progress is important so let’s make sure to do it right. Let me know how you do. I’m always looking to hear how you’ve improved.