I've been going to the gym for the better part of a year, almost nine months now. Now that I found the trick that works for me in terms of keeping up with it (hint: going in the morning when I have no other activity that I can do instead), it's probably the longest that I've ever gone without giving up the workout routine. I don't do anything serious, mostly cardio, and it's more just to get in better shape and stay active.
Since I keep things relatively light, it's often hard to measure progress. When I first started, I dropped a few pounds, but that's leveled off. I can run faster and go longer on the elliptical than when I started, but by no means am I marathon ready. I feel better on days when I work out, but who doesn't?
So, how could I tell if I was really making a difference or not? Turns out, I wasn't even asking that question, but I found the answer over the weekend.
I hadn't gone on a bike ride this year until this past weekend. I got the bikes down and got them ready, and rode them around the street, but we haven't gone out for a ride yet. The other evening, I wanted to take a ride and I figured I'd go the standard route that we often go through our neighborhood and the connecting neighborhood. It's pretty easy, and takes about 30 minutes or so. We have a pretty set route, so I know the way to go and what the ride will be like.
It was about halfway through the ride that I noticed that I was cruising. I started paying attention, and started noticing other things as well. For example, during a couple stretches where we go uphill for a good period of time, I was a few gears lower than I usually was. In fact, on the set of seven gears I usually use, I probably in fact only used three or four.
When I got home, my wife was surprised at how quickly I'd gone and asked if I took a shortcut. Nope! But, I'd shaved a few minutes off.
So, I was able to complete the ride faster and do it better. I had less of a sweat than I normally do, and I wasn't winded at all.
I realized that I had just measured my progress and that the gym was paying off!
Sometimes, you have to get a different perspective to see the progress that you're truly making. The short term measurements that we often take are great, but what if you take a step back, like I did to see how the nine months of exercise paid off, to see how things have changed.
For example, if you're paying off debt, don't just look at what you paid off last month, but look at how much you've worked off over the last 12 months. If you're looking at your mortgage balance, don't focus on the amount of principle you've paid off over the last 6 months, look at the last 3-4 years. Only then, you might truly be able to see the difference it makes, and this will lead to renewed motivation.
As well as continued progress.
And, just like an ‘easy' bike ride, that's a great feeling to have!