I used to think that progress in fitness was a matter of “Wow, we’ve come a long way.” Now it’s more like, “Damn, we’ve got a lot more work to do here.”
Fun psychological fact: everything has an expiration date, mentally and physically. If not, memories would never disappear. You would always remember that perfect comeback to that situation you got ready for just in case it happened. You would be able to recite “Rap God” perfectly on the first try, and that dank hunk of nastiness you have sitting in the fridge would have been thrown out weeks ago.
The truth is, things expire – that applies to the sense of accomplishment we get from coming a long way.
Is it a problem? Maybe. It can be uncomfortable. The thing is, a lack of comfort is what produces swifter progress to solved problems.
When it comes to fitness, the beauty of it all is that we’ve each got our own fine-tuned path of milestones and achievements. Every personal record, groundbreaking lift and protein shake represents another invisible rival to defeat in the next workout. We should always have people above us in order to keep our egos in check, but the greatest rival is the invisible person inside of you (basically like your skeleton’s roommate. It’s spacier in there than you think.)
That rival has always managed to achieve every single feat that you have, plus just a little bit more. All of your squats, plus one more squat with 10 more pounds. Your exact running speed, minus about 10 seconds with a slightly steeper incline. Your best bench press, only they had slightly better form.
No one else in the world will ever observe that rival or hate them as much as we do, but if we embrace that, it becomes something we love them for. We enter a race to beat the mirror’s ass. (Not literally though, because you’ll make the floor a mess and your knuckles will be bloody and what the hell is wrong with you, drink some green tea for God’s sake.)
It’s being proud of the pace that you run, but not so cocky that you think you’ve won the race just by beginning. It’s not a hamster wheel, it’s a road that gets longer as you get faster. It’s not acclimation, it’s acceleration.