Change takes a lot of energy.
Your body has more than 300,000 years invested in a model of existence where the margins between life and death were razor thin.
Simple tasks like staying warm, finding salt, and making spears where very calorically expensive.
And those calories were very hard to come by.
When it came to ‘spending’ those calories, our ancestors were hoarders.
They didn’t care about deadlifting 600lbs, running a 3hour marathon, or getting shredded.
They cared about finding food, not becoming food, and staying healthy enough for long enough to pass a copy of its genes along to the next generation.
We’re working off the same blueprint today.
We’re wired for survival, not performance.
With that said, how do you improve performance?
Above everything else, you have to ensure there are enough raw materials (hormones, macro/micronutrients and calories etc.) on board to guarantee your body can take care of its ‘day to day’, and then some.
Ideally, these resources are obtained, produced, and reallocated while away from stressful tasks/events.
A stressed lifestyle, undernutrition, and incomplete sleep/recovery severely influence where these raw materials go.
If the body feels it doesn’t have the resources to spare, survival is its top priority so all non-essential output will be severely limited.
Progress in the gym will slow or stop altogether.
You can’t out-train this deficit.
So, if you feel you can’t find another ‘gear’ (or if you’re tired all the time, or your hands and feet are always cold, or if you have a hard time concentrating, or get sick often), ease off the gas peddle and think Health first then Fitness second.
You’re responsible for taking care of the lifestyle factors that will help move your performance in a positive direction.
They're not flashy, but sleep, nutrition and recovery are weapons in your arsenal.
Once the gas tank is full and the engine is humming, it's time to stress the system.
The body is an adaptive machine.
It’s always trying to make stressful tasks/events easier (or less expensive).
It’ll do this by building muscle, or improving VO2max, or refining coordination/movement patterns etc.
But here's the thing: as you improve (becoming fitter for lack of a better word), you’ll have to work even harder to continue to drive progress.
What you did as a beginner may no longer be enough of a stressor to promote an adaptive change as an intermediate.
If you find yourself moving at the same pace, workout to workout, month after month (example running at a 5km pace, whether the race is 5km or 800m, or 200m),
Or you always grab the same kettlebell whether the session calls for ten swings or 50,
Or you can talk to your friends while doing your upper body pulling work,
Then consider moving faster, lifting heavier, or choosing a harder progression.
Without struggle, there is no growth. (there's a big caveat here: too much struggle and the body switches back into survival mode).
The struggle requires a certain amount of will power…and possibly a little discomfort (but it certainly demands that you have PRINCIPLE 1 well in hand).