The only person you need to compete with is the person you were yesterday. 

The most efficient way to become a lot better is to focus on becoming just a little better every time you train. Sometimes the smaller improvement you make each session the better. 

You might think this is at odds with my rule about setting big, life changing goals. It’s not. Perhaps the best way to get insanely fit is by getting just a little closer to your goal each day or week. 

The truth is that no successful athlete makes massive improvements every training session. And if you try to you’ll inevitably sabotage either by simply failing—which sets you back mentally—or by getting injured. 

I see this happen to runners quite often. Let’s say the furthest the person has ever run is 10 miles, and he makes a great goal to run a 50-mile Ultra Marathon. He signs up for a race that takes place in a year and he’s so excited about his goal of 50 miles that he thinks he should really kick up his training. So he schedules his first long training run as a 20 miler. 

Of course, it goes poorly. 

This guy is not in shape for that distance, so he probably doesn’t finish. That makes him doubt himself and incites negative self talk—he starts to wonder if he bit off more than he can chew, if he’ll be able to train, if he’ll fail on race day. Or he might struggle through the 20 miles but end up with overuse injuries from doing too much too soon, which sabotages his goal. 

Everyone wants to reach their goal as fast as possible. But depending on your goal, you may just be setting yourself up for disappointment. For example, doing extreme body transformations once a year can work, especially if afterwards you maintain healthy eating habits. On the other hand if you burn out and fall of the wagon so to speak you’re dooming yourself to a cycle of failure. 

In general quick transformations don’t work well for performance: Remember, intensity is the inverse of duration. You can’t spend the majority of your time sprinting towards fitness. Your body just doesn’t adapt fast enough to give you extreme performance jumps. 

When you’re focused on building sustainable, long term fitness you need to take the longview. 

I wish more people would take that approach. When you try to improve slightly each week your body has time to adapt so you don’t get injured, and—most importantly—you keep your motivation high. You reach your goal, too. Who cares if it took you 52 weeks instead of 8? I’ll take greater progress in a longer time period any day. 

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