Beating the Level

By Coach Andrew Seely

I’ve played this level for the thousandth time and I still can’t beat it!

Retry? Y/N

How many times have we seen this screen? If you’re like me, than too many to count. Damn those hard working people who sit behind desks designing levels, enemies, bosses, puzzles that keep us feeling stumped! I can remember many afternoons sitting with a Super Nintendo trying to beat M. Bison in Street Fighter II. Or those late nights with my Sega Genesis trying to beat Goro in Mortal Kombat. Myst on PC? Impossible.

Maybe video games aren’t your thing. Maybe it’s figuring out the intricacies of a well built D&D campaign, where your DM has devised a series of rooms that will test your party both physically and mentally, leaving you always second guessing if you made the right choice.

We get stuck, and it doesn't just happen in games.

When it comes to your fitness journey, YOU ARE GOING TO GET STUCK.

It may have already happened. You may be in the midst of being stuck, or it’s just around the corner. Being stuck isn’t something to be afraid of because it’s something that happens to all of us.

Usually, we have 3 options when it comes to being stuck:

1) We plug away, relentlessly until we become unstuck.

2) We give up, walk away defeated.

3) We take a break, so that we can come back refreshed, see the problem in a new light.

First we must be able to identify being stuck. This usually happens when we feel like we aren’t making progress, regardless of how hard we are working. We aren’t seeing our lifts go up in weight, not seeing our times go down on our runs or our rows, or we can’t figure out that one movement. What makes it worse? We look around and think everyone else is making progress.

It’s all SUPER FRUSTRATING. You want to just quit, go home and eat an entire box of girl scout cookies and never go back to the gym.

Don’t do that. Just remember that being stuck is normal. What's important is how we deal with being stuck.

Think about being stuck as a plateau, but instead of the far side going down, it leads up to a higher plateau. Really, these leveled areas are just a place to hang out for a while until it’s time to move up to the next level.

Remember those 3 ways to deal with being stuck we talked about a bit ago?

The first is to keep banging away at our problem. Keep at it. Do the work. Put in the time to practice. BOOM all of a sudden your find yourself making gains again. Sometimes, this involves asking for guidance or working on perfecting your form. Whatever your challenge is, you will be better after lots and lots of practice.

The second is giving up, which is sometimes a valid response. We might be too tired to continue working or maybe our frustration is too high to continue safely. This is often where we make negative progress. Our numbers may drop, our times may get slower. Try and remember that ANY work is better than NO work, and that everyone has bad weeks. Persevere through the hard times. That is where reaction #3 comes in...

Our third choice is to try taking a break from the cause of our frustration. We are momentarily defeated, but we shouldn’t let it keep us from trying again. Work on different movements for a while, and come back to your challenging activity with a clear head and conquering attitude. Maybe this involves doing some research, or just clearing our mind, but this is a great technique for when we hit those walls. It’s that break, the ability to approach a situation with fresh eyes that can sometimes make all the difference.

No matter what your reaction is try to keep it all in perspective. Think back to that first workout and how hard every movement was and how even the vocabulary may have confused you! Compare that to where you are now, weeks, months, or even years later. It may feel like you are standing still, but when you look at the larger timeline of your fitness journey, you will see how far you have come. YOU will realize that all the progress that everyone has been telling you that you are making, REALLY is true.

Next time you feel stuck, remember it’s a natural part of the journey. Then stop and take a moment to look behind you.

Remember where you started, take pride in how far you’ve come, and then keep going.