by Brent Hearn •
Slow and steady wins the race.
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
The trees that are slow to grow, bear the best fruit.
Are you sensing a theme here? If you’ve ever begun a new hobby, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with the frustration of what your current skill level is (likely not great since you’re a beginner) versus where you want it to be (the absolute best that’s ever been, preferably immediately.). Whether you’re a crafting novice trying your hand at origami or a sofa spud who’s finally decided to kick things into gear fitness-wise, it’s in our human nature to strive. For many of us, being good at it isn’t enough; we want to be good at it right now.
This doesn’t just hold true for beginners. If you’ve reached a certain level of mastery in the past, it can be very tempting to try to pick up right where you left off, putting the proverbial pedal to the metal.
A word of advice? Don’t.
There’s a reason that so many achievement-related quotes contain the word “slow.” Well, there are several, actually.
Injury Prevention and Safety
With some activities, the side effects of a zero-to-sixty-in-no-time-flat approach might be negligible. (Newbie origamists might deal with a bit of joint stiffness and a few paper cuts, for instance.) But with fitness pursuits, the consequences can be decidedly more serious.
For instance, pushing too fast and too hard with your resistance training could lead to strains and tears in muscles, ligaments, and/or tendons. Go too hard, too fast with endurance training, and you might find yourself with shin splints or stress fractures. None of these outcomes are fun, and all can lead to time off from training.
There are also serious cardiovascular risks to trying to progress too quickly. The American Heart Association found that almost 40% of cardiac events during triathlons occurred in first-time competitors, indicating inadequate training or previously underlying heart issues. Slow, methodical training might help prevent such problems or at least help reveal them before the heart was put under undue duress. In short? Taking it slow and steady can reduce the risk of blowing out that beautiful, blood-pumping engine of yours.
Our bodies are just made for slow and steady improvement, and it all comes back to the whole slow and steady thing. (Aesop’s tortoise knew what it was talking about.) Overuse and overload only tend to aggravate and inflame the instrument you’re trying to sharpen. Your body is the most valuable piece of sporting equipment you own. It’s also the only one you’re ever going to have, so be kind to it.
Whether it’s a slightly faster run, a couple of pounds added on the bar, or a few seconds added to the duration of a stretch, smaller increments are more conducive to habit formation. It’s simple if you think about it. If you’re injured, you can’t work out. If you can’t work out, you can’t make a habit of working out. Habit is what takes your fitness from fad to lifestyle. Find something you enjoy doing, be patient with your improvement (and sometimes lack thereof), and compare your results to your goals—not anyone else’s.