Learn to Expect What, Not When

Justin Lind


Kettlebells, Gymnastics, CrossFit


It’s 1-rep max testing day, the day of the big race, or any other day when the time comes to test and measure your progress. But yet, you don’t hit that coveted PR, beat your best time, or cross a threshold that you’ve been focused on the last phase of your training. Worse yet, perhaps you did push your best forward but not as far forward as you anticipated. In either scenario, you leave disappointed and disheartened. You question what you did wrong, whether all that work was worth it, or if you’ll ever improve.


This all seems a bit over-dramatic, but as an athlete, I’ve fallen victim to this deep discontent and as a coach I’ve watched it happen more times than I can count.



In reality, your work has paid off, you are stronger/better/faster. The true blame for your disappointment lays in your expectations.


The age-old adage tells us that discontent comes only from expectations and attachment to those expected results. In other words, what happened has happened, you have performed how you performed, perhaps it marked improvement or not, but your discontent comes from the gap between your desired outcome and the actual outcome.


Forget the Ancient Wisdom and Keep Your Expectations

While rigid attachment to any worldly factor never serves you, this is not a lesson to release your expectations.


Expectations are in fact what drives fitness. No one enters into any training (or other) journey expecting to remain where they are. Fitness is about moving forward. Expectations provide the allure to pull you hence from your present reality.


Own your expectations. Meditate on your expectations. But, you must release your vice-like grip on them alter your understanding of how progress comes.


Learn to Expect What, Not When - Fitness, personal growth, training plan, personal record, competition training


Let’s examine the ever-elusive personal record—the proxy for progress. We use the PR as a measuring tool that gives concrete feedback about how we are improving. As anyone who has committed to any style of training can attest, PR’s rarely arrive when we expect them to, and even less so when we want them to.


PR’s feel ethereal, a seemingly random blessing from the deity or cosmic force of your choosing.


Does this mean that we should release our expectations of their arrival? No, it certainly does not—you should absolutely expect to improve. You should expect to achieve new levels of ability. These are the aims of training.



Expect the “What,” Not the “When”

Expectations only turn sour when attaching a “when” to a particular date. You can expect a new PR, you’re just never privy to when it will arrive.


Every rep of every session makes you better. Progress comes in a continuous upward line. PR’s are benchmarks, a stair-stepping line imposed over your continual progress arc. You are a mountain climber who cannot see the summit until she pulls over the edge. You are not strong enough for the next PR until the moment that you are. Each step the mountain climber takes brings her closer to the summit.


Back to our disappointment scenario from the beginning. If our discontented lifter approached their session with the expectation that eventually (and probably soon) their progress would show itself in exciting ways, a perfectly productive session would be just that, no disappointment to follow. This process applies far more broadly than with fitness and can seem even more mystical without the invaluable concrete measures of success.


After authoring hundreds of articles (here and elsewhere), I can attest that I have no idea which words will strike me or the reader the deepest. As a rock climber, the days when I finally climb a more difficult route grade feel entirely random. As a creative, passionate, competent, yet highly amateur chef, I have no idea which new dishes will knock my socks off, or further yet the socks of my loved ones.


Don't Forego Your Expectations

The lesson in all of this is not to forego expectations. I know that I am becoming a better writer, stronger climber, and a more competent chef with each effort. I just never know when the outward measures of success will show themselves.


Show up and work hard every day. Know, truly know, that you are improving all the time. Releasing expectations for when each stair-step of measured progress will arrive makes them all that much sweeter when they finally do.

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