Concentrate on the small wins and the big wins will take care of themselves.


bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something, especially water.
“floodwaters overwhelmed hundreds of houses” synonyms:
swamp, submerge, engulf, bury, deluge, flood, inundate; More

have a strong emotional effect on.
“I was overwhelmed with guilt” synonyms:
overcome, move, stir, affect, touch, impress, sweep someone off their feet, strike, stun, make emotional, dumbfound, shake, disturb, devastate, take aback, daze, spellbind, dazzle, floor, leave speechless, take someone’s breath away, stagger; More

When we look towards something like the future and our goals that seem so far away it can be very easy to think that these things are way beyond our own capabilities, to drown in a sense of overwhelm and to just decide action is pointless and to give up. When it comes to training or working towards the bigger picture staying in the game and working is the single biggest thing you can do to help make sure you are successful in the long run.

I have written recently about the importance of being consistent and how it is the most important variable in your own training. The point of this article is not to get dragged into the same blue sky thinking it’s to actually get into the nitty-gritty of how you can become more able to stick to the boring drudgery that is the process of getting better at anything. A good couple of books to check out in this space are GRIT by Angela Duckwoth and ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear.

As the saying goes a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. When it comes to improving in training (you can, of course, add this to any aspect of business or life) is to take the small wins and to improve on the micro level on everything you can. You can look for progress in so many aspects of your training life and they will all add up to you becoming a better athlete or lifter.

Taking the wins in training.

Probably the most important area to start looking for little areas where you can improve or trying to get more success out of your training, is to actually break down the wins in Training.

So many times I have walked away from a session thinking that was great because we got x, y, and z. And in complete contrast, the athlete or lifter has walked away deflated and less motivated because they have walked away thinking I didn’t do X the one thing I wanted to do this workout or I did manage to do X but it wasn’t perfect so that was a waste of time and energy.

When you have one eye on the bigger picture and the other eye on your training session then you get a better perspective of where you are headed and how your performances are stacking up in line with your long term aims. Lets say for instance you are 16 weeks out from your next competition and you squat a 15kg personal best but you were above parrallel. We can look at it in two lights

Option 1 – That rep didn’t count it was sky high. I can’t squat to depth what am I even doing, this training block was a waste of time I am shit at squatting.

Option 2 – I am happy to have squatted a heavier load it wasn’t to competition standard but I have lots of time to tidy that up. I kept my brace and back position well during that set I just need to add to that now by taking it down to depth going forward.

How you frame things makes a big difference too how you can take them forward. Both are reactions to the same outcome but both have many different effects. Option 1 will make you feel defeated, lacking in motivation and a sense of hopelessness. Option 2 will let you accept the positives of what you have achieved while being realistic and honest of what you need to do going forward to make it better, it will reinvigorate you with a new challenge and another chance to get better.

What follows are some but by no means all of the wins you can take out of your training.

Some Objective Wins

This is where taking a log of your training becomes incredibly important (well one of the places where keeping a log is important) you can look back month to month, week to week, session to session, set to set and even rep to rep to pick out trends and look for how your performance is trending.

  • Lifting more weight for a number of reps. This is normally the only metric that people utilize as a measure of progression and for some, it’s only the amount of weight they can lift for one rep. Whilst for powerlifting this is the most important factor we are trying to improve it is not even close to being the only one.
  • Lifting the same weight for more reps. If you are lifting loads you used to be only able to do for 3, for 4 or 5 reps you are getting stronger no debate. This is another good yardstick to see if you are improving.
  • Lifting the same weight better. If you are managing to lift a weight that beforehand your form broke down with but with less or no form break down then you have objectively improved.
  • Lifting with improved bar speed – you can measure this using video analysis or better with a device such as a push band or gym aware. When you can see that you are lifting the same intensity at a better bar speed you are objectively getting better.
  • More volume at an intensity (in a session, week or month) – managing more reps or sets at a given intensity is an objective sign that your strength or work capacity has improved. Both of which will help lead to improved top end strength.

Some Subjective Wins

By being a bit more in-depth with your logs and using it as a bit of a journaling outlet you can also reflect on things that aren’t as easy to measure but are just as important to the training process such as mindset and psychology.

  • Dealt with the pressure better – it can be a competition, top set or an AMRAP set and you might have come up with the same or even a worse result but you equipped yourself better at least giving yourself the best opportunity on the day to come out on top.
  • Less anxiety before a big session or meet – dealing with anxiety or stress around lifting is a very important and under-acknowledged or developed quality. Being mindful of it and working on it can be huge for your long term development.
  • The weight felt easier – you may have repeated the same work out like last week and you don’t have any objective data to back your assertion up. But just by how it feels you can often tell how you are doing.
  • I was less rushed and executed on the plan – a big factor to people having poor performances or lifting with poor technique is them a) not having a defined plan of action and b) rushing through their execution because of external or internal pressures. By slowing yourself down and executing the way you want to execute you increase your chances of becoming a better lifter by some margin.
  • Dealt with failure to reach my target in a mature and constructive manner – you are going to fail and you are going to fall short on your goals more than once in your lifting career. How you deal with them is a massive part of being the best kind of athlete or lifter you can be. If you take it on the chin and accept it for what it is and use it as a learning opportunity you will go far. If you let it frustrate you and annoy you into taking divergent and rash actions then you will become disheartened and downtrodden.

Some Peripheral Wins

A lot of training, recovery and adaptation comes from what we do on a day to day basis and isn’t just bound to how we train in the gym and perform on the platform. By taking care of the things around your lifestyle then you are really helping to set the platform for a more successful environment for your training and meaningful task.

  • Getting in your 8 hours of sleep more often than not – when it comes to recovery your secret weapon is sleep. During periods of hard training, you might need 9-11 hours of sleep to really help you recover as you will be inducing lots of fatigue both central and peripheral. If you are getting in a good volume of sleep you will feel a lot better in life never mind training.
  • Getting in good quality sleep – some of us just can’t get the quantity of sleep we need due to life and work commitments that is what it is. However, we can work to increase the quality of that sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene we can put ourselves in a better position to recover during the sleep we are getting.
  • Hitting your calorie targets on the big picture – when you look back at a week or month if you are hitting your calorie target on 5/7 days you will trend towards what you are looking to achieve. If you are looking to lose weight and you are in a net deficit from hitting your target 80% of the time you will be trending in the way you want to go. The same goes for gaining weight (surplus) and recovery (surplus on training days).
  • Hitting your protein targets in the big picture – as above if you are hitting your protein target (1.8-2.2g per KG of bodyweight) then you will be putting yourself in a better place to succeed.
  • Doing something on your down days to help you feel better for your heavy days – going for a swim, stretch or getting a massage are all things you can do on rest days to aid your body’s recovery process. Something as simple as staying active or going for a walk on a recovery day instead of sitting on your ass playing world of warcraft can have measurable improvements on your performance.
  • Taking time to just switch off or to focus on something that isn’t related to your goal – sometimes just taking the weekend to put your phone away, stay the fuck away from competitions or training and just spending time doing things that are fun and don’t involve thinking or planning your training can really help you to feel refreshed and ready to get stuck into another week of training.

Main Takeaways

  • If you want to develop a long successful training career you need to adopt a positive and constructive outlook on your training.
  • Looking for little wins in your training of any kind is very motivating and helps you to stay on the right track.
  • By looking for things to improve upon on where you are improving you are way more likely to compound good habits which will have massive observable and measurable improvements on your performance on the long term.

Leave a Reply