Always strive to add another rep, or a pound to the bar or another second to the length of the set!!!
You will have heard similar things. The gurus shout at us and encourage us to try harder to push more to seek improvement and growth at every opportunity. Nietzsche is invoked as we strive ever harder to get better, stronger, bigger. I've probably done the same thing myself - urged you to push for that extra rep that next rung on the ladder.
Well I am tired of it. Maybe it is my age or other things going on in my life, but at the moment I am tired with trying to improve. I just want to keep where I am.
Maintenance is progress
I was thinking about training and exercise today in the context of the rest of life. "Life" as the big stuff - lifetimes, relationships, death, decline and age. With that in the background I was struck with the idea that as we get older, simply staying where we are is progress.
Whatever we do we are getting older. Time is marching on. The trend is for performance to decline, muscle to atrophy, joints to stiffen and become less mobile. (Alex Hutchison has some great posts on this)
Faced with that inevitable decline, simply to remain where you are is relative progress. 50 pushups at age 25 and 50 at age 50 is not stagnation and lack of progress, it is wonderful and inspirational progress. At 32" waist at age 30 and a 32" waist 20 years later is victory and improvement!
I sometimes think that my fitness, physique or strength has stagnated. But, as I look around at age 45 at my peers, maybe staying where I was is the most impressive element as they tend to get fatter, weaker and less mobile?
Returning to the norm
This idea of just keeping where you are might seem a bit defeatist, but there are probably simple things that you used to do that you can no longer achieve. I'm not thinking about the 400lb squat that you achieved after years of programming and progression. What about the simple things like crawling, squatting or rolling on the floor? Maintaining those skills as we age is not just progress but potentially life saving.