A couple weeks ago in an email, I raised the question “are you in progress mode or maintenance mode?” This resonated with you…big time. To have your situation identified so blatantly shone light on your current habits in relation to your goals. It’s startling and humbling all at once. Most of you said you are in progress mode, but behave like you are in maintenance mode.
Ok, first of all, if you missed this conversation because you’re not on my email list, go here to sign up. I make these emails worth your time, believe me.
But, what am I talking about? Progress Mode vs. Maintenance Mode? To understand this concept you need to begin with a clear understanding of your goals.
What are your goals?
1. Do you want to change your body? Do you want to get leaner and feel more toned? Do you want to lose bodyfat? Do you want to fit into a smaller jeans size or finally put a swimsuit on without being embarrassed?
If a body composition change (fat mass : lean muscle mass ratio) is what you’re seeking, then you are in Progress Mode. Changing equals progress.
2. Do you want to change your performance and physical capabilities? Maybe your body's shape is not a big deal to you, but you want to run faster, jump higher, do more push-ups, do the splits, or nail a handstand.
You’re still hoping to see physical progress, so your mindset should be in Progress Mode.
3. Are you content with your current situation? Do you feel comfortable with the way your clothes fit and how your body performs? Are you satisfied with your present level of effort and the results? Do you feel like you’ve reached your summit for now, the top of your mountain, regardless of how tall your mountain actually is (which can be vastly different for everybody)?
If this feels like you, then you are in Maintenance Mode.
For some people, they reach Maintenance Mode when they feel like all their goals are fully met. Or they reach it when they can no longer expend the effort necessary to be in Progress Mode. Circumstances can quickly change and maintenance is all you’ve got. That’s ok.
You should have a good idea of what mode you're in. So how should these two modes look different?
Progress Mode involves clear boundaries and strong discipline. If you want to see progress, you can’t wing it. You have to have a plan in place, and then follow that plan come hell or high water.
With nutrition, it means that you are about 85-90% obedient to your healthy eating habits. You only splurge or deviate from the rules 10-15% of the time. For someone eating 4-5 meals every day, 7 days a week, this is splurging only 3-4 times. That’s it. (But these splurges are planned, fully enjoyed and totally worth it.)
With exercise, it means that you are doing purposeful workouts at least two times per week. You can absolutely see change with only two workouts per week, especially if they’re the right workouts. But this, of course, is the bare minimum to see some sort of progress. Major progress happens with about 4-5 planned workouts every week.
And if you have performance goals, your workouts should be moving you in that specific direction. You can't have goals to be a faster runner and fail to include speed work and strength training in your routine. (By the way, here are some more ideas if you're a runner.)
Maintenance Mode still involves boundaries and discipline. But it’s more relaxed. The path is wider and things feel looser. There’s a feeling of contentment, but there is a threshold that you’re staying above to ensure good health and true maintenance (otherwise you'll digress!).
With nutrition, it means that you are sticking to your good, healthy eating habits 75-80% of the time. So if you’re eating 4-5 meals every day, 7 days a week, you are splurging about 6 or 7 times. So perhaps one small splurge daily (like a nightly bowl of ice cream), or a couple splurges during the week and a few meals on the weekend.
With exercise, it means that you are doing lots of planned workouts, but if you miss one for whatever reason, it’s not a big deal. You’re averaging about 3-5 good, intense workouts each week, or at minimum one workout per week. You’re staying strong and fit, but significant changes aren’t necessarily happening.
I must briefly mention Digress Mode. This is below Maintenance Mode, where there is very minimal discipline and no adherence to a plan. When you are here, you can gain unhealthy weight, you lose muscle mass, and your metabolism and health declines.
With Digress Mode, you eat whatever you want, when you want, and your exercise habits are sporadic, often non-existent.
Many women find themselves bouncing between the two extremes: Digress Mode and very hard Progress Mode.
Why is all this important? Because you might believe that you’re in Progress Mode, but you have Maintenance Mode habits. You’re hoping to see change, but you’re eating and exercising to maintain. And you never realized this.
You want to make progress and see change, but you're eating to maintain. Whoops!
It’s important to wake up to the reality of the situation. Be honest about your goals and be honest with yourself about your current behaviors. If you want to see change and aren’t right now, what do you need to change?
Or maybe life is too intense right now to be on the Progress Mode track. You already have enough stress, and having a rigid nutrition and exercise plan would push you over the edge. Maintenance Mode is the right spot for you, just don’t get discouraged when you don’t see a lot of progress.
When to Stop.
When do you stop progressing? I have been asked this a lot lately. When you have been in Progress Mode for months on end, and have seen fabulous results and feel great, how do you know when to stop? When do you loosen things up and switch to Maintenance Mode?
Ask yourself these questions: are you totally content with where you’re at? Or is there still a twinge of hope in the back of your mind… something that sounds like “I’d really like to fit into a size 6 instead of an 8”. Would you be ok if you paused right where you’re at, or are you curious to see what your body is capable of?
Personally, I tip-toe on the line between Maintenance and Progress. I’m content with the size of my body and the way my clothes fit, but I sometimes get the urge to see what my upper limits are. I want to push it hard and see what I’m capable of…see if I can do some of the things that other strong women are doing. I get inspired to dial it in and feel even leaner, and so I will focus in Progress Mode for a little bit. But then a really busy week of work hits or I hit an emotional patch, and I lean back into Maintenance Mode.
But I have thought about this, and I’m totally ok with maintaining where I’m at. So tip-toeing this line is fine with me. (However, flip-flopping between Progress Mode and Digress Mode is never ok. That's a recipe for disaster.)
Where are you at?
Are you in Progress Mode or Maintenance Mode? Or are you actually in Digress Mode? And where do you want to be? Figure this out, and then let it guide your choices and level of discipline.
If you want to be in Progress Mode, but don't know what to do, the best option for you is the Strong Mommas Membership. I coach you through every aspect of your workouts and nutrition. I'll teach you effective exercises that can be done in very little time. I'll help you revamp your eating habits slowly so you're not overwhelmed. Click here to learn more about the Membership and to join dozens of other women already making major Progress!
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Megan P. Dahlman
Hi friend! I'm a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Wife to Scott, and Mom to two crazy boys, Calvin & Peter. I train hard, eat well, rest just enough to keep going, and do my best to maintain a heavenly perspective. I'd love to coach you to do the same. Cheers!
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