Progress Not Perfection

For all my plans to keep up my fitness journal, I haven’t really been writing much. Back when I was rock climbing, I would make daily entries into my climbing journal. It was easier to track progress against static routes with set grades. I could mark project achievements, like the red point on the my first 7A route.

I haven’t specifically been tracking my current fitness progress. While I do record my stats and make mental notes when my recovery time improves, it’s hardly an exact science. It is especially so for boxing or flycycle because the routines change and my intensity on any given day fluctuates according to how I feel.

I cannot control the variables enough to gauge the magnitude of improvement. There are days when I know don’t pedal as fast, or when I don’t punch the bag as hard. It is all subjective, relative to how I feel – strong, tired, nauseous? I wish I could put a tracker on the bike wheel to measure the distance I’ve covered. I wish I had a sensor on the boxing bag that measures how hard I’ve hit it. If wishes were fishes.

And yes, I know the activity trackers are imprecise. I use the Garmin Fenix 3 which is supposed to be one of the more reliable trackers, but even it is a best guess. Nevertheless, it does provide a set of readings that are consistently inaccurate. It offers a benchmark I can use to compare my future workouts against – better, worse or same? Although, lately, the recordings have been so far off the norm that I am wondering if the watch or the strap is faulty.

Garmin Fenix 3 stats

In the image above, the stats on top show my regular boxing class vs a recent boxing class stats below it. Both classes were about the same level of intensity. Even if my body could have become more efficient at conserving energy, the jump is just too large for it to be possible. That, and the fact that I’ve gotten 0 hours of recovery time after a class where my heart rate hit 200bpm. Yeah, not possible.

Garmin Fenix 3 stats

The same thing has been happening with my flycycle stats. I mean, there are days when I can burn more going about a regular morning – getting the kids ready for school. How is that possible? So, yeah, until I figure out what’s going wrong, I can’t rely on my Garmin stats for now.

Garmin stats aside, I do feel that I have made gains during the weights segment in flycycle. When I first stated, I used the grey weights – 1kg. When I started training for Spartan, I upped the weights to the purples ones – 1.5kg. Initially, I couldn’t make it through the set without dropping my arms. I wondered briefly about the wisdom of using the purple weights, but I stuck with them. Now I find that I can usually get all the way through the set without dropping my arms, unless it is a particularly hard set.

Since I started personal training with Fitness Achievers, my PT has been taking my measurements at periodic stages to track muscle gains and fat loss. There has been no shift in body weight, but a definite change in body profile – increase muscle mass and decrease body fat. Although this was never really the goal – well, indirectly, it is since I wanted to be stronger – I am certainly not unhappy about the pleasant side effect.

Fitness training stats
Fitness training stats

The real goal was to successfully complete on upper body obstacle at the Spartan Beast race in July. I wasn’t really sure how well I was tracking against that goal until we went to EnergX in MyTown Shopping Mall. EnergX has a section designed to mimic the Ninja Warrior course but much, much easier. We went there just to mess around and take pictures, but along the way, I got to test my monkey bar skills.

One of the obstacles was a sort of vertical zig zag monkey bars. It comprised of three segments with bars that were thicker than your average playground monkey bar. The first segment slopes up slightly. The second segment slopes down and up like a V-shape and has thicker bars (I think about as thick as the real Spartan Monkey Bars). The third segment slopes down and has the same thickness as the first segment.

EnegX Ninja Warrior

The video was not my best effort, but it is the only video I have. On my first attempt, I made it to the end of the first segment and then fell off trying to get to the second segment. My subsequent attempts were no better. Eventually, after a break and some fun, I came back to it and managed to get past the gap to the second segment only to fall off halfway because my hands were slipping.

When I think back about it, I feel that the strength is there. Would I be able to cover the distance of a Spartan Monkey Bar? I don’t know because my limiting factors are lack of experience and my hands.

When I talk about experience, I’m referring to that understanding your body has when it needs to move from one bar to the next. Negotiating from one bar to the next one that is located higher than the bar you’re hanging from – that takes more understanding than the regular monkey bars at the playground. As I hung from the first bar for the first time, I could feel the uncertainty plaguing my mind even before I made a move. Could I make it? And this triggers a whole new set of problems…

As I hang uncertainly from the bar, my hands and arms are fatiguing and my palms are getting sweaty and slippery. This is the real problem with my hands – they sweat. Like a lot. Almost all the time. It’s worse when I’m nervous. All I have to do is think about negotiating the monkey bars and my hands will start sweating. It doesn’t help that the best gloves I can find are all fingerless. As I start to slip off the bars, the only parts holding on are mostly my fingers which are exposed and sweaty.

When I was rock climbing, I could around this by using chalk to dry my hands. Unfortunately, I can’t use chalk for this because I’m not strong enough to hang on one hand while I chalk my other hand. Or can I?

I shared this problem with my PT who suggested I wear rubber gloves. Now why didn’t I think about that? Sure it would look ridiculous but who cares if it works? So that’s the plan for now. I’ll let you know how that goes after I test it out on the EnergX monkey bars.

The other limiting factor about my hands is that I haven’t been building my callouses. It didn’t take very many tries on the bars at EnergX before my hands started to hurt – like really hurt. I might have to schedule some regular practice on the monkey bars in the playground just to get those callouses.

Moving forward, I need to:

  • continue building upper body strength since extra strength would definitely make things easier.
  • figure out a workable solution for my sweaty palms.
  • practice on the monkey bars at the playground to build my callouses.
  • practice on EnergX or any place that has special monkey bars or multi-rig or any such obstacles like that.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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