How Long Does Improvement Take?

I’ve Always Wondered…

What improving fitness means. I know I’ve become stronger, faster, and more mobile over the last few years. I don’t have any way to quantify my improvement, other than improved times on similar workouts or increased load in some of my lifts.

I started searching this week to see if there were any studies or data that quantify what it takes to improve. I ran across a company called Beyond the Whiteboard (BTW). BTW is an electronic workout journal. Started in 2006, BTW now have somewhere around 65,000 users. Their users logged over 1 million workouts on the site. So, they hold an plenty of data.

Crunching the Numbers

BTW published an article on their blog with analyses of their data to determine how long it takes an individual to improve their fitness.  Lets explore what they have to say.

Fitness Level

BTW needs a number to measure fitness of individuals against, so they developed something called the “Fitness Level” (FL). Fitness Level is a snapshot of how fit an athlete is at any given time based on things ranging from weights on olympic lifts to times on specific workouts (relative to the other 65,000 peoples).

A complete novice would be a 0 and an elite athlete would be a 100 on the FL.

Improving Our Fitness Levels

BTW found that for levels 20 to about 80 it takes on average around 5 months to move one’s FL up by 10 points. Lets assume an athlete starts at a level 20. It would take around 15 months to get to a level 50 (more advanced than about 50% of other athletes).

To move from level 50 to level 80 takes about 19 months and then things get pretty tough. Getting from an 80 to a 90 takes about 8 months according to BTW. This is about one and a half times longer than it takes to get from a level 70 to a level 80. To get to a 95 would take another 6 months and put an athlete into an elite class.

BTW’s data makes sense to me. This concept is broadly discussed. As we tackle new challenges we see improvement quickly in the beginning (after we climb the learning curve) and then our progress starts to slow as we become better. To advance our skills from a high level to a higher level is more difficult than it was when we were starting out.

*Note: BTW talks about nutrition and sleep briefly in their post, but doesn’t go into training volume or training type.  I would imagine that to push past level 70, one would need to add volume, become more methodical/specific with their training, and dial their nutrition and sleep in.  It would not be a factor of time solely at that level.

What’s This Mean For Us?

Two things specifically:

1. If we give the average effort, we can expect the average results. If an athlete works out 3 times per week (about average for our member base), that athlete can expect to move their fitness level 10 points every 6 months. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with that either! I’d just like to stress working out 2 or 3 times a week won’t make a person an elite athlete in 6 months. Being a FL 70 takes some serious time and work.

2. This model won’t hold for everybody. If someone were to put in more than the average amount of effort do you think they would see average results? Probably not.

Take A Look At Your Expectations

What is it that you expect from your hard work in the gym?  If we create a clear picture of our expectations then we can look at our actions to get an idea of where we’re at.  Use all your classes each week?  Meet with the coaches for a nutrition check in, apply the principles, and clean up the diet a little?  If you answered yes to those, that’s probably about average, and the BTW model is a good clue to how quickly you’ll improve.

Go above and beyond the average, and you could see improvement come more rapidly.

This workout might move the fitness level up a point of two!

The O-Board Says…

22 – 1 Arm KB Thruster
200m Waiter Carry w/ KB (1 arm/100m)
200m Rack Carry w/ KB (1 arm/100m
18 – 1 Arm KB Thruster
100m Bear Crawl
100m Walking Lunge
14 – 1 Arm KB Thruster
100m Farmer Carry (1 arm)
100m Farmer Carry (other arm)

Posted by: Stets