You’ve just started a new fitness routine, where you are running more and increasing mileage, as well boosting endurance and speed. Or, let’s say you’ve decided to channel your inner yogi and learn more flow sequences to reduce stress and increase flexibility. Or maybe you’re trying group fitness, streaming live HIIT or boxing workouts in your home with others or hitting up a fun class outdoors!
Either way, you are doing something new and hoping to see some fitness gains. But you might be wondering just how long it takes to get better at running or how long it might be to flow naturally into Warrior 2 pose without stumbling or slipping on your mat.
So, if you need some tips for tracking progress and handling your expectations (to avoid any disappointment and unrealistic hopes, too!), here’s what experts have to say.
First of all, it’s about tracking!
“The bottom line is that progress only occurs when you’re able to increase your endurance. Whether it’s weight training or cardio will make a difference in how you measure progress,” says Caleb Backe, CPT and expert for Maple Holistics.
“If you’re doing cardio, it’s through heart rate, whereas weight training would be through weight loading or additional reps and withstanding the extra pressure,” he says. If you don’t measure your progress, you’re unlikely to see gains because you don’t know to what degree you need to improve. Measuring progress measures improvement, so figure out how best to keep track—via watch, app, diary, or other methods.
A trainer will make note of where you start, where your progress goes as you work together, and your goals to work towards. You can use watches, like Garmins and Apple, to track your runs and get some metrics on your pace. The more data you have, the more you can visibly see your progress happen.
How long to see progress in general?
Progress in general happens when you are consistently moving forward with your fitness goals.
“This can be measured in a BUNCH of ways; maybe you’re looking to improve your 5k time, so visual progress is improving on that time or improving on intervals to get you closer to that,” says Kat Wiersum, Interval Instructor at Studio Three in Chicago. Maybe your goal is to lift heavier weights, where slowly over time, the weight you are at will start to feel more and more accessible and then you can step up from there.
Sometimes, your goal is less tangible. Let’s say you want to feel better or more energetic. “This can be gauged via trial and error; what workouts make you feel amazing after? What make you feel drained? Noticing how your body feels can help you tap into your benchmarks and then see progress from there,” says Wiersum.
“I view progress as any step that gets you feeling better, looking better, moving better; whatever your personal goal is, if you are creeping towards it, you are making progress,” she says.
How long until you see your endurance boost?
The speed at which you see progress is highly individualized and depends on multiple factors.
“Nevertheless, in most cases, consistent practice combined with overload (aka increasing speed, distance, reps, or weight) can allow you to see improvements within mere weeks,” says Backe.
“The basic rule is that you should start to notice physical changes within a month, and those around you should notice them within two or three months,” he says. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule but is more of a gauge to encourage you to be patient with your fitness journey, though! It is unique to you and what you put into it, as well as what training you’re doing.
How long does it take to get better at running?
Once again, when it comes to running the progress you will see is individualized.
“If you’re running daily and pushing further each day, you should notice that you’re able to run further without as much exertion within a rather short period of time,” says Backe. This could be a week or two.
That being said, most people plateau at a certain point unless they consistently push themselves both in terms of distance and speed.
“The problem is that once you’re running an hour with ease, most people simply don’t have the time to push themselves further than that and therefore cap their progress,” he says. This is one of the reasons why a running schedule should be combined with strength training to ensure that your muscles are being pushed both through cardio and weight training.
And consider what “better” means to you.
“Better can mean faster, it can mean you feel better while running, it can mean more endurance; so many options. Running progress is generally not going to feel fast; it can take weeks to months to years to move consistency forward depending on how often you run, how far, and what your goals are,” says Wiersum.
“For me, it took about 4-6 months of consistent training before I saw some real marked improvement in my speed. My biggest gauge now is how I feel; every time I run a distance I’ve done before, say a 5K, and it feels just a little easier, just a little less scary, that is progress to me,” she says.
That comes best by being consistent with training and really listening to and being familiar with your body cues and how your body is feeling after every run.
How long does it take to get better at yoga?
Again, too, better in yoga can mean more flexible, more comfortable, better balance, better understanding of the practice, and more. There are tons of ways to measure progress.
Your flexibility is dependent on many factors, which means that some will see progress in a few days of starting yoga while others will only see progress over weeks or months of regular practice, says Backe.
“Those who fully engage in the practice, beyond its physical exertion, honing in on their breathing and staying present, are likely to see quicker results as they breathe into the stretches and fully enjoy the practice,” he says.
If you notice you always use to lose your balance in tree pose, but lately have been feeling more stable, then that’s great progress!
“If you never go for the more advanced pose option in a yoga class, maybe time to try it out. As a general whole, if you feel like you go for the same options every time, maybe change it up and see if you can maybe hold just a moment longer in your balance, or stretch just a little further in downward dog,” says Wiersum.
Set a “PR,” no matter the sport!
A PR is when a person sets a “personal record,” and this can look like the most amount of weight you can deadlift, the fastest you can run a mile, the fastest you can run a marathon, or the longest you can hold a plank, for example.
“In order to find your PR, you have to challenge yourself consistently to find that point that you can’t go past (yet!). If you always use 10 lb weights for a class, and you always feel like those movements are comfortable/easy to you, then you are ready to progress. If you picked up 20 lb weights and they felt impossible then you know that you land somewhere in between those 10 and 20 lb weights,” says Wiersum.
You can add more reps to those lighter weights to add challenge, too. You can pick up slightly heavier weights (12 or 15) and stay at the same reps. Up to you! Check in on your form. Is your form perfect? If it isn’t, there is progress to be made in that department, too.
“Every person is starting from somewhere different; the easy weights to you might feel impossible to someone next to you and that’s okay! This is where tracking your workouts or progress via a trainer, instructor, or on your own can be valuable,” says Wiersum. “Even just writing in a note in your phone the weights you tend to grab and how they feel or how it feels to grab something heavier,” she says.
Change measured by body composition
Body progress can be measured a ton of ways.
“If you are looking to lose weight, that can be a tangible sign of progress. Maybe you want to feel more energetic, or sleep better, or alleviate some muscle pain. Any incremental positive change on those categories can be measured as progress,” says Wiersum.
Progress does not have to look like losing weight or picking up something heavier every single time you workout. Progress is also not linear; one day, something might feel great and you might move up, one day it might feel too challenging and you can dial back to somewhere that feels good that day. You can measure progress over a year, over a month, over a week, over a day, over an hour. There are endless ways to frame it.