22 Fitness Milestones to Mark Your Journey From Chump to Champ

This post is heavily inspired by Corbett Barr’s great article over on ThinkTraffic.net. I couldn’t help but think how a similar article based around fitness milestones would work well for Nerd Fitness (with some Super Mario Bros. thrown in there).

As Corbett explained in his post, everybody’s journey will be different.  If I left something out or you think I put things out of order, let me know in the comments!

Level 1-1, Start! (Here we go!)

1. You lose your first pound. You step on the scale after a few days of eating less and you’re down a pound, headed in the right direction for the first time in your life!  Hopefully you don’t celebrate by eating everything off the dollar menu at Wendy’s.

2. You prepare your your first healthy meal. After realizing that it actually was pretty good and saved you some money, you decide to bring your lunch in to work at least two times a week instead of fast food.  Somewhere, the Burger King silently weeps.

3. You walk your first mile. Dusting the cobwebs off your old running shoes, you head out for a walk around your block and make it a whole mile without stopping.  Sure you were huffing a puffing along the way and you got passed by a kid on a tricycle, but it’s a start.  You take note to start the couch to 5k program.

4.  You do your first set of 5 push ups. Using the success and confidence from your first few weeks of weight loss, you’ve worked your way up to five whole push ups and that distant pipedream (get it? Mario? Pipe? ZING!) of 20 in a row no longer seems impossible.

5. You tighten your belt a few notches. You put on your favorite pair of jeans and realize that your belt is now two loops farther over from where it started.  Take that, pants!

First mushroom (Yahoo! Big Mario!)

6. You get your first “hey, did you lose weight?” comment, and DAMN it feels good. “Thanks, Marcia from Accounting!  I HAVE lost weight, thanks for noticing.”  You reside on cloud 9 for the rest of the day, even after getting yelled at for not putting cover sheets on your TPS reports.

7. You run in your first 5k, and survive. Who cares that you lost to an 80 year old grandmother pushing a stroller with two grandkids in it.  You signed up for a race, you trained for it, and then you did it.  You briefly entertain the thought of sabotaging future grandmothers pushing strollers before deciding to just train harder next time.

8. You buy new clothes. Your shirts now feel two sizes too big, and your pants keep falling down!  You drop your old clothes off at Goodwill and make the trip over to the mall for a whole new wardrobe, punching one of the ‘real life mannequins’ at Abercrombie & Fitch in the face while you’re there.

9. You finally stop drinking soda for good. It took you two months of weening yourself off that daily case of Mountain Dew, but you’re at the point now where you water actually sounds like a good idea to you.  Sure you’ll have the occasional Jack and Coke on the weekends, but other than that, soda is a distant afterthought.

10. You sign up for your company’s softball team/Ultimate Frisbee team/running club. You’re no longer ashamed of your body and start exercising with other people that you know.  You might still end up at the end of the lineup or back of the pack, but damnit you’re having fun.

Hit by your first enemy (Booo, back to little Mario)

11. You hit a weight-loss plateau. Despite an great week of eating healthy and running, you step on the scale and see the same damn number you saw last week!  WTF, mate?

12.  A friend of yours has already lost more weight than you in half the time. You start to blame your poor genetics and/or assume he took a shortcut (when in reality you have no idea how hard he’s trained or how clean his diet has become).

13. You get hurt and can’t exercise for two weeks. You twist an ankle when you play Wii Tennis with a little too much intensity, and the doctor says “no exercise until you recover.”  Damn!  All of that hard work and momentum comes to a screeching halt.  Oh well, at least you’re still eating well, right?

14. You have a bad week of eating. Crap.  A destination wedding, vacation with college buddies, or a trip with your kids to Grandma’s for the week means TONS of bad food.  Back home, you step on the scale while covering your eyes, afraid of what you’ll see.

Fire-Flower time (Back on track, picking up steam…)

15. You mix things up. Up to this point, you’ve been counting calories (instead of paying attention to the quality of your calories) and only jogging for your workouts.  After the wake-up call from your previous bad week of vacation, you step it up a notch – You adopt a healthier diet of mostly lean meats, veggies, fruits, and nuts, and you start putting serious effort into legitimate weight training and interval training.

16. You do a pull up. You struggle, sweat, and squirm your way until your chin is above the bar before dropping like a sack of hammers to the floor.  When you recover twenty minutes later, you realize that you just lifted your entire body weight off the ground and over the bar!  If Chuck Norris was presented, he would have started a slow clap for you, before roundhouse-kicking a criminal in the face.

17. You buy a new bathing suit and can’t wait to show it off. No more t-shirts in the pool for you!  You have a weekend beach trip coming up and for the first time in your life you’re excited about it.  Tickets to the gun show are free, ladies!

18. You hit a big weight milestone. 100 pounds lost, 30% of your body weight, etc.  Whatever that big number was in your head, you’re actually THERE.  Now, instead of focusing on the scale, you’re solely focused on getting stronger and faster.  Big day.

Star Power (It’s go time!)

19. People start to ask YOU for advice. Bob from IT wants to know if he’s doing push ups properly, Linda from Reception asks you questions about eating healthy, and your Dad emails you with questions on how to get rid of his beer gut.

20.  You can see your abs. Holy crap, they exist!  It’s taken months/years of hard work in the gym, a dedicated approach to your diet, and time for the extra skin around your gut to tighten up, but that six pack of abs is finally starting to pop out.  “Giddy” hardly describes your disposition these days.

21.  You get seriously excited about exercising daily. Bench pressing your body weight, deadlifting twice your weight, doing 10 pull ups in a row, running a 5k in under 20 minutes, and so on.  It’s weird, but now for some reason you can’t WAIT to exercise each day.  You’ve been transformed into a completely different person.  Optimus Prime would be proud.

22. You look back at an old picture of you and don’t even recognize yourself. You stumble through some old pictures of yourself on Facebook and your jaw drops.  Looking at pictures of yourself feels like looking at pictures of a different person.  In many ways, it is.

Where you at?

So, where are you on your journey?  What milestones do you look for?  Did I mix up the order on any of these?

Let me know in the comments!


photo source


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40 thoughts on “22 Fitness Milestones to Mark Your Journey From Chump to Champ

  1. Great post. It was really interesting to nod along as I went down the list.

    The only thing I think is out of order is #2. Jogging a mile for people out of shape doesn't come easily and I definitely don't think it's the second milestone (which is why couch to 5k is so popular). For me, it was closer to #15 (although I have yet to do #7) but I've never been a runner and started at a really heavy weight.

    But now I'm firmly at #19 and it's really kind of an odd experience. I started a running club at work and just last night I ran through the beginner body weight work out with a woman at work that wanted to learn some new exercises.

    I've still got a long way to go and some of those milestones will be repeated, but I think you've nailed a good portion of the journey and the experiences that come with it.

  2. Oh yeah, this article is awesome! I would say though that there comes a time for everyone when star power can run out and you find yourself being a vulnerable little Mario again. Gotta pick back up and grind (where I am currently), there's surely another star up ahead somewhere!

    Love the fitness / videogame analogy posts man, keep it up 🙂

  3. STAR POWER!!! That's where I'm at! WOW! To see these levels laid out in this article like this made me look back at my journey. Everyday I wake up feeling good. Yes, there is room for improvement, but reading this article confirms that I've kicked some major ass and am continuing to do so.

  4. Great point man, there are definitely ups and downs along the way, so i think the cycle will repeat itself from Star Power to the “little mario” when you have set backs…it's a constant evolution of changing your routine, adjusting your diet, and living life!


  5. Hahahahahaha,

    I'm just glad you got the REAL point of the article: people need to play more Mario, especially oldschool mario on the NES.


  6. Star Power! Nice little boost to my self-esteem. This should be awesome motivation to those who are just starting or are even dreading the thought.

  7. Love this post! Amazing to think that I really AM at Star Power! Sweet!

    I was visiting family a couple weeks ago in my old hometown, and ran into a friend from high school I hadn't seen since the 10yr reunion a few years ago, and she REALLY didn't recognize me…and when she did – told me how jealous she was. Awesomeness. I assured her that she could start on her health journey right away too – it's the accumulated tiny choices we make every day that give us that Star Power boost!

  8. I can tell you've been through some weight loss / getting fit, because I went through many of the same exact stages and they're all exciting. I've always considered myself fit, but from November to May, I lost nearly 35 lbs. I went from rugby fit to marathon fit. I must say the 2 coolest milestones for me were #8 and #19. Having to buy new clothes has been very expensive, but a good problem to have I guess. And people asking me for advice – I've actually begun to coach people on nutrition/fitness. No one believes me when I tell them how simple it really is.

  9. I definitely agree with Brenda – running a mile is way too early. IMO, it would work at #2 for walking the mile, but I'd probably still push it down the list a little, myself.

    My current position: #s 13 and 14. I'm getting back into it, though, and looking for those Fire Flowers and Stars! Biggest difference between now and where I was a year ago? When I hit the wall, fell off the wagon, whatever, a year ago, I stopped trying. Now, I've recognized that my performance is off, I'm seeing what I'm doing wrong and why, and I'm working to fix it and get back on the horse. And it's working! Still a long way from “fit”, but resuming workouts has helped me feel better both mentally and physically, and I know – not just “think”, but KNOW – that slipping up is a temporary reversal, not the end of my efforts to get in better shape.

  10. Hey Vader,

    I changed it to #3, and changed from jog to walk, and put a note in there about the couch to 5k

    Great point…everybody still has setbacks, but the people who succeed are the ones who see a setback and say “is that all you've got?” and then pick right back up where they left off.


  11. Great post! I'm somewhere between Fire Power and and Star Power, possibly sporting the leaf and running around with ears and a raccoon tail? I've hit a peak with my weight loss, but I'm switching things up and working a bit more on adding strength training. Last year I was a 200+ pack a day smoker. This year I've run a half marathon, cycled 100 miles and ran the Warrior Dash twice.

    I've started giving advice to coworkers when they ask, and several have even told me I've motivated them to do more in their own lives. I'm still waiting for my abs to show up though. I have another half marathon, my second 100 mile cycling ride and a full marathon coming up in October that will be some Star Power!

  12. I really like that the milestones went up and down a bit. I recently worked through the injury and bad diet bit, and got my first taste of star power last week!

  13. I believe that I just hit #11. Same weight and about the same BMI since the 2nd. #6 was a highlight last month.

  14. Hehe, I'm probably at Milestone #30 or something, but I started at #18, which really should be the norm or zero-point. After you laid a good foundation, you can start signing up for rec-sports and more interesting events like small tri's. You can build up the rec-sports effort to actual competitions, etc. After the physical/endurance/strength/power foundation, start working on athletic skills and you can easily transition between various sports.

  15. I guess I'm at the bump/fire-flower stage. I've slowed down recently, but I'm still hitting some big milestones and trying new things. Is it possible to be small fire throwing mario?

    Just a note – you forgot to add the step 1.5 optional path – Jump and run on top of the bricks and take the shortcut pipe to step 22. I guess this is the liposuction path.

  16. Love this! I'm about 3 years into this journey and I still hit enemies (hello destination wedding with very little control over what food was available most times last weekend), but I've experienced a lot of the fireflower and star power things too.

    My favorite realization? That I exercise not to lose weight, but because I enjoy training. Even if I never lost another pound I wouldn't quit training for races!

  17. It's great to see an article reference a video game I've actually played before!

    After about 4 months of my healthiest lifestyle ever (eating well and exercising regularly), I've been stuck on 13 and 14 for about 2 months. I broke my hand playing on a softball team, and I'm still not to the point where I can lift weights again. For some reason, I can't eat healthfully if I'm not exercising, so I've consumed an abominable amount of ice cream since I broke my hand. I'm just now getting back jogging a little and eating good meals.

  18. I'm at #21, except for the deadlift. I weigh 70 kg and I have done 8 * 90kg at most.

  19. I'm floating around 15 and 16. I've definitely revved things up a LOT the past month and it shows. My clothes were getting too tight, so now, there's getting too loose, and I've been able to start wearing a shirt that got too small for me again. That's my version of buying new clothes.
    My version of a pull up would be hauling myself up on top of the “parkube” in my dojo. I think I'll be at 16 for a while, as I work on 17 and 18. I expect as I get closer to 18 (I think for me that's 170lbs. I haven't weighed that since I was 18, 8 years ago. Maybe there's something to be said for that, it seems like a repeating number), that getting on top of the huge box will be easier and easier.

  20. #13 🙁 Two sprained ankles (on top of the lovely Atlanta heat you're aware of!) knocked me for a loop. I walked the Peachtree Road Race with the hashers the other day, so that was good, but still really dug myself into a worse hole than I was in before (though haven't gained weight so I guess that's good). Thanks for the kick in the ass though Steve. 🙂 Great post!

  21. I'm stuck at the enemy stage at the moment as I came off my bicycle on the way to work and hurt my arm. Been in a bit of a funk this last week but this post really perked me up! I can't wait to get back into it once I'm all healed 🙂

  22. Ha! I read 200+ pack a day smoker as you smoking 200+ packs a day! -1 for reading comprehension today for me!

  23. I'm at 13 right now – recovering from being knocked off my motorcycle by an SUV that failed to yield. (“But I didn't SEE you!”) And it's going to be a couple of months before I can get back to serious training, but I'm concentrating on eating clean, so I'm hoping for not much ground lost.

    This is all good stuff and VERY encouraging!

  24. skitterling, that sucks. Rest up and hope you feel better. I think I was at star power before, but am also dealing with injuries, so I'd say I'm at 16. I am back to pullups and my diet is good, but I can't wait for this injury stuff to sort itself out so I can get back to STAR POWER! Loved the post. 😉

  25. Hi Steve,

    Thank you for all your wonderful posts, especially this one in putting a healthy life into practical perspective. I honestly keep going back and forth so much that I am so fed up, but have started seeing the benefits of a good habit. Keep it up as I find you extremely inspiring.

  26. I’m sort of at  #11 but also at #22. I’m wondering if it’s just that I’m at my ideal weight and my body will just go up or down a few pounds which is normal. That’s the plateau (#11). I’m at the stage where I look forward to working out and feel like crap if I don’t. My biggest problem is trying to break my plateau for greater fat loss. So frustrating! Maybe I need to just up the intensity of my workouts. Anyway, great article!

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