Let’s start with Wikipedia:
A learning curve is a graphical representation of the increase of learning (vertical axis) with experience (horizontal axis).
A learning curve averaged over many trials is smooth, and can be expressed as a mathematical function.
The term learning curve is used in two main ways: where the same task is repeated in a series of trials, or where a body of knowledge is learned over time.
… the term has acquired a broader interpretation over time, and expressions such as “experience curve”, “improvement curve”, “progress curve”…
My interpretation of this learning curve is that in the early stages, or when one is a beginner at something, there is a steep increase in learning and progress. However, over time that progress reduces and eventually flattens. This flat portion can also be known as a plateau.
Now, what is the timeline in which someone reaches that plateau are we’re talking about here?
In my experience of coaching fitness, the flattening of the curve usually happens within the first 1-3 months. As in, clients can see rapid results for the first 1-3 months and then those results slow down or stop.
Whether this is in increased strength, increased endurance, increased power output, weight loss or reduced body fat percentage, the results slow down rapidly or even stop all together.
Now that the baseline knowledge is out of the way, I want to apply this to my industry: Fitness.
It is my opinion that 90+% of the services and programs that are out there are targeted and marketed directly at this learning and performance curve. They are built within the range of achieving the most success from their customers.
Where do we see this?
- 30-day challenges
- 8-week bootcamps
- P90x – aka 90 day DVD program
Do a search on Intagram for Fitness Inspiration, Workout Motivation or Booty Challenge and you’ll find thousands of accounts with 6 pack abs and peach booty’s with links to their DVD or downloadable programs.
(and no, “peach booty” isn’t a typo)
You’ll also see dozens, hundreds or thousands of people who have had success on that program. However, often those numbers only represent a fraction of the people who actually followed the program. So if you see 100 success stories, it’s likely that thousands of people tried the program. If you see thousands or success stories it’s likely that hundreds of thousands tried the program.
I have no scientific data to prove this, but from my experience observing clients over the past decade, I would bet that at most 10% of the people that do a program get the results you see advertised. That leaves 90% who didn’t even make it that far!
Heck, if you’re still reading this you probably ARE one of those 90%!
My question is always: what data or percentage of success stories would we get if we expanded that out to 4 months, 6 months and 12 months after the program. How many people STILL have the success once the 4, 8 or 12 week program is done?
As I said, the programs are built to fit WITHIN the highest growth rate of the learning curve.
After the program, let’s look at:
How many people have built a habit?
How many people have created a new lifestyle?
How many people actually learned what’s next?
I don’t have exact numbers on these things either, but I’m not sure anyone does. Honestly though, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that no matter the program, 100% of people will experience a flattening of their learning curve at some point in their progress.
100% of people will hit a plateau at some point in their training.
It’s totally unavoidable.
The thing I encourage you to think about from this article is whether or not your program, plan, system and/or training considers and addresses this fate.
Is what you’re doing ready for the inevitable plateau and are there resources available to take you past it?
Or is it designed to end before your plateau and then leave you hanging when you get there?
The good thing is that millions of people get 1-3 months of success usually within every calendar year. ( Can you say “new years resolutions” anyone?) Every year people are stepping up to the plate and taking a swing at their health and fitness goals.
The sad thing is that millions of people only get 1-3 month of success usually within ever calendar year.
They then enter a perpetual cycle of programs, challenges and bootcamps with the promise of the quick results we all desire so badly.
If I can leave you with one thought after reading this article it’s this:
The next time you consider and fitness program that lasts less than 90 days, think about your learning curve. I guarantee you that you’ll hit a flat point and plateau. Ask yourself:
How does this program address that inevitable fate and how will it take me past it?
Once you have the answer, you’ll know if it’s really worth your investment.
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