This article appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of 3rd Act magazine.

BY MIKE HARMS, Spring, 2023.

There are many ways to measure progress of our fitness journey. Metrics include more energy, better sleep, better balance, less joint pain, more strength, and/or improved athletic performance.

I encourage my personal training clients to let go of focusing on any single variable, like the number on a scale. The more joy we can find in pursuit of fitness, the more likely we are to stay consistent.

Here are three fitness victories you can pursue that are particularly rewarding:

Learning a new skill

My client Beth and I spent months working on her first pull-up. She progressed from a “dead hang” (hanging from a bar for a few seconds), to eccentric pull-ups (lowering herself from the pull-up bar), to full pull-ups.

Achieving Beth’s initial pull-up was a moment we’ll both remember. Beth didn’t stop there. She progressed to completing the notorious Murph workout, which includes 100 pull-ups.

Tip: The Farmer’s Carry is an exercise that’s easy to learn but harder to master, with plenty of challenging variations. Hold a weight in each hand at your sides and walk for a set distance or time. When performed correctly with the core engaged, shoulder blades down and back, and upright posture, this exercise strengthens shoulders, legs, core, forearms, and grip. Get your doctor’s clearance first.

Setting a personal best

One of the most important pieces of equipment in my gym is a small notebook. I use it to track each of my workouts. I record my exercises, the amount of weight I lifted, the number of repetitions performed, and how I felt. Seeing my fitness improve over time is a powerful motivator that keeps me going.

My wife Jen started bringing a notebook to our gym, too. “It makes me feel empowered, because I’m manifesting positivity,” she says. “Writing down my workouts is a promise to myself that I’ll continue getting stronger.”

Tip: EnhanceFitness is an evidence-based fitness class for older adults that tracks improvements in strength and balance. Find a class at

Honoring others

Normally I would skip an event which cautions, “dangers include, but are not limited to, missile and rocket launch debris, rough terrain, wild animals, poisonous snakes…severe sunburn.” But the opportunity to pay homage inspired me, my brother, and my dad to train for and complete The Bataan Memorial Death March.

The event honors approximately 75,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers who endured a 65-mile captive march through a scorching jungle with little food and water. The real-life Bataan Death March occurred in the Philippines during World War II. The memorial version winds through the high desert of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Tip: If the idea of tackling the “toughest race in America” (per Men’s Health magazine) seems overwhelming, there’s a concurrent shorter version of the march that’s plenty challenging. My Dad turns 80 this year, and he’s already planning a fifth trip to White Sands.

Mike Harms is an author and coach who is enjoying his third act: designing and building a new personal training studio in his backyard.

PHOTO CAPTION: Bryan and Ed Harms progress through The Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico.