What About Hard Work?
Success in training isn’t about high intensity, pools of sweat, and feeling your heartbeat in your throat. It’s about the discipline to give the intensity required at the time. Sometimes this looks like the pools of sweat, and sometimes it’s staying home from the gym, taking a walk outside and a having a nap. Most often we work somewhere in between. We should approach any given session with understanding of the intended exertion, and intended response. As described in sections above, there are many sources of stress in a workout, many ways to demand different types of physical effort. In a room full of the motivated, it is incredibly simple to write a workout that will crush everyone in the room and leave them feeling like they worked hard. Much more difficult is designing and implementing a session that actually teaches us to be more capable and causes a cascade toward lasting change in our bodies. To hold ego in check and remain true to the goals of the process is where the hard work actually lies. Reluctant coach and thoughtful shepherd Michael Blevins sums it up; First, don't be lazy. Second, don't be stupid.
The stimulus for change is what truly matters, and the minimum effective dose to achieve that stimulus is our aim. Yes, our goal is to do as little as possible to achieve our desired stressor, because anything more can expose us to more risk than reward; the folly of pushing our training economy towards valuing the absolute amount of work done over the striving and struggle the work represents. The truth is that for a beginner, just showing up consistently, on time, and prepared to pay attention is not only enough to make change; it is the foundation on which their long term progression will eventually rest when sweat equity is truly required. When our value system is built around commitment and respect for complexity, the most and least capable person in the room pay the same price to improve. Hard work most often manifests itself as patience, and long term progress is reserved for those who can do the things they don’t want do do, when they don’t want to do them. Full stop. When we finally recognize banging our head against the wall with unfocused effort as the easy path that it is, truly confronting ourselves is the only way forward. This can’t be done for us, and reveals the unique nature of a gym as a business where so much responsibility is placed on the shoulders of the “customer”.
Think of this process as digging a hole. It requires patience. The eager quickly tire and rarely finish the job. They are discouraged when they inevitably strike a large rock or root that must be finessed out of the ground. They don’t adapt their approach when necessary because only one tool is available - try harder (or try again using the same strategy, often around the 1st of January). If that large rock is an overuse injury or under-recovery due to a lifestyle that doesn’t match their output, then this strategy is unlikely to move any soil. Now those for whom digging holes is their job, a part of their daily life; they work at a different pace. Not slowly, not lazily, patiently. They know they are laboring not just on this hole, but the endless ones to come. There is no finish line for our improvement, and those who race towards one they imagine in the distance will break or quit before they reach it.
This analogy is even more useful in that the digging must be backed by purpose, or we will never possess the resolve to keep punching the clock and trying. When we know what we’re looking for, we can play the long game. If you knew for sure there was a chest of gold buried far underneath you, it wouldn’t really matter how far you had to dig, would it? You would take the time to do things right.
At Dayton Strength, we can draw you a map. We can give you the shovel.
But you have to dig.