Greatness is Earned
It’s about the time of year where hundreds of thousands of people jump into a fitness endeavor mostly blind. I don’t blame them. There’s so much information out there that it’s nearly impossible to know what’s right, what’s good, and what’s a total money grab. There are zealots spouting about their “perfect diet” and the “perfect training plan” on websites, health magazines, and check-out tabloids. There’s countless images of “hot” bodies trying to sell you some challenge, detox, or “method muppet” system. But this isn’t just for the people starting out. I see experienced people make the mistake time and again. Hell, I’ve made the mistake on several occasions.
I’m talking about a mistake that can lead to injuries, burnout, poor movement, and lingering pain. It’s the simple mistake of doing something that I haven’t earned the right to do. If I go back to the beginning of my training (outside of gym class), I didn’t know anything, but I was going to do those 4, 6, or 8 week programs all the rags were publishing because “that’s what [insert professional] does.” As I transitioned into training for strength, I went into Sheiko and Smolov. I used Russian programs for Olympic lifting and not one time did I consider the obvious fact that I wasn’t on their level and that I had no business training training with those methods. I had no business jumping because my base, even with some experience, wasn’t built for that programming. The result was not making progress, quickly burning out, and not enjoying the process. That’s where “Earn It First” comes from.
Put the Ego on the Shelf
We have made it seem so easy with infomercials and social media that anybody can jump right in and do any program. From Insanity and P90X to Starting Strength and Beyond, we’ve generated program after program labeled as beginner that would destroy the couch-potato, haven’t done anything even remotely athletic in over a decade person in seconds if they can’t control the enthusiasm and ego. We’ve also elevated the social media “celebrities” to such levels that when somebody searches for good information, they might see a guy squatting on a hoverboard or some extreme BMX rider doing Parkour-esque training instead of a basic bodyweight circuit. Each time we see some extreme level, it lets our ego drive us further from where we should be and makes it easier to believe we can skip right to their level. There are freaks of nature out there that can jump into a heavy duty program and flourish. Let’s be honest, chances are, you aren’t one of those people.
Train with the Pro-Athlete Mentality
Have you ever seen a high-level athlete train? They aren’t in the gym working at maximum intensity or volume every day. They build, brick by brick. They don’t let their ego take them down a path that hurts them or takes them off the cliff. They work hard with the understanding that growth comes through repetition. If a training session is so hard they can’t perform the next day, it was too hard for them to grow and get better.
The same can be said about a diet. Going gung-ho, cold turkey into a diet that’s 180º from how they eat isn’t a recipe for success. They may “embrace the suck” at a much deeper level and succeed because they’ve learned to be extremely uncomfortable, but that’s because their job, their paycheck, depends on it.
Volume and Intensity Need to be Earned
Whether you’re brand new or not, the right amount of volume and intensity, or the right amount of freedom in your diet can be the difference. And the right amount of increases is just as important as having the right starting point.
What does that mean? It means you need to be realistic about what you know, what you can CURRENTLY do (because nobody cares what you “used to” do if it isn’t recent), and then build. There’s no prize for doing the toughest program with crap technique. You don’t get points for being #hardcore because you #grind on a program that’s beyond you and deal with all the “pain.” It isn’t just weights. This goes for endurance events like century rides, full triathlons, and 10km runs and beyond. If you describe your training in a negative light more than it makes you smile, you might be doing it wrong.
And here’s a newsflash for you, yes, even you gym vets, if you can’t do a basic, unloaded movement correctly, THERE’S SOMETHING THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED FIRST. Movement compensations only worsen under load and fatigue, reinforcing a bad pattern that can lead to pain and injury.
Even the little things indicate that we need to step back and reexamine what we’re doing. Shoulder pain, knee pain, shin splints, quick low-back fatigue… all signs that we have a fundamental weakness or flaw in technique that needs to be taken care of.
The desire for short-term, fast success is why we push beyond our levels, relapse, collapse, and fail. Our ego refuses to take the hit, so our body takes it so we can feel better about getting hurt or failing
Lasting endeavors take slow, consistent progress and gradual changes that allow us to make enough progress to overcome the discomfort of change. If you’re just getting into changing for the better or you’ve been trying and failing for years, take a step back. Begin again like you have no experience only this time you have the wisdom of what took you the wrong way before. There’s no shame in starting low and climbing. There’s no shame in falling and failing. Learn each day and get better along the way. Find your success.