To kick off 2013, I am not going to go too scientific or controversial. Today, I am going to highlight a topic which, I feel, has been overlooked in any training blog or journal article that I’ve read. I am not sure why this is, as it is something I find myself telling people every day – it is an essential aspect of training.
I’m talking about hard work, having a go, ’don’t be so soft’, ‘harden the f@ck up’, and ‘swallowing some cement pills’.
T-shirt slogans aside, I see a lot of people who say they work hard, by ‘work hard’ they are often referring to the fact that they arrive early and stay late. I’m not here to point out that if they were just more efficient and put in more hard yards earlier, these extra hours could be avoided. This article is for the people who constantly, CONSTANTLY avoid the discomfort zone. I’m talking ladies, kids, men, elderly and anyone with a heartbeat. I fear that we are turning into a generation of SOFT C_CKS.
Perhaps this is not their fault as we are constantly bombarded with messages of ‘easy fixes’ and ‘money-back-guarantees’.
Let me tell you about the example that has my fingers hot on the keys. Recently I saw Channel 7’s Sunrise an interview with an ‘expert’ on health, none other than ex-professional swimmer, Stephanie Rice. She claimed that kids should eat up to 4 bananas a day to give them energy between meals. If you haven’t already figured it out, this is outrageous. Granted, bananas are natural, but they are also full of natural sugar (I call them nature’s Mars Bar). So if children are having that many bananas and remain sedentary, the implications are sizable. During her prime, Steph Rice would swim up to 15km a week and could get away with that kind of volume of sugar. Still not recommended in my book, but that’s another blog. So how are we supposed to get the right messages across when major media keeps throwing this stuff at you. Same goes for supplements – I’m sorry, but no supplement is going to make you lose 2 dress sizes. Myphilosophy has always been supplements are the icing on the cake; you must put the work in first before even look at supplementation.
Nothing in this life comes easy, for you to get gains you must first get uncomfortable. This means you have to train to the point where you get a sick feeling in your belly. Intensity has to be high in order to achieve transformation. If you’re getting nowhere with your results then you are not aggressive enough in your approach. NIKE have the best motto: “Just do it”. No excuses, no whining just have a red hot go. It’s not rocket science; put the work in, gain the discipline and things will happen.
Now is a time to get honest with yourself.
Are you one of those guys (or girls) who goes to the gym, talks for 20mins, makes faces when you lift weights, leave after 30mins (only having really done 10mins of work) and pretended that you actually had a go?
Or my favourite, when the going gets tough do you make up an injury to avoid the yucky part of the session? Majority of people I see don’t know what a real injury is. If you are stiff and a bit sore this is normal when you work hard. Nobody has perfect symmetry in their body. We all have a strength deficit or a niggle here and there. My advice? Neck up and deal with it. If you trigger point, work on your flexibility (not just stretching) functional range of motion exercises, massage, you might smooth some of these issues out. If you have a sharp pain as a result of a ‘real’ injury, by all means stop, evaluate and assess according to how much pain you’re in and if it really is smart to go on.
So where do we go from here?
Getting ‘uncomfortable’ is hard for anyone, including those who get there frequently. No one really wants to get there, no one really wants to feel sick, be unable to walk or whatever it is that hurts as a result of pushing yourself. People who make themselves get there more often than not have slowly trained themselves to be familiar with the pain so that when it comes on, they don’t fear it. Instead, they try and beat it.
How do I ‘get’ there?
Here are some ways that you can build up the intensity of your exercises:
1. In your current gym program there should be at least one part of the program that gives you anxiety, if there isn’t then your program is too easy. If there is one, do not avoid it, realise that this is probably the exercise that gives you the best adaptations. By doing this one thing weekly, you are slowly educating yourself to embrace this uncomfortable zone I am talking about.
2. The ‘uncomfortable’ zone is relative to each fitness level; it would be false to think that because your trainer can do 50 hill sprints that you have to as well in order to reach the same level intensity. Getting up the hill just once may be your level of maximum intensity, but each week or each time you arrive you must better that level and push more and more.
3. Once you have done that, you are teaching yourself to embrace the difficulty that exercise has to offer and the more you get there, the less fear of the unknown will be evident.
4. Never compare yourself to when you started as that always allows you to be comfortable in what you have achieved already. Instead, compare to your last session as that is a better reflection of your current fitness level, and if you are performing worse than the last time you performed the regime then you may not be having a hard enough go. You should time or record your sessions as that gives you targets to constantly beat and, without realising it, you are putting yourself in those zones just to beat previous times/scores.
For me, this is why exercise is so integral, ask yourself: “what is your character like when you are in the trenches?”. This is where you learn about you and what you are like when SH*T GETS REAL. If you run away and choose to avoid the discomfort, I believe that transcends in to what you do in everyday life. If you stick at it and do not let discomfort beat you, then you will rise in real life as everything after that seems a bloody lot easier.
Intensity is so important, not only in training but attitude mostly, where are you on this spectrum? Can you be better? But don’t be scared as I say sometimes Neck up you parrot, and rip in….