Tag Archives: Training Motivation

Where did they go?

By Eric Todd

I began training at a rather young age. Running at around 3, bodyweight exercises a little later,  and weight training/competitive wrestling at nine.  While not always the most gifted athlete, I always felt I could overcome anything through effort.  It is something that became a passion of mine.  So when I began strongman/weight lifting competitions at about twenty six, I was instantly hooked.  It was the same kind of feeling.  Work harder than the other guy and you will prevail.  Well, sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not.  But it became a way of life, and one that would be difficult to completely walk away from.

That is why it often confused me when others would walk away. Many had talent much greater than mine, and a huge upside had they reached their potential, or somewhere in that neighborhood.  After some studying and discussing it with peers, here is a few categories that I feel some of these fellas fit into.

The first guy is intimidated. He is the one that emails you about coming out to train.  Since the door is always open, you welcome him with open arms.  Often, this guy does not show up.  Sometimes with an emailed  excuse, sometimes not.  Sometimes he shows up and lays it all out there.  You have been around the block a time or two and recognize the potential.  You remember what it was like your first day training with the group.  You hope he comes back, because you recognize that someday, he may be able to push you to greater heights.  But all he sees is how he struggled so with weights that we experienced folk used easily.  So, he does not return.  (Sometimes this occurs after he belly aches about getting his motorbike dusty on country roads, and borrows your Super Squats book.  Ah, but I digress). Believe me, when I first got started, there were times I would eye the competition early and wonder to myself if anyone would notice if I just disappeared like a fart in the wind.  But my pride would not allow it.

The next guy is emotionally weak (for lack of a better term). They cannot stand to compete if they do not win every time.  I have met a few in my time, often much stronger than me.  Once, I was competing at a strongman meet.  I was in the lightweight pro division, but there was also a heavyweight amateur class.  There was a character in the heavyweights who trained with 2 very high profile, world class strength athletes.  And this guy was STOUT!  He easily won his division, and put all the lightweight professionals to shame.  At that time, I had competed against the best of the best in the Heavyweight class as well, and recognized what this guy had.  I told him he should compete in a pro/am to win his professional card.  I had no doubt he could do it.  He told me he would not compete if he was 100% sure he could win.  Glory!  If I had thought that way, I would not have competed very often. Never saw or heard of that guy again.

The last guy is the fella that it just plain comes too easy for. I have seen guys come out and win right out of the blocks.  Some even go so far as to win a nationals or win a pro card.  You have scarcely heard their name before, and there they are beating seasoned veterans.  Sometimes, I am not sure they even know who they are beating.  Then they disappear into the night, not unlike Melvin at my first strongman meet.  I could never understand that.  However, in talking to some of my confederates, it just came too easy for them.  Winning for me   was a blast, and it drove me on.  It was that rewarding due to what it cost.  The hours training.  The injuries.  The broken skin and blood.  The aching muscles, and the crawling up the stairs. The bitter, painful losses after all these dues were paid. The cost was high, but it made the reward even more sweet when it came.  So, I guess if it came that easy for me, maybe I would, too, have said “so what” and walked away.

Anyway, since in all-round since the median age is 426, I know the vast majority of you have had your ups and downs in sport. And you still keep coming back.  I cannot see myself walking away from competitive lifting either.  And though I have to be more selective with what I go all out on there are still plenty of exercised that I am setting all time bests in these days.  I always thought that if I had the skill level or genetics of some of these guys, I would have won everything and never walked away.  But I guess I was given something else that took me a ways too.  So, in conclusion, I guess not everyone is wired the same, and that is OK.  I reckon it is those few blessed souls who are given the genetics along with tenacity and a work ethic who rise to the top.  For the rest of us, I am glad I have been along for the ride.

Buridan’s Ass

by Thom Van Vleck

The story of Buridan’s Ass is a paradox where an ass (ass as in burro or donkey….not someone’s backside) is that is equally hungry and thirst is placed between a pail of water and a stack of hay.  The ass dies of hunger and thirst because it can’t make a decision about which way to go!  It is actually based on a parable going back to Aristotle.  The more modern version you may be more familiar with is the term “paralysis by analysis”.

Regardless of where it comes from it is the state of over thinking a situation to the point that no decision is made.  There is another parable that I think describes this mental dilemma even better:

There was a fox and a cat arguing over who had the better escape plan.  The fox had hundreds while the cat had only one….run up a tree.  Suddenly a pack of hounds approached and the cat shot up a tree to safety while the fox darted back and forth trying to decide what would be his best option.  In his indecision he missed his opportunity to escape and was caught.

You can get so caught up in seeking the perfect solution that no decision occurs and you end up making mistakes, missing chances, and losing the ability to test out ideas that may have worked for fear there was a better method just around the corner.

How does this related to lifting?  In a way it’s been the story of my lifting career!  I fancy myself a pretty smart guy.  I associate and affiliate myself with the lifters and throwers.  I read all I can about training.  In my early years when I had a spare moment you would find me writing out workouts then erasing parts, adding parts, pondering it….and often never (at best) finishing the workout…or (at worst) never even starting it because I was in search of the “next big thing”.

I think every athlete has been in search of that “holy grail” workout that will bring you big lifts and massive muscles…..and hot babes hanging off your biceps!  The reality is that there is no perfect routine and the most successful athletes learn to move on quickly and decisively from one routine to the next.

So, I’m saying, don’t be an ass…..but how you might ask?

1.  Avoid being a perfectionist….which means allowing yourself to fail.  Failing happens when we take risks and if you aren’t failing then you aren’t taking risks to stretch your boundaries.  In positive psychology they NEVER call it “failure”….it’s always a learning experience.

2. Value speed!  Rewire your brain to “go for it”.  Imagine every decision as a crossroads and you have no brakes on your car.  Make a decision and power through.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You back up and take the other road?  You will still save time over indecision AND you have the learning experience of what was the other way.

3. Focus on starting.  Too often we start to look too far down that road and trying to see where it goes.  If you have an idea, take 30 minutes, or a set time, and go for it all out.  Then assess where you are at rather than sitting down and trying to figure it out.  Set aside time for analysis…like one hour, a day, or 90 days.  Make the amount of time you are in action greater than the analysis time.

4.  Break down goals, look for quick wins, and appreciate every step that moves you forward.  We too often focus only on failure and in the process we forget to look at what worked.  Remove the fear of failure and replace it with an attitude that you embrace change and find opportunity in it rather than potential failure.

5.  Develop habits and routines that avoid the paralysis.  I am reminded of the Nike slogan, “Just Do It”.  For me it’s the Bible Verse James 1:12 which tells us to “Persevere under trial” and those who do will be given the ultimate reward.  Have things that help you get focused and develop them.

Finally, don’t do to this article what I’m encouraging you NOT to do.  Analysis is good!  As a matter of fact there is a common fallacy that our first answer is more often the right answer.  Have you ever been told to “go with your gut” when you don’t know the answer on a test?  Well, I hate to break this to you but it’s NOT TRUE!  It has been proven in study after study.  More often we will change a wrong answer to a right one…almost 2 to 1!  So why is there this perception that we change right answers to wrong?  Because we tend to focus on failure!  So, it is important to keep a positive focus to avoid creating your own fallacies or misconceptions.

As my Uncle Phil told me….train smarter not harder.

The Guy in the Gym

by Eric Todd

A number of years ago, when I was in my late teens, my sister was married to a real tool shed who fancied himself a bad mother. I  will from here forward refer to him as “Dick”.  He was always trying to impress us with stories about being some kind of a tai kung flung master whom his sensei considered one of the most dangerous men in the world.  A pretty big dude, but I later decided that while perhaps he may have been the baddest man in the dojo, it was one that catered to kindergarteners. Well, one day, my brother and I were wrestling in the yard as we often did for conditioning and fun, when “Dick” came up and grabbed me.  He clearly was in the mood to show who the alpha-male was, so I dug in with some underhooks and suplexed him to the ground.  He lay there whimpering, not wanting any more.

Another  time, when I was home on sebatical from college, I was lifting in my parent’s  basement.  I was warming up on bench with 225 and “Dick” came down the stairs.  He cockily indicated that he wished to lift with me.  I was fine with that, so I traded places with him to give him a spot.  Then, as I unracked the weight, it plummeted to “Dick’s” chest and pinned him down  to the bench.  I found myself deadlifting all 225 pounds off of him.  I was embarrassed for him and ashamed of him, so I suggested that he needed to warm up a little.  We dropped the weight down to 170ish.  Same result.  Finally, we dropped it down to one wheel, 135.  “Dick” was able to grind out a rep.  After that he made a hasty retreat upstairs.

From that time on, “Dick” no longer challenged me during the remainder of his tenure as my sister’s husband. On many occasions after that,however, I did get to hear about the proverbial “guy in the gym”.  This guy was amazing!  His arms were definitely bigger than mine.    When Dick found out how much I was benching, this guy was doing almost double.  I am pretty sure he could curl the whole stack on the nautilus machine.  When I asked how much he could squat, “Dick” really didn’t have a frame of reference, so I am pretty sure he said like 1000 pounds, which at the time was world record poundage. 

I have said it before, I like physical strength.  But in my eyes, it pales in comparison to what lies between your ears.  I really do not care what you can lift, if you give your all in whatever arena you are in, you are a strong individual.  If you are bested, you will continue to come back and try again and again.  Maybe winning, maybe losing, but you don’t give up.  Tenacity. 

Then there are those weak minded cowards  who, when bested, not only give up, they also try and find a way to bring he who has bested him down as well.   We have all heard about the guy in the gym.  The one at “Dick’s” gym may or may not have existed.  But it is for guys like “Dick” that I choose to while my time with doers.  Guys who enter the arena.  Those who tell themselves that the body can handle things that the mind tries to tell it aren’t possible.  Guys who believe.  Life is too short to listen to guys like “Dick”.