I was having a conversation yesterday with a fellow trainer about building and maintaining clientele. She made a comment about people being busy, and training being just another thing to add to their already busy schedules.
This is definitely true, and it was a reminder to me about how training is just not a relevant part of most people's lives.
The disconnect for me lies in my assumption that everyone wants to be strong, capable, and resilient. This is obviously not the case.
Why is it, and how did it come about that being weak is an acceptable choice?
How does passively watching and allowing your body to break down and your muscle tissue waste away along with your abilities seem like a reasonable thing?
How does this help you in the long run? How does your family benefit?
People don't work physical jobs anymore, and most don't do much of anything active. Training is about the only way to keep from losing your edge. The problem seems to me, most people don't seem to give a shit enough about themselves or the people around them to even care.
I've written before about how training can make you ''harder to kill, and generally more useful." (Mark Rippetoe) Last week, the Northeast experienced a pretty nasty mix of sleet, freezing rain, and snow. I spent some time over two days clearing people out. The aftermath was a nasty mess of frozen snow and ice that left many people stuck.
I was able to break a lot up with a plow and shovel and then push each person out. Each time I had to wedge myself between the car and the snow covered ground while having the driver shift between forward and reverse to rock the car as I half squatted, half bench pressed the car up and over the ice and snow blocking their tires. I could feel the exact timing of when I had to engage the muscles in my legs, midsection, shoulders and arms to create the drive to push against the car. I knew when I was going to get the car clear and was able to tell the driver to stay on the gas BECAUSE I know what it feels like to fight with weight, how to keep my mind and body engaged and how it feels to overcome resistance.
Each time I got a car free, it was a small, perhaps simple victory. The driver was thrilled to go from feeling trapped and hopeless to seeing it all work out. I walked away knowing that I had my edge, and that the time I spent training was what gave me the ability to help each of those people. I'm pretty sure that of the 5 cars I cleared out, not one driver was unhappy that I chose to make getting strong, fit, capable, and resilient a priority in my life.
Most people don't care about being able to squat, deadlift, press, or clean a lot of weight. They don't get excited about strongman, odd object lifting, or becoming more athletic. Cool, I get it.
How about being able to get yourself, or someone else, out of a jam?
How about being capable to handle yourself if faced with violence?
How about looking like the type of person to avoid targeting to begin with?
How about just some plain old injury prevention and longevity in a day and age of shaky medical coverage?
At some point in time you must assess yourself. Are you really okay with taking an active role in your decline?
Jim Wendler wrote something about burning his body down looking for the best answers for himself and others. I love it. It's in my head all the time. It's like the heathens' talk of Odin, sacrificing himself to himself.
I know my answer. I hope you're with me.
Whenever you take up something new - a course of study, a new skill, a hobby, a habit or practice you want to develop, there is a continual pattern of trial, error, and course correction.
This is natural and how we all learn.
When we learn something new we are literally laying down new tissue, new neural pathways through repetition until that new skill or practice becomes well learned and natural.
If you think about the first time you lifted weights, threw a punch, threw, hit, or kicked a ball, or did anything requiring precision, control, and coordination, you were shaky and imprecise. This is due to a lack of neural mapping for that task. This is why precision in practice matters. You want to build the right pathway for that movement.
Once we realize how the process works, we see that mistakes and failure along the way are not just a natural part of the process, but necessary to the process for continued learning and growth toward mastery.
As we strive to perfect the new thing, the mistakes and failures show us where the weaknesses lie - the areas that are holding us back and, if not addressed will only further hinder us down the road - perhaps in ways that matter more than they do now.
It's easy to be hard on yourself. I'm hard on myself , so I know.
I also know that creating expectations without strategies that you can act on can be disastrous physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Being hard on yourself in a self flagellating, abusive way creates the mindset and attitude of a quitter.
Hold yourself accountable for what you say you'll do and what you've chosen to undertake.
When you falter or fail - don't get angry or lose heart, and don't let it become an end state.
Instead, let it be a fluid state - one you move out of and away from quickly.
Identify the why and how of the shortcoming and become a problem solver. Work to understand the root cause of the failure, and create a strategy to overcome it.
Don't beat up on yourself, don't doubt yourself, and don't internalize the criticisms of others.
In the end, no one cares about the naysayers or the critics. No one remembers the people trying to sow doubt and discouragement.
There are no great stories written about them, and no cool movies or shows based around them.
What we do love, however, are those who strive and overcome. The ones who face difficulties, challenges, and, yes, failure - sometimes over and over again, and continue to push until they breakthrough and find success.
The only way you can be unsuccessful is if you quit. So don't give up.
The other day I read an Instagram post about the power of speech. It revolved around the word "Abracadabra", which, the writer implied was a Hebrew word that translates roughly to "I create as I speak."
The actual etymology and translation is tricky, and probably doesn't have it's origin or meaning in what those involved in arcane practices believe, but so what?
If the belief and intent is there, that's kind of all that matters, at least to one working in magic.
In fact, a word, phrase, or even object used with magical intent is simply a trigger to focus the mind.
Is this any different than a person having a mantra - a word or phrase said aloud or internally before or during a performance of any sort?
Are we to believe that words - or objects, for that matter, can have actual, physical power?
Or is the power one of self belief that is only focused and enhanced by said word or object?
How does this relate to us, though?
The power of the mind - the will is an amazing thing.
At our fingertips lie the stories of soldiers, special forces candidates, and athletes who have done amazing things in the face of enormous odds simply because they had set their minds on no other outcome but the positive one.
There is a story of a man who fully recovered from a massive stroke , suffered at 65, to go on to live a full and active life after only one year of highly irregular therapy given him by his sons.
All around us, if we pay attention, we can see everyday people who rise above circumstances, environment, and expectations to create a better life, which translates to a better world, for themselves.
We have ample proof that the mind is the key to our success - or failure.
Yes, life is hard. Circumstances make things more difficult for one person while easier for another. Environment is a heavy influence on how you see the world.
However, we all possess the ability to choose how we let these circumstances and our environment shape our belief systems.
We can choose to view our lives as effected and directed by outside factors working against us - our parents, the government, the economy, our age, etc.
Or, we can choose to recognize that we actually have control over the majority of our life, and a large part of our current outcome is the direct result of our efforts, or lack thereof, to get us where we are today.
This is responsibility, folks. It is also freedom. It is most definitely power.
But can you wield it?
By accepting this reality, you acknowledge your role in what happens next. You get to decide where you're going to go, what you're going to do, and who you will be.
It all rides on you and what you're willing to do.
Can you change your thought process?
Can you change how you view yourself?
Can you create a purpose, a new reality to push yourself toward?
Can you keep yourself focused and on the path, holding yourself accountable?
The more I study and train, the more I realize (at 44) how much of my adult life I spent responding to life like a child - allowing instant gratification, letting myself off the hook when things got tough, rarely holding myself accountable to do things I committed myself to do.
Yesterday I was reading something by Travis Mash, a highly successful strength coach down in the Raleigh area of North Carolina. He was talking about one of the athletes he's been training, a Wake Forest freshman who not only made the football team, but started his freshman year, which is not a light thing.
Travis was talking about the reality this young athlete had created. He and his parents talked about getting into a D1 football program, and what it would take to get there, from an early age. He set small goals to work on improving all his physical skills, building his confidence. He chose the right people to hang around - positive people, creating an environment for success for himself. He and Travis talked about having the right mindset to walk in on day one and start, as opposed to expectations of being benched for his first year.
I use this example because, if you look at it the right way, it's a real world example of a formula for success.
1.) Decide what you want, and work backward. What is it going to take to get
2.) Set up small goals to knock down leading up to and preparing you for the
big one. Too often people go for broke when they aren't prepared physically
or mentally yet. Build yourself up. Build your confidence and self belief up.
You will literally be experiencing your reality changing - by your hand.
3.) Create an environment consistent with where and who you want to be.
Thoughts, habits, people, and places that detract from that will tank your
4.) Believe in yourself and the work you've put in.
As much as I hate math, I often talk of how training is like math. There is science behind why it works. From there, all I have to do is show up, put in focused, determined effort, follow a lifestyle that's congruent with what I'm doing, and I will get the outcome I'm looking for.
The thing is - everything's kind of like that. Once you realize that you choose your outcome, you control in a very large part where you go and what happens to you, everything simply becomes a matter of making better choices.
Stop hanging out on the bench. It's getting crowded there.
Yesterday I was talking with Sheena Potts, the owner of Pure Performance24. We were talking about what keeps some people from being consistent in class.
I had brought up an incident from a few nights ago where a client had texted me about being too tired to come to class that night. For the record, she's an accountant who runs her own small office, so this time of year is hell for her.
I knew she would be better off just coming in - even if only mentally, and I also figured she was looking for someone to give her a nudge - so I told her she should come and at least do a scaled down program.
This led to Sheena talking about a concept she called the Alter Ego. The guy she pulled it from wears fake glasses because he always associated wearing glasses with being smart, so his wearing glasses is his smart Alter Ego.
Laugh, or roll your eyes, but the brain, perception, and association are powerful things.
So, anyway, she was talking about helping others find their Alter Ego. When they're too tired, too sore, too disinterested, too whatever to show up and train - they step into their Alter Ego and show up, put in the work, and build a better version of themselves.
It may seem weird, but if you think about it, it's kind of a cool idea.
There's a duality in everyone - the part of you that has dreams, plans, visions, and goals, and the part of you that wants to dash it all on the rocks, set fire to it, and walk away.
What happens when apathetic you wants to call the shots? How do you fight that desire to push off commitment?
You need to summon that part of you that wants to fight, struggle, and prevail against the gravitational pull of resistance to self improvement.
This is the side that doesn't want to settle into comfort, convenience, and slack, but would rather rise above your current state, rise above the status quo, and accept the challenge to be the best you can be.
As I'm sounding off here, I'll let you in on a secret, and maybe a little insight.
My Alter Ego wants to drink too much, hang out late at night listening to bands in dive bars, waste the day chasing entertainment, and generally kick back.
I could, and have in the past, drink every night. I could spend my nights on the couch or hanging with friends.
While any and all of these are enjoyable in the short term, where is it going to get me?
Even if I changed my training - decided to shrug off the onerous mantle of progressive strength and conditioning - where I have to put in time, effort, and planning - with the expectation of doing a set amount of work each session - in exchange for something less structured that would let me get away with a varying level of commitment, and a lifestyle that called for less discipline - what then?
Maybe I could stay in relatively good shape - whatever that means.
Maybe I could still make some progress and get stronger.
Would I be able to coach others to better things - coach them through the difficulties of lifting and share with them the value of strength and the lessons learned in the training room?
Would I be able to keep young athletes from injuries that could effect the rest of their lives while helping them perform their best?
What could I teach or share about hard work or being committed to excellence?
Would I have any passion or purpose in what I was doing?
Perhaps I'd be just another guy selling BS with a cool job.
Here's the deal, O, gentle reader...
We don't need any more mediocrity.
We don't need any more weakness.
What we need are more people who are willing to drag themselves from the morass to become something better.
We need people courageous enough to fight for greatness.
We need people who will take control of their lives and refuse to be told "it's all downhill from here, or whatever other BS gets jammed between their ears about their health, strength, and fitness.
It is not over. You're not too old. You're not too weak. You're not too uncoordinated. You're not too fat. you're not too out of shape. You're not too injured. And, Good Lord - You are not broken.
We need bold souls who will stand against the ever encroaching darkness of ease, comfort, and convenience - leading to apathy which bleeds the strength and self sufficiency from our hearts, minds, and bodies, and replaces them with fear, weakness, and dependency.
We need people who will refuse this downward spiral, rise to the challenge of pursuing excellence and become examples to themselves and those around them that there is a better way.
Your Alter Ego is waiting, anxious and restless, ready to take you into a glorious new territory.
The above pic is from my last deadlift session. It happens every week - same place.
Maybe it's the 10 year old in me, but I like deadlift shins and blood on the bar.
Like scrapes, bruises, and scars from BMXing, skating, surfing, and sparring - it's a badge of merit that can only be earned through action.
Only those who participate and go all the way each time get it.
Why should we hope or expect to struggle, learn, grow, and triumph unscathed?
Why should we not desire our bodies to show the marks of active struggle against the modern norm of inaction and complacency?
In times very much past, warriors from cultures both West and East esteemed scars as they showed a readiness for action and experience in combat.
I am in no way insinuating that training or taking up physical activity makes you some kind of a warrior, and getting hurt and injured sucks - no matter how you do it.
What I am saying is that righteous dedication and effort to your cause will cost you.
You will be sore. You will get bumped and bruised. You may even bleed a little from time to time.
Sometimes this will be from making mistakes and getting it wrong, sometimes because that's just how it's going to be.
Either way, it's all a part of being a person of action.
Embrace it and learn from it.
The marks are yours - earned through your commitment to self improvement through a physical lifestyle.
They set you apart in an age of ease and comfort.
You should be proud of them.
As for me -
What I'm earning is worth the sacrifice of a little blood on the bar.
Environment plays a huge factor in our lives.
It shapes our thoughts and actions, and it influences the way we see ourselves, others, and the world around us.
Our belief systems are formed based off of our experiences within our environment, and our outcome - where we are currently, as well as where we will end up - is very much effected by those belief systems.
In many cases, an environment's effect on an individual is regarded much like water's erosion of a river bed or beach - inevitable and unstoppable - a cause and effect with little to no choice of outcome.
We can't stop our environment from molding and shaping us - we are designed to learn, adapt, and grow. It's in the programming.
We can, however, control how we are effected by that environment - how we respond to it, and, more importantly, we can control the actual content and context of our environment.
This is huge because we can control what shapes us.
The average person spends an enormous amount of time surrounding themselves with the wrong things.
Many people spend at least 4 hours per day on social media. There is enough network and cable programming, along with streaming services, to keep a person occupied for at least 2-3 hours per night. We won't even get into video games.
How much learning is happening in that time - and by learning I mean the acquiring of skill or knowledge that can be applied to some area of life?
How often is a person encouraged to better themselves in that time? How often is strength of character reinforced in that time? How often is a person inspired in that time?
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy entertainment, but it's not at the forefront. It was never meant to be.
We are all meant to live lives of meaning, yet many of us fall into just living to get by - buying the bill of goods that we allow to be sold to us.
We allow ourselves to become products of the environment pumped to us through every medium.
Consumers, living vicariously through pop culture social media, reality television, outrageous sitcoms, over the top action adventures, and propaganda sold as news.
This is not life. You don't read about life or watch it on a screen. You engage it, experience it, and adapt, learn and grow from it. Then you help others do the same.
The problem is, if everything around you is feeding you a message that keeps you in your current state, then you're probably going to stay in your current state.
You need to surround yourself with a message that inspires you to greatness.
Life is hard, and we get tired and lost without reminders. The wrong message, the wrong influence - without a buffer, can be disastrous.
I've seen people who have post its of key words or phrases placed at various spots on their computers and around their desks as constant reminders.
Some gyms have powerful phrases that convey key beliefs painted on the walls. I, like many others, have a banner and a flag in mine to remind me of principles and beliefs that are important to me.
Many athletes (and business people) have mantras they repeat to themselves to keep their focus and self belief high.
I myself started listening to podcasts while driving and using spare time to read books and articles on business, training, and mindset. Surrounding myself with the words and experiences of those better than me keeps me focused and excited as well as more creative and insightful. I am better at what I do when I do this. My head is in the game instead of in the clouds.
All of the above are simple examples of tools and tricks people use to create their environment.
The key is, you need to be challenged and inspired.
There is no room for negative views, negative talk, or negative people.
In my 20's there were many things I wanted to do. The people I was predominantly around at the time weren't interested in the same things I was. There was no one or nothing in my life pushing me to pursue better things, and I didn't have the same outlook or understanding that I do now. I paid dearly for that. I might be in a different place today if I had chosen better back then.
Read that last paragraph again.
Knowing that you will be shaped one way or the other, you can choose to be shaped in a positive and powerful way that propels you toward the things you want - toward your goals.
You can choose to fill your head with messages that support who you want to be, and where you want to go.
If time is an issue for you, then stop squandering it, and put the little of it you have to good use.
Try this - redeem some of the time you spend each day goofing off. Instead of social media or tv, read a book you've had on a list, take a class, learn a new skill - whatever. You know better than me what things you'd love to do.
Pick words that inspire or challenge you, and use them as a personal mantra.
Dump the relationships that foster bad habits and bad thinking. Pursue ones that challenge you to be better.
Fill your head and your life with those things that drive you toward who and where you want to be.
Accept no less.
The majority of the world is beyond our control.
We have limited control over much of the external forces that effect us, yet we try as hard as we can to exert control over these things.
This can lead to a lot of frustration, anger, rage, despair, and hopelessness. If you don't have a frame of reference here, trust me - I know what I'm talking about.
As we keep worrying about all of the external things outside of our control, we often neglect those things that are within our control, and the majority of the time, it is those things that will have the greatest effect on our lives.
We do have control over our physical, mental, and spiritual self improvement. Why, then, do we let this slip from our grasp?
Why do we neglect this - trading our chance for greatness for amusement and passing comfort?
This one thing we absolutely control. We can wield the power to create and recreate ourselves in accordance to who we want or need (or are needed) to be.
This has always been what amazed me about training.
It's like math. All you have to do is show up, and be willing to put in the work.
People act like they have to be motivated to train, or they're waiting for the right time - for the right pieces to fall into place.
What they don't realize is that it's in the moments where you aren't motivated, where you have to squeeze in a session - doing only what's necessary - when you have to truly fight and struggle to get your training in - that the greatest progress is made - the spirit and mind are toughened.
The body will follow.
In this regard - training, growing, learning becomes something sacred - a sacrament to ourselves and to those close to us - be it family, friends, co-workers, or team mates.
By making ourselves stronger, tougher, more resilient to the challenges that will come, we become able to pull ourselves through the struggle - becoming something, someone greater than we were - becoming something heroic in an age of mediocrity and settling for good enough.
We become an example to ourselves, and, therefore, through our actions, mindset, and attitude, stand as an example to lead others who may be looking to us - because you never know who is watching.
Perhaps the greatest thing you can do today is commit 100% to the process of transforming yourself from a hobbyist to one of the dedicated few.
Someone who is willing to sacrifice and do what is needed to break the mold of mediocrity.
Someone who is willing to push back against a life that's designed to make you soft and compliant, waiting for the inevitable downward spiral.
Someone who is willing to call themselves out on their own B.S., because you can do so much better, and so much is riding on your choice.
Stand up for yourself.
Stand up for those close to you.
Forge something great.
BE someone great
I'm pulling for you.
Every so often I get a night that has a low class turnout due to what we'll call life circumstances. Sometimes these circumstances are legit - stuck at work, family or work emergency, sick, etc.
Other times, the reasons are, we'll say, less than legit.
Last night was one of those weird nights. Three people in each class. A few who missed were legit - they let me know ahead of time. I'm not sure about the rest, and it's not my place to make a judgement.
Here's what I do know. One woman who made it to the 6:30pm is an accountant in the middle of tax season. Some days she literally works with no sleep. In the past, I've not seen her for at least a month during tax time.
This year she's made it a point to get in twice per week.
Tired, dragging herself along, she came to class and did well - even dialing in technique on a few lifts. That's called progress, folks - in spite of her schedule and how she was feeling.
One of the guys in the 7:30pm came to train instead of hanging with his girl on Valentine's Day. He's making it up to her on Thursday - it's the only available day because he plans to train on Friday. Oh, yeah - he drives 45 minutes to get to the gym.
He loves the training, and knows he's making progress. He gets mad when life keeps him from it.
Here's the point I'm making - Success doesn't take a day off. You're either moving toward getting better, or sliding back - getting worse. There is no maintenance, no in between.
Sure, not every day can or should be a training day, but you have to keep your focus on where you want to be, and your actions should keep you moving in that direction.
Commitment and Consistency are key action words here. They need to be applied regularly.
My hope is that when people miss training with me, they're making it up somewhere else.
There's one woman I train who has some pretty big responsibilities both at home and at work. When she misses class, she trains on her own using a program I gave her.
It's nothing intricate, just some basics that will keep her moving forward - and she makes progress.
You've got to find a way - no matter what. It's the only way you'll get where you want.
Do not miss a training session. Make it up, switch the day or time around, do the bare minimum to keep moving forward, if need be, but don't miss it.
Partial effort gives partial result. That's why so many people have marginal success. They put in marginal effort.
No one has ever dreamed of being mediocre, and yet, so many people would rather be entertained than spend a small portion of their day making themselves into something inspirational.
The choice is yours - take control of your outcome, develop the work ethic, and commit to self improvement.
I'm pulling for you.
The above is an action phrase I use to keep my head in the right place. I owe it to Tony Blauer,
whose company Blauer Tactical Systems uses the phrase "Choose Safety" as a quick, easy to
remember reminder to the trainee to always do the thing that keeps them safe. This is my take
When in doubt - always do the thing that makes you stronger. Choose Strength.
Simple to remember, and strong enough in their call to action - these two words have helped
me in my training, in my thinking, and in my life.
When I've been tired in a training session, and I want to skip an exercise I know I get benefit
from that phrase comes to mind - Choose Strength. What it means to me is strong enough to
change my thoughts and attitude.
The phrase is a reminder that the power and responsibility are mine, and that my outcome in
training is based on the decisions I make.
I can choose to go to bed by a certain time every night, so I'm rested enough to perform well
and recover well.
I can choose to eat foods that will support my training and my health.
I can choose to do the work that is necessary to elicit the result I desire.
If I simply decide to Choose Strength, in less than a second I can cut through the nonsense of
how I feel about doing something and start moving in a positive direction.
The doubt, discouragement, fear, distraction, etc are gone.
It becomes a simple equation of action equals result.
The cool thing is, choosing strength starts to flow over into the other areas of your life.
When in doubt - Choose Strength, and move forward.
If you need help, hit me up.
If you need training - I have several options. We can find one that fits.
I'm here to help.
We spend a lot of time focused on the past - what we didn't do, what we should've done, etc.
Maybe we didn't make the best decisions.
Maybe we didn't do the right things back then to position us for where we want to be right now.
Maybe we feel like we wasted a lot of our time - a lot of our life.
I know this thought process and these feelings intimately.
The problem isn't thinking or feeling this way - that's natural.
The problem is acting like it's a life sentence - like you've ruined your life, and it's over.
Every thing you do is a choice. Everything.
Maybe you don't like your job, but you keep going anyway.
That's a choice you're making.
I know, you've got bills to pay.
So make another choice - figure out how to pay your bills by doing something you like better.
I don't want to be another guy telling you to quit your job to find happiness. That's not my point.
My point is that each day is a series of choices for you.
If you don't like where you are, who you are, or what you are doing, and you do nothing to alter
the situation, YOU ARE CHOOSING TO STAY THE SAME.
If you are unhappy - if you feel you have wasted time, wasted life, wasted resources, gotten
yourself into a bad spot - then do something to change it.
Use those feelings, that regret, that desire for something better to fuel you and drive you
Do one thing today to change a habit you don't like, or create a new one you want to have.
I've made it a point to write on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.
Most of the time, I'm writing late at night to make that deadline.
Last night, I was unable to write, and I failed to have myself setup beforehand.
I dropped the ball.
Do I give up? Do I start letting myself slide because it's hard to always keep a deadline?
No. Here I am writing.
Instead of having had this to read this morning, you'll have it to read tonight, and I'll have
further reinforced my habit of writing regularly, while having a lesson in being prepared for
circumstances where I'm not able to write the night before.
The good thing about mistakes is they show you what not to do, but they're only helpful if you
learn the lesson.
The same can be said about thoughts and behavior.
If circumstances show you who you really are, and that turns out to be someone you don't like,
then choose to be different, and take action.
You're only truly stuck if you allow yourself to be. There is always a way, you just have to want
If you find yourself lamenting, whining, and crying instead of doing, then maybe it's time to ask
yourself what you really want.
Here's the thing, though - It's not too late to start working on where you want to be.
If you need help, hit me up. I'm here for you.
Eric Chasko is the head of Redemption Fight Club. He is a Performance Enhancement Specialist and Progressive Fighting Systems Full Instructor. From young athletes to busy professionals, he helps people develop the physical, mental, and emotional strength to win on the field, on the street, and in life.