Monday, September 12, 2011

The Secret to Success in Training: Consistency, Guts, and Planning

Last week I visited my parents and found myself in the attic staring at my old weight-lifting workout routines stilled pinned to the wall. I've been working out since I was 15 years old. I transformed my parents' attic into a makeshift gym with the help of my cousin. I had purchased a weight bench for $60 and it included 120 pounds of cement filled plastic weights and 2 bars. I created a cross-over fly by placing 2 clothesline spools on either side of the room, running a rope through them and tying weights at the bottom. I created a lat pull down with another spool and attached to a wooden dowel with more rope. It was fantastic. My cousin and I worked out in a hot, musty attic all summer long. We dropped weights that echoed throughout the entire house and my mother would yell from the first floor "Stop doing those stupid things"! She didn't understand. I had pinned up photos of bodybuilders like Rich Gaspari, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, and Lee Labrada. I read every Muscle and Fitness and Flex magazine issue that came out. I was a crazed fool for weight-lifting!!!

Over my career, I have read tons of articles, research, and blogs. I've realized that outside of everything that is deemed the formula of success--not many people talk about the real simple component necessary to achieve all your goals: consistency.

Most people mistaken consistency with the amount of time one's been actively doing something. For instance, I've run into clients and friends that have told me that they have been working out for 20 years! After more discussion, that 20 years really is broken down into: They started training 20 years ago and have intermittently picked up weights here and there over the last 20 years. That's not consistency. That's prevalence. Training has been prevalent in their life for over 20 years, but they have not actively trained every day or every week for the last 20 years.

Consistency is sticking to the same thing over a period of time. Training everyday for 20 years is consistent. Training 2x per week for the last 20 years is consistent. Taking some time off within those 20 years due to injury, job or family commitment, loss of interest, moving, financial issues, medical issues, or unforeseen circumstances, is not being consistent--by personal fault or not. Stuff happens. There is no doubt about that. However, when there is a hiatus in your regular routine of doing things in life, and you do not to return--or plan to return--you tend to lose your commitment and ultimately, lose out on the benefits of being consistent.

Last month, I was able to hit a personal record that I have never attempted to, but had planned on. I had planned on attempting my new deadlift PR for the simple reason that I have been very consistent in my workouts. Training was going smoothly, strength was increasing and I was feeling pretty good. So I had planned that week to attempt 440 pounds on the deadlift:

I didn't measure my chance at success based on my long term commitment to exercise. I based my chance on how consistent I was in my training over a recent period of time. If I was going by the numbers, I can carelessly say that "I have been training since 1990, I SHOULD be able to get this." That is ignorant on my part and that is a check my butt cannot cash. While reviewing the last 8-12 weeks, I am able to look at the time spent weight-training and visualize success because I played the cards right over a shorter period of time; this allowed me to examine my chances better because it was a shorter period of time to measure.

Now, the second part of my secret to success...

Guts is simply having courage and the confidence to remain steadfast during a situation (imposed by you or the environment) and minimize fear in order to accomplish the goal. Back to my new deadlift PR...I have to admit, I was afraid of treading on uncharted waters. Big weights always scare me. There's always a fear of injury when using weights that push your body to the maximum--I don't care how awesome your posture is or how balanced every muscle in your body is...when you lift a weight that is heavy and you have never done it before, there is a fear. How you manage that fear is up to you. Before my 440 deadlift, I attempted 420 and failed. I tried again and got it:

The reason I tried a second attempt was because I confident I can get it. I just had to control my fear and be confident in my execution of the exercise: tight lats, packed neck, braced core, tight grip, and strong hips. Sounds easy...but once you lift that weight off the floor you only concentrate on one thing:  completion. This amount of weight is not that heavy...I have seen people smaller and stronger use more weight. But for me,  it was about managing the fear that I had. Opening a door without knowing what was on the other side. That is how personal records are achieved. Being consistent and having the courage to try. Now the reason why I HAD to try a second attempt after failing the first time...

Planning is something that consists of putting in the time to create a path to a goal. That path can be developed in stages, steps, time-line, or milestones. Certain progressions are made during planning and once a goal is established--whether it is short-term or long-term--then it is time to put it into action.I know I listed this as a third component, but this is an important one. Planning is where people fail first. Why? Because people that fail to plan always plan to fail. Heard it before? It's true. When you plan something, you place an expectation on yourself. And those expectations are created to be met. Some people want to get through life without ever going above or beyond the norm. They want to do just enough to get by each day. They place no expectations on themselves and they do no planning. That is not a recipe for success.

It's not about the amount of time you've spent doing something. Its about the amount of time you put in to doing something. For example, just because you have had your driver's license for 16 years and actively driving a car for 16 years, does not make you automatically capable to be a driver for NASCAR. Having guts means pushing beyond the limits--limits that you are unsure of. Limits that expand your belief systems and inner thresholds. And planning is paramount. Planning is a self-made contract. It is between you and you. Without those 3 success traits, one will never look past what they put in front of them.


  1. I agree with these points, consistency is one i see a lot of people losing track off....they may be consistantly training but every week trying the latest program they have seen in a magazine. If people had a plan and the guts to stick to it they would perhaps maintain the consistancy that leads to increased performance or realisation of their goals. Thats why this is such a great industry to work in, we get to educate people and send them on the right path.

  2. Your other abs exercise and they are both fun and challenging in different ways. When I wake up in the morning, I look at my stomach and I can see and feel the progress I’m making. I hope to be stronger than ever for ballet when winter break is over!


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