The Hole of Comfort

So I got kind of pissy during the pre-workout briefing tonight. My bad. I should never do that. The problem is, it really gets on my nerves when the first thing anyone does upon reading the programmed workout is ask, “What’s the regression for everything?” I find it particularly annoying when it’s always the same person – someone who has, it must be noted, been “training” with us for a couple of years. I place the word “training” in quotation marks because I believe that to say you train denotes, among other things, a mindset bent on progression towards an objective or standard. The person whose main concern is finding the easy version does not “train”, because that person does not want to progress at all. In fact, that person is actively seeking a drop in capacity, hence the addiction to the word “regression”.

Regressions are meant for people whose physical capabilities fall below what is asked for by the workout. Should someone be incapable of performing a 20″ box jump, that person will be regressed to simple jump squats. Regressions might be necessitated by injury, certain medical conditions, or simple physical inadequacies in strength or power. A regression is not the version you pick when you’re being lazy. You don’t get to ask for it every single time something comes up, and you don’t get to call on it three days a week for two fucking years.

Too many of the people who enter our gym wind up digging themselves a hole of comfort. Within this hole, they are capable and happy. However, because they are happy, they will not climb out of it, and so they will never advance. See, the thing about holes is that they put you below ground level, meaning you are in fact somehow substandard. Once you decide that you’re going to live in your own little hole, you accept that you will remain substandard forever.

This, I feel, completely defeats the purpose of ever entering a physical exercise program. You are not there to have your ego stroked by being able to say “Oh, I do strength training”, when the reality is that you shy away from anything that requires even an ounce more exertion than what you’ve been doing for years. You are there to improve, and that requires climbing out of that comfortable little hole and trying something new and often difficult once in a while. Now, my job is not to pat you on the head and tell you that you’re right to fear change – it’s to yank you out of that hole, by your hair if necessary.

Tonight, the jump rope was one of the things that set me off. We tell people that if they have difficulty with timing, they can drill themselves towards it by spinning the rope with both ends in one hand while they hop to the rhythm. The problem is that many people have become accustomed to this drill to the point where they have forgotten the original purpose. Instead of trying to use the drill to learn the timing, they simply stick to it whenever jumping rope appears on the board. It is not uncommon to see people whose hops very obviously do not coincide with the rope’s strikes against the floor. There is no attempt to progress using the drill – they are content to do something that only vaguely matches what is called for, and they will undoubtedly (I know that at least two people do this) misrepresent themselves to others by claiming they can, in fact, jump rope.

Thus, I reminded everyone that the off-side skipping was a drill meant to train them up to proper jumping rope, and that I would not be particularly tolerant of long-time students who still refused to try even one 30-second interval of actual rope-jumping.

If you find yourselves sticking to the comfort of regressions, haul yourselves out of that hole. If you legitimately fail an attempt at the given standard – and often you are not a good judge of this, so don’t even think about it – then you will be provided a suitable regression and adequate time to make the improvement. Note, though, that you are expected to reach that standard eventually, which cannot happen if you stubbornly cling to your comfort.

Don’t ask me to regress a fucking medicine ball slam. Don’t ask to be allowed to use 5lb weights for a deadlift (unless you have an actual medical condition, as one of our trainees does – in which case I handed her Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts as an alternative, which she was more than glad to take because it meant she got to work instead of fuck around). Don’t claim you can’t jump more than 6 fucking inches off the floor.

And ultimately, don’t be surprised that you could never be counted among the higher levels of the group if you refused to tear down your mental walls. You can’t perform at a low level forever and miraculously become as good as everyone else. If you don’t understand why the girl who started later than you has already learned to jump rope while you cannot, ask yourself whether it has anything to do with the fact that you used the fucking side-skip drill for everything and never even took it seriously.

I have no problems with mediocre physical output. I don’t hold it against the 120lb girl who can’t automatically squat half her bodyweight for 60s straight. That’s fine. We can work towards it, if she deems it a worthy goal. What I hate is mediocre mental effort: clinging to comfort, hiding behind excuses and the like, anything that you use to avoid having to face failure and the necessity of improvement. Safety is paramount. Form is crucial. Intensity is important.

Comfort? Fuck that.


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