[I came up with this about two hours before I logged onto WordPress and saw today’s prompt for “Clock”. Funny how that works out.]
I finally got around to watching (well, listening to) Bobby Maximus’s appearance on the brUTE Strength Podcast. Not to take away from Maximus as a coach, but I generally find his published work to be laden with more testosterone than insight, and I doubted he’d be any different talking. It was a pleasant surprise to find that he had reigned in the machismo to focus more on discussing training philosophies.
The part I feel bears repeating the most was his discourse on recognizing the time and effort spent by elite athletes to become so. For instance, people look at Michael Phelps and claim his success is due to talent and genetics. Few remember – or choose to notice – that, as Maximus put it, Phelps has spent the equivalent of several years training. If that much work didn’t produce a fantastic swimmer, it wouldn’t make any sense. Similarly, CrossFitters might look at Rich Froning and cite his genetics, background, and education as reasons he dominated the CrossFit Games for 4 years, but conveniently ignore his legendary work ethic.
Something similar may be observed in the world of martial arts. In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, for instance, it takes about four years for someone to climb the 3 ranks from blue belt – the second adult belt – to black. That’s assuming the person has been competing or otherwise proving their increasing proficiency, without which the process would take much longer. The idea here is that as belts are meant to be indicators of skill – with black denoting an expert – practitioners should spend enough time at each level to truly develop their skill. Other martial arts have similar traditions about time-in-grade, with the same rationale.
Getting good at things takes time. That, more than anything, must be what you are most prepared to invest. No matter how advanced your program, expensive your machines, or certified your coach, you will not go from Gabe Newell to Chris Hemsworth overnight. There are numerous reasons behind this: your body can only burn so much fat and build so much muscle in a day, and your brain can only learn so many movements at one time. You also have to be aware of progression: no one is going to go from crunches to the dragon flag in their first session. Each step will take time to develop.
There are a couple of particularly good psychological benefits to obeying the clock.
First, being fully aware of the process of progression – the multiple steps leading to the goal – provides a more realistic view of the goal. You are less likely to be disappointed and discouraged from continuing if you know – really know – that you aren’t going to go from couch potato to Olympian in a month. Set high standards, yes, but realistic ones.
Second – and I know this seems almost self-explanatory – training actually gets easier in a sense the longer you do it. Pain and soreness become less scary, and psyching one’s self up to go hard and heavy becomes almost second-nature. This is one of the reasons athletes are able to perform on game day: they have become so accustomed to the rigor and pressures of training that the actual event almost seems like just another training session.
A final note: this does not mean you get to be lazy as long as you stick to it. All those other factors – programming, nutrition, recovery – are very important. It just so happens that time is the most critical factor. Without obedience to the time – without a degree of patience and respect for progression – you can’t reasonably expect anything but an empty wallet made worse by disappointment in yourself.
Find time. Obey it. Enjoy the trip.
30x each 4-way JJ
10x Close Squat
20m Cross Zombies
10x Side Lunge
20m High Knees
Pistol to Lunge Combo
10m @ body weight / 10lbs / 15lbs
8m @ 25lbs
3x6m @ 16kg
Kettlebell Swing @ 16kg
Goblet Squat @ 16kg
Burpee (no jump)
- I am so much worse at pistols now that it genuinely upsets me. A few months ago, I literally did that rep scheme with twice the weight. It is a hard-earned skill and hard-built strength that I now have to re-develop.
- The circuit is actually a modification of a workout Mark Twight used on the cast of 300 and on Henry Cavill for Man of Steel. The sledgehammer slams replaced jumping jacks because I find those too easy for real conditioning work, except in enormous amounts. Also, the original is meant to be done either for a single round of 25 reps (as a finisher) or four rounds of 25 reps each, which I am not currently conditioned enough to take on.
I was re-watching an interview Michael Blevins did for one of Henry Cavill’s fan sites. The great thing about Blevins (and his mentor Mark Twight) is that there’s always something new to take away from what he says, whether written on the Internet or given in an interview. This time my attention was drawn to how he answered the question of Henry’s diet.
In case you’re too lazy to watch the video – and you shouldn’t be, because it’s worth the time – Blevins focused on sustainability and longevity over minutiae like macro- and micronutrient counting, exclusion of sweets and sugar, and other details that people tend to obsess over. If allowing a client to have a beer every night kept the guy within his targeted calories, Blevins had zero problems handing him the bottle.
This is an approach that is hardly unique to Blevins, and one that isn’t limited to diet. Most sane trainers will happily tell their clients where to find a good pizza for a cheat meal, or that they can take a day or two off to relax. Deprivation is not a long-term plan, and being too strict eventually causes rebellion.
Sticking to a fitness program is, after all, a long-term investment. Any good investment will have latitude for dips and peaks so long as the general direction is maintained and the value is ultimately increased. If trying to adhere perfectly to the program and diet causes one to crash and burn, the goal will be missed and the mission failed.
Obviously this approach varies from client to client and even from week to week. For instance, during a leaning or cutting phase, a diet becomes absolute in its restrictions simply because there is a deadline to be met. Say goodbye to beer, sweets, and fat, because no one is going to take Superman or the Spartans seriously if they don’t have six-packs. Similarly, no one tells athletes cutting for a match that they’re making a mistake because the goal is to be amazing for a few minutes, not years. There’s time for laxity later.
But again, the general goal of fitness is long-term health and functionality. Whether you can ever bench double your bodyweight is not as important as whether twenty years from now, your shoulders aren’t so messed up that you can’t bench any more.
As a caveat, though: this isn’t an excuse to fuck around. You get a cheat day, not a cheat week. You can take a day off, not a month (barring injury, of course). The objective is to stay the course. Slipping off is almost as bad as being thrown off.
20x 4-way JJ
3×10 Jump Squat
1 round per 3min for 60min (i.e. 20 rounds)
2x Salmon Ladder Rungs (i.e. climb 2 rungs on the Salmon Ladder)
- This is a very informal workout conducted out on a cool day. The actual scheme is 2 rungs every new song, which works out to roughly every 3 minutes. It makes the rest periods feel longer and less intense. Obviously my forearms were left nearly non-functional for the next two days.