This week’s question comes from a dynamo doctor who refuses to let his life pass him by – from skiing double black diamonds and learning how to train like a wild animal, he embodies the need to conquer! Father Time be damned, he never uses his six decades of worldly experience as an excuse, and is interested in how to push even harder! What an inspiration!
Q: How do I push harder without you [or another trainer/training partner] looking over my shoulder?
A: Great question – This can be a difficult task, but it is a critical problem faced by many and is certainly worth solving. Remember, intensity in the gym is far more productive and conducive to producing real, lasting results than utilizing longer durations/volumes of a lesser intensity.
Let’s break this topic down into a few steps.
My first suggestion is to figure out why you’re even looking to be working harder. Nobody wants to work harder because it involves hard work. Hard work itself sucks. Yet, people out there choose to work hard every single day, so something has to be worth more than “the suck” of hard work.
So how do you figure this out for yourself?
Set aside some time to think about why you even go to the gym in the first place. What is it that you want to accomplish? Why is it important to you? Most importantly, make sure you identify what is the alternative to NOT pursuing and reaching your goals?
If you honestly can’t find anything, perhaps you should re-evaluate your habit.
Why continue to spend time and effort even going to the gym? I’m sure you have better things to do. I train because I love the process and the experience, even if it is usually challenging and even grueling at times. If I didn’t love training, I wouldn’t do it, nor would you be reading this right now.
Do yourself a favor. Don’t be the person who mindlessly performs soulless activities in his daily life, which he hates. The world doesn’t need any more drones who go about their work day only to do the bare minimum, effectively wasting their lives as they wait to go home. Your dreams are bigger than that, so be spectacular and go all-in once you find what you love.
Once you have found your reason, create a general plan of how exercise will help you achieve your goal. Give it positive association! Sure, exercise can be uncomfortable and hard work at times, but if you learn to associate those feelings with climbing one step closer towards your goal, you will be far more likely to achieve it. Your mind can be a powerful ally… or your greatest source of sabotage.
Congratulations. You have a purpose now – so keep it fresh in your mind! Write it on a notecard that you carry around in your wallet. Slap a post-it on on kitchen fridge, bathroom mirror, or at your desk.
While the fire within can provide you the ultimate fuel, understand that you alone are responsible for your own success. As a trainer and coach, I can lead a horse to water, but you have to take the drink.
Drink the water.
How does it taste? Well, I have another question for you…
One thing that helped me immensely in my early days of learning to exercise with intensity was a simple question that I would ask myself the exact moment the discomfort seemed overwhelming, when I felt truly challenged.
Imagine for a moment you’re doing your hardest set of pushups, squats, or sprint intervals… Your core is buckling, your muscles are on fire, and the only thought in your mind is how excruciating your suffering is. You’ve never wanted to quit as badly as you do right now. Close your eyes, and imagine the suffering until it almost becomes real.
While recalling your purpose for being in the gym and performing the present exercise that is causing such a challenge, ask yourself this question:
“Can I be working harder?”
If the answer is yes, then up the ante! Give all of your effort! Flex just a little harder, hold just a little longer, and add at least one more rep to the set. Show the world, but especially yourself, how badly you want to achieve your personal success!
If the answer is no, well then this is a bit of a trick question. If you cannot be working harder, then all of your mental reserves will be taken up in the effort you’re putting out and you won’t be asking this question in the first place. Sorry, it’s just the way it is.
This question is a simple trick to dissociate your mind from your body. Most people are too quick to listen/react to their minds, disregarding the signals of their body. During a challenging set, the under-developed mind will always quit first while the musculature has plenty in reserve. Asking this question is especially important because your results will reflect the intensity of the work and effort you consistently put out. As with many things in life, the more you put in, the more you receive.
Eventually you will get to a point of mental strength and development that entering this mental state as you enter the gym will become a standard ritual, just as the great warrior dons the tribal war paint before heading into battle. Every session, with great certainty, you’re ready to give everything, holding nothing back, as you engage the iron in a fight to the finish. You will be assured victory and success.
Finally, I have one last recommendation to further stimulate your aggression to succeed . Upon speaking with acclaimed bodybuilding and connoisseur of brutal training methods, John Meadows, I was given sage advice to pass on. I asked him about his history with training partners, and he replied by extolling their necessity in a productive training environment.
“No matter how hard you can push yourself, you always have a higher gear.” – John Meadows
The Mountain Dog hath spoken.
In my own training, I have experienced how much of a difference a trusted training partner can provide. He is a knowledgeable and observant eye as well as a sharp motivator, challenging you to overcome your personal weaknesses at the very moment they begin to take hold. This is a special form of therapy and training that, unfortunately, many never get to experience.
Find a training partner who is at a similar level to your own, preferably higher. The only crucial trait he must possess is the undying desire to improve. Negativity will not be tolerated – your success depends on it.
1. Identify your fire and purpose.
2. “Can I be working harder?”
3. Train with a competent training partner.
Thanks for the question, and always strive to train harder!