In exercise, and training, you don’t need to be disciplined or forceful. We are told we need to work hard all the time, but this is not true – this approach rarely results in improved quality of movement. Working hard, valuing effort above awareness and insight, often results in the development of inefficient movement patterns.
One must learn to train appropriately to the day and the larger objective. This is a subtle skill that develops only over time. But I’m not going anywhere, and I’d hope that after another year of training, I’ll be better at it.
For the beginner, discipline and forcefulness are irrelevant, and for the athlete, forcefulness is usually of lesser importance to skill or technique. For a person to be successful at a sport, they generally must be able to effectively apply power to an efficient and effective movement pattern, but at gyms we only value effort, because of the delusion that the reason exercise is good for you is because it ‘burns the foods’.
Ovens burn the foods. But I digress.
Power may require some kind of tension or exertion, but speed and explosiveness are born of relaxation and skill.
Unless you are that rare person who has become quite familiar with what kind of adversity calls you to action, believing you need to be a certain way or adopt a forceful mindset will only make you intimidated by the prospect of going to the gym. Likewise, if it becomes important to you that you demonstrate perfect form all the time, you will start to fear failure, and be hesitant to train with commitment, if at all. The irony is: valuing perfection can be the enemy of progress. We must not be too hard on ourselves when we are undergoing a process of development; you are not meant to be skilled at things you have not yet learned.
Form degrades when fatigue sets in, but training to a point of fatigue, when it’s right for you and your programming, is how you develop strength and resilience. All things are balanced. Perfect form is impossible to maintain under extreme conditions – and maybe that’s what make the conditions extreme – our inability to maintain composure. But what breaks down first? You can work on that in less extreme ways.
There is a difference between testing, competition, and training. Training is a process of discovery. Risks that might be worth taking in competition are generally not worth taking in the gym.
Instead of forcefulness and stubbornness, cultivate a mindset of curiosity. What am I going to learn today? Even if you are training alone, being open-minded and curious can make any training experience educational and worthwhile.
This is the way of peace, respect and learning, as opposed to that of force.
But it is possible to excel in either way. The trouble is, people who respond well to force and the pressure of adversity often expect that all people should respond well to their own methods.
You can be training for many years and still be a beginner, or still benefit from the unprejudiced mindset of a child, or someone new to an activity whose mind is open and fertile because they are viewing things as if for the first time.
There is no need to rush or be in a hurry to become an advanced practitioner or trainee. You will only deny yourself genuine experiences if you hurry. Move at your true pace, invest in what you discover to be engaging, satisfying and rewarding.
Anything that is complicated may be novel or interesting, but at its heart, training is simple.
Rather than search for new adventures and methods you can choose to train simply and become extremely good at certain things over time. This can be very rewarding – you may squat and lunge for years, yet continuously discover new things, and learn more about yourself if you can bring yourself to the experience with awareness and an inquisitive mind – not the prejudiced mind of hatred and judgement.
The many varied programs and methods, the ‘secrets’ that are sold, they squabble over details – rest periods, ideal heart rates, fat burning zones, glycogen depletion, hormonal profiling, numbers of sets and repetitions – is it 10 or 12 – and for what? These differences are mostly trivial, and all of these arguments have failed to produce an accessible method that magically makes a person thin for the long term. They are all irrelevant if you are training for the purpose of learning about your body in motion and discovering what satisfies you in the moment, and over time. If this is your agenda, you will naturally seek out methods that help you to develop in the right way. If you experience injury, you will naturally research rehabilitation, and if you wish to become stronger, or more flexible, or to increase your capacity for endurance, you will seek out appropriate methods, rather than be fooled by hype. If a method promises only weight-loss, and not some kind of improved, tangible fitness result, it is fraudulent. All methods are good for your health, as long as they do not harm you in the process. Injuries are inevitable, but they heal. Real harm is something else.
If you are interested in the possibility of training for the long term, on working on development, exciting new methods may be fun to try out, but ultimately they only become distractions and may interfere with your capacity to become skilled at a thing you value. A twelve week program might get you started, but it cannot hope to serve you for life. Pre-written programs do not help you follow your path and become the person you were always destined to become.