We are now fully settled in 2013. We have seen the resolutions in the gym as patrons move in herds from one piece of equipment to another. I know I’m settled because I’ve stopped writing “2012″ when putting the date in my workout log.
I’m not too fond of resolutions, but this time of year does make me reflect back on my year, and looking back there were some ups and some downs. But when specifically reflecting on my training, part of me feels like nothing was accomplished and another part of me sees the upsides and PRs that were set.
The sad part is that I am not hitting all those PRs anymore.
Why? Lots of reasons. But I think it all comes down the simple fact that we can’t be good at everything.
Thinly Spread Peanut Butter
I believe that specializing is an eventual necessity. Though we can train people from all walks of life, I think we do better as coaches when we learn an absolute ton about a very select population. That population can be as broad as ‘female fat loss’ or as narrow as ‘post-quadruple bypass in 50+ year old CEOs’, but either way we are specialists. We are the best in that area. We are experts.
This same principle applies to living our lives. The less we try to do, the closer we come to being experts in those few things.
The only issue with this, is for the vast majority of us we can’t escape the claws of life’s many necessities.
Tim Ferris says we have 4 hours a day of productive time (though I have heard others say as high as 50 hours per week), and if that is the case we need to use that time wisely.
Jon Goodman paid people to make his food when he was a busy personal trainer. He would even go to the closer, more expensive grocery store because it saved him time even when it cost him more money.
This is a great strategy to reduce the amount of things you need to focus on, and allows you to use those 4 hours on the things that matter.
Unfortunately most people work a rigidly structured 8+ hours a day, have hobbies, kids, bills, car repairs and who knows what else. Life itself spreads us thin, and like the last piece of toast at your local homestyle diner, the peanut butter has to be scraped out of that tiny plastic container in the hope that you might get enough out to make that piece worth eating. You never do.
That peanut butter is your energy, and that garbage-destined piece of toast is everything that needs to be accomplished.
Fear not! There are strategies to get more done. Jon reduced the size of his toast by essentially outsourcing life. Mark Young (and Science) says we can train willpower and grow our measly peanut butter container to accomodate two, diagonally sliced, wonderful pieces of thick-cut, whole wheat texas toast.
This takes practice, and initially we struggle. The most menial things might distract us from our goal of setting ridiculous PRs and impressing even the mostly beastly dude in the gym (or the one in a million female that actually cares how much you can lift).
Eventually, with lots of practice, one day we may join the ranks of the Eric Cressey cyborgs and accomplish everything.
Not yet though, at least not for me.
“Why aren’t you squatting triple bodyweight, huh?”
Lifting isn’t usually the #1 priority. I wish it was. God how I wish it was. How nice would it be to have nothing to do or worry about except The Iron? I really wish I could say “I am 100% dedicated to my training, squat triple bodyweight and am on my way to world recognition”.
I’m can’t say that, though. Can you?
There is a Reason There are Only Two Olympic Lifts
A couple years ago I was thinking “What do I REALLY train for?” and initially I didn’t know. Maybe this semester it is a huge squat. Last might have been a big bench. Who knows what was before that.
I lived my life in academic semesters, and though each of those goals were reached to a degree, in the long run not much has changed. Those past goals have been forgotten, and like a teenager discovering new training programs on bodybuilding.com, my mind jumped from one to the next as my life moved to the coming semester.
My deadlift is a bit more than it was last year. I briefly entered squattingdom this summer but have since regressed. I haven’t benched hard since I wrecked my hand, though I am finally Olympic lifting again.
Every time energy is invested in one direction, it takes from others. Something has to take a hit. Another lift. School. Relationships. Even lunch might get skipped to do that thing you forgot to do earlier.
This isn’t complex; it is frighteningly simple. There is a reason you don’t see Klokov at the Powerlifting world championships or writing New York Times Bestsellers. His energy is focused on the absolute least number of things possible, and with this focus, he prospers in a distinct area of life.
A Finely Tuned Balancing Act
Thinking back, not all is doom and gloom. When I thought about what I trained for, I thought trained for life.
I don’t have a crazy total, but it isn’t bad. I’m not flexing out of shirts to show hardened, oiled-up abs, but they still exist. The veins in my arms don’t audibly scream my testosterone levels at others in the gym, but if you listen closely, they do let out a peep when I train ‘arms’.
I do have a beautiful son, a social life and solid academics. I am going to graduate from 5 years of University debt-free, with good experience and opportunities for jobs I actually want. Even though I had to take a bit of energy from training, I used my peanut butter to accomplish more important things than a new PR.
In short, my accomplishments reach beyond the gym, and I cannot forget that.
In 2013 and beyond I will focus my energy on what matters and things will slowly fall into place. Those which are important will take front and center as the useless fall to the wayside. Consistency to maintain or even improve the minor things will be second nature as I focus on the prize. Lifts will improve, doors will open, friendships will grow, and my son will be raised a man.
I thought I trained for life, but what I really trained for is happiness, and I have have been ever since.
As Dan John says, sometimes we are sitting on the park bench, and other times we are waiting for the bus. With all the craziness of modern life, we can still train hard, but maybe we need to find some balance, and spend a bit more time in the park.
Have a seat and enjoy yourself, if even for a minute. What better time than 2013?