ENVYI constantly lament the negative qualities of the internet as it pertains to training, and this is no exception. In and of itself, comparing yourself to others is not a sin. Whether it’s a training partner or a youtube phenom, viewing your own progress in terms of others can be a helpful measuring stick to see if you’re on the right path or if you’ve made some sort of terrible mistake. However, this can become negative when you simply resent other trainees rather than learn from them. Envy can force you to justify your own failings through the success of others, making claims about how you can’t possibly succeed because you don’t have the genetics, drugs, food, free time, trainers, etc, of the more successful. Through envy, you make yourself weaker and unable to grow.
"Big deal, I could've done that too if I was born in a rural farming town in Austria after losing the second world war while having to sneak away from my job in the armor division to illegally compete in bodybuilding before moving to the United States with no money and limited English speaking skills."
We all have disadvantages. Again, if you did not have these, you would not be reading this, because lifting would come easy to you and require no research. Our flaws make us human, and are an excellent opportunity to learn how to overcome diversity. That last part is the key though. You cannot let your limitations define you, but instead be just one more opportunity to prove yourself. For every guy who was born with a silver spoon in their mouth, there is some guy sleeping 4 hours a day, working 12 hour days, raising 3 kids as a single dad and still crushing records. Honestly, if you want to compare yourself, shoot for that latter guy, because his dedication and passion will put you to shame and hopefully inspire you to greatness.
SLOTHSo let’s start with the obvious: some people won’t work hard, if at all. Man by nature is lazy, and wants to put in the minimal effort whenever possible. We see this manifest itself in many ways with training and diet. Some folks refuse to put any effort into either affair, simply not exercising and eating whatever they want, whenever they want. Some people are only willing to put in the bare minimum, cranking out a few push-ups here and there and ordering the chicken sandwich at McDonalds instead of the Big Mac. Then, of course, we have the optimizers (which I spoke of in an early post on optimization), who find the notion of wasted effort so morally offensive that they refuse to put in an additional ounce of effort unless it can be proven to give them the maximal result. Though efficiency is admirable, the refusal to step outside one’s optimized comfort zone prevents one from being able to learn through experience with trial and error.
However, there exists a less obvious form of sloth, the special kind of lazy wherein one spends more effort to achieve less results due to willful ignorance. I am speaking of those that simply refuse to do any research on either diet or training. We live in an era wherein information is available at an unfathomable level. No longer is it the case that the only way to learn about lifting was to seek out a mentor at a gym and hope he knows what he is talking about. Authors publish books that can be downloaded in an instant and contain tomes of knowledge the likes of which would have taken decades to accumulate in previous eras. Why then, with all of these resources available, are we as a species in the worst shape that we have ever been? Because no one is taking advantage of these assets. We’re simply too lazy to do any research, because the rapid availability of the information has in turn diminished our attention spans to that of a ferret on triple espresso. We feel entitled to instant knowledge, and the idea of having to work to obtain it is abhorrent. As a result, people would rather spend hours in the gym, obtaining the instant gratification of physical fatigue while accomplishing none of their actual goals than spend an equal amount of time improving their knowledge on how to become a better trainee. They are “all thrust and no vector”, going 100% in no direction because they refuse to take the time to actually learn how to improve.
I mean, to be fair, it was a GPS satellite, and it did find the Earth
The excuse always arises of how “there is so much out there, I don’t know where to start”. Humbug, this is the mating call of the weak. The easiest way to go about this is to research the author and see the accomplishments of themselves and their trainees. If it matches your goal, you’re most likely good to go. But even if one were to not do this, the reality is that the fundamentals of lifting are the same across most spectrums. If you read enough, you’ll start to see the overlap. Simple things like compound movements are good, conditioning is good, train the lower body along with the upper body, etc. Do enough research and the puzzle pieces will come together. Complain about how hard life is and you’ll have a physique that reflects your mentality.
LUSTThe sin of lust in lifting is the pursuit of the sexy and exotic over the tried and true. Many temptations exist in the realm of training that will distract from reaching ones goals. New training methods, exercises, pieces of equipment, protocols, gyms, gurus, supplements, etc. We know that the basics work, and that hammering them hard and diligently will yield results, but like an adulterer that abandons their spouse for someone new and exotic, the lustful trainee forsakes their progress for the sake of satiating their carnal desires. Like a true adulterer as well, one new lover is never enough, and these trainees bounce from program to program, never settling down and picking one path. This sinner engages in the sins of the flesh and in doing so loses out on true enlightenment and salvation, for they lose sight of the truth that rewards are not granted immediately to a penitent follower, but instead in the future.
No cool prizes fit inside a crackjack box, you have to save up some proof of purchases to really win big
You will not similarities between the outcomes of gluttony and lust, and this is because in reality they are essentially one in the same. Both are about not being able to control one’s impulses for instant gratification. It’s about losing sight of the big picture, and not being able to realize that sacrifices need to be made in order to achieve greatness. I’ve said it a million times, but if this was easy, everyone would do it. Success in training means being able to do what it takes to succeed, no matter how unsexy it may seem at the time. Program hoppers simply spend too much time learning how to follow a program to be able to actually make progress on it, because by the time they’re actually ready to start progressing, they switch to a new protocol and start the whole process over again.
GREEDChildren of the 80’s may have been raised to believe that greed is good, but the sin is still pervasive and destructive in training. Gains are amazing, and the pursuit of them can become addictive, but in the pursuit it becomes possible for one’s greed to become destructive. We witness this phenomenon when it comes to resting and deloading especially. Trainees will be on a program that has established rest periods and deloading protocols, and when followed, they will succeed. However, greed takes over, and a trainee feels that rest periods and deloads are time that could be better spent with more training. So they skip their rest days and deloads for months on end, pushing and pushing, as their greed for gains consumes them, until they eventually end up overtrained, injured, and weaker than they started.
We know that getting stronger is not just about the time spent in the gym. Eating and recovering are just as essential to the process. Our logical minds are aware of this, but our emotions and impulses are not rational. They can feel the “getting stronger” sensation when one trains, and thus our irrational minds become consumed with greed and decide that we need to forsake our time “wasted” on resting so that we can keep rolling with the getting stronger portion of the equation.
The big picture is the overall moral of this story, and it does not change here. We need to realize that all of the pieces of getting stronger fit together in an equation, and if we overemphasize one at the expense of the other, we will not make the gains we desire. Skipping deloads and rests so that we can lift more weights does not benefit us in the grand scheme of things. No matter how weak it may make you feel to take a light week, the goal here is to be strong, not feel strong. Sometimes being strong means doing prehab instead of setting a new 1rm, or taking a day off instead of a high volume day, or spending some time with our friends and loved ones to get our minds back in a good state for training. Sometimes, it’s about recognizing that our greed is making us weak, and that moderation can result in strength.