Thursday, April 19, 2012

To build or not to build...that is the question.

The more I live, the more I see how everything connects itself one thing to another by principles.  Let me give you an example: What’s more impressive?  Building a house all by yourself, or tearing it down all by yourself? 

Think about this.

To tear down something as massive and complex as a house takes one thing: explosive charges in a few places.  If you don’t care where the house lands you won’t even have to overthink it.  Hit the detonator and watch it fall.  Fun for about a second, but you don’t really have much to look at after the dust clears, and all that rubble does neither you nor anyone else any good.  It’s time efficient though – I mean, you can do it in less than a day – even less than an hour.

All right, well that's out of the way.  Now what?

Now think about the opposite.  What does it take to build a house?  It takes knowledge, planning, and materials.  You have to start by laying down a solid foundation – you don’t want your building to fall and take a dirt bath, do you? – then you have to lay the frame, then you have to mix mortar and use it to lay bricks, then you have to lay the pipes, electrical work, put up drywall, etc. etc.  It takes longer, but you’ll have more to be proud of and not only will you have something to look at, but you’ll have something to live in.  Heck, your friends might even find it fun to look at and hang around!  Yeah, it’s gonna take months or more to create, but by the time it will have all been worth it.

For a blog about strength and physical development this seems like a weird thing to talk about.  But is it?

What’s the difference between your house and your body?  Your body follows a very similar set of principles.  It’s easy to tear down a house, and anyone can do it (I did this once in my younger, dumber days.  Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you the story).  Do one destructive thing and your body is “torn down,” forcing either a layoff at best or a surgery at worst (ask me how I know this).  But, put some time into learning how to build yourself up with a goal, the right exercises, and a solid plan on how to get there, and slowly but surely your goals will come to fruition.  Patience and slowly building are a lot less fun than going ape sh*t and tearing something down, but if you’re going to be alive for awhile, you might want that house to be in good shape.

If at 80 you still want to snatch/
Do not today do stupid crap.

A young acquaintance of mine recently told me about his goals: he wants to get big, he wants to get lean, and he wants to look sexy for all the lady-folk.  So naturally, I asked what he was doing.  “Basically, I pick one body part and just try to tear my body down one thing at a time.” 
“How’s that whole tearin’ yourself down thing workin’ for ya?” I asked, trying my best not to sound like Sarah Palin (I swear). 
“Um, not well.”

Naturally, I went into concerned-trainer mode and gave him an earful on the importance of training for success, not failure, focusing on one goal at a time, better training strategies than beating yourself up, simplicity in training, etc. etc.  To my surprise, he was receptive to the message and has vowed to change his training strategy.  I don’t know if he’ll stick to it, but I’m hopeful. 

Once you’ve swallowed the red pill, it’s hard not to see the world as it is, instead of how it’s presented by various “forces” (the supplement and “fitness” industry are great examples of these forces).  I say this because, earlier in my training career, I often over-valued really tough workouts for my clients.  I didn’t use them so much for myself, and I started to see a disconnect: if it isn’t good enough for me, why would it be any good for them?  Let’s get serious: a tough, all-out physical test is great every once in a while, but if you can get the same or better results from less overall work but with better focus on a goal, that’s great, why do more when it equals as much or less?  

Ultimately, a laser-sharp focus on strength over beat-downs and “workouts” does the trick for just about anyone, particularly for those with lots of other stressors in their lives, such as kids, full-time work, bills, and so on (so, you know, EVERYBODY).  These things wear people out.  Do you really need your physical training to do the same?  Building strength, and absolute strength specifically, will build you up, make you injury resistant, and set you up for any other goal you’d like to achieve (ex: Wanna run a marathon?  Maintain your base level of strength while focusing on running and not only will you be better prepared, but your body will be more resistant to injuries often caused by the constant shock of your feet hitting the pavement).   

Here’s a story I love about Rabbi Alexander Katz.  He was driving his family to a vacation destination when one of his kids pointed out that he was going the wrong way.  He immediately pulled across the grassy median and hit the highway going the right direction.  His kids screamed “Why didn’t you just wait to take the next exit?!”  He responded, “What if the next exit hadn’t been for another forty miles?  In life, if you’re going the wrong direction, be prepared to change it at a moment’s notice.”

Are you going the wrong direction?  Are you beating yourself down or building yourself up?  And most importantly, do you have the courage to change if you’re going the wrong direction?  

While you ponder this zen-like koan, please check out this video on how to make amazing guacamole.  And unlike the last video, this one you can share with your friends.

You know the routine.  Lift heavy and eat hearty!