Misguided Fitness Mantra: “Toughness”

Week in Review: August 30, 2019
August 30, 2019
Week in Review: September 6, 2019
September 6, 2019
Week in Review: August 30, 2019
August 30, 2019
Week in Review: September 6, 2019
September 6, 2019

Every so often I’ll hear an anecdote about a hard workout. It usually involves words like “soul-crushing”, “destroyed” or the oft overused “grinding”. In each case, there seems to be a flawed perception that the only valuable workout is one where you have to drag yourself from the gym afterward.

Sadly, social media has done the general fitness population few favors. Fitness related Instagram or Facebook content seems to be made solely to up the ante about what constitutes a “hard” workout. Whether it’s on the field or in the gym, this mindset creates a sense of fake toughness that, ironically, takes us further away from achieving our goals.

100 Blows…

“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

– Jacob Riis

The foremost priority of any workout should be to elicit a response that is consistent with your overarching health and fitness goals. Yes, that means you’ll probably have to push yourself beyond your comfort zone occasionally. Truth be told, I cannot remember a person telling me that they “enjoy” working out. While they might desire to work out or like how they feel afterward, there’s precious little enjoyment in the moment.

With that said, you cannot turn the screws all the time. If it takes 101 blows to split a rock, the same principle applies to our workout plan. We are chipping away day by day – there are no shortcuts. Should we lose sight of this fact, we might wind up doing something that fails to move the needle toward goal achievement. The following workout is such an example:

To be clear, it took no knowledge or skill to write this workout. Any fool with a white board, a marker and a sadistic personality can put this together. Ultimately, one of the most important jobs of a coach or trainer is to place our players or clients in a position to be successful. If we’re not doing that, then we’re failing those we should be helping. Any coach or trainer who believes that workouts like this are, in any way, beneficial should either change their approach or look for a new career.

Work Hard. Work Smart.

Consistency and discipline are the cornerstones of goal achievement. No single workout will fast-track your progress. The expectation that “toughness” will overcome lack of preparedness can have serious consequences. To wit, I love this quote from strength coach Tony Gentilcore, who states:

“80% of the time – which is almost always – you’re going to show up and just do the work. You’re going to hit all your reps, strain (but not too much), and for all intents and purposes you’re going to complete a mediocre workout.”

We live in the 80%. It’s where the work is done. The remaining 20% is split between days where you feel great and those where you feel horrible. On a 10% day where you can crush the world, you add on to your workout. During the other 10%, it’s probably time to focus on mobility work and lighten your training volume. The important thing is that you’ve maintained the discipline to show up and execute something.

By the way, improving mobility and movement quality are not things to be scoffed at. You’ll find that investment in these areas, especially on days where you feel like crap, leads to better workouts down the line. Ignoring them because it’s not the “tough” thing to do is how you wind up injured and unable to train at all.

Also remember that your ability to perform is the result of contributory factors like the following:

  1. Sleep: Did you get 8 hours of quality sleep or did you go to bed late, read Twitter for 2 hours and then toss and turn for another 3? When it was time to get up, did you hit the snooze button 18 times?
  2. Workout Recovery: Are you recovered from your previous workout or is your battery still on empty. Does your body feel like it was in a car wreck or is there a spring in your step?
  3. Diet: Does your daily food intake consistently include a healthy variety of protein, carbs and fats in sufficient quantities or did you skip breakfast and lunch, then hit the bar after work for 10-cent wings, ½ priced burgers and $2 drafts?

When all of these factors are taken into account, we arrive at how we’re feeling that day and how the workout should be executed. The “toughness” mantra dictates that we ignore these things and plow through regardless. If we do this enough times, we eventually become overstressed, tired and broken down to the point that we can’t perform. We may even wind up injured. Either way, we’re not performing. And by not performing, we’re straying further from our goals.

Be Tough!

Toughness isn’t running yourself into the ground for the sake of an Instagram post. It’s developing the discipline to consistently execute workouts that drive you toward goal achievement. It’s making good decisions in the weight room, in the kitchen and at bed time, even when you don’t want to. It’s ensuring that every day, regardless of what you did, you got 1% better than the day before, while setting yourself to be 1% better the next.

At Vitalifit, our exercise programs are designed to help you improve day by day. Most importantly, our primary objective is to help you develop the confidence and independence to work out consistently. If you’d like add structure and accountability to your exercise program, but are unsure about how to start, contact us today to join the Vitalifit Coaching Program that is right for you.