Drop by drop
Posted on March 8th, 2013
I’ve heard it said, “Show me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are.” I could make a similar assessment based upon how you treat waiters, what jokes make you laugh, how much you read, the drugs you choose or choose not to imbibe, and most importantly, by your daily habits. There’s nothing more accurate than this – with time you become exactly what you practice. This should be obvious to us.
I’m left with the question, “So, what does that make me?” The preferred answer is that I do all that I should, and because of that I am all that I can be. I show up every day ready to learn and create. I eat what I need, and in the amounts that are necessary. I take measured, daily steps towards my performance goals, making certain that no weakness goes hidden and unturned. And of course, I make sure that all of this is performed with a certain amount of panache, complete with sprinkle of piss and vinegar for good measure. Life is short after all.
…This is bullshit.
The genuine answer is that I must confess otherwise. Many days are a struggle. Creation comes only after self-coercion, not romantic inspiration. I’ve spent one too many months disregarding what I consume. Granted, I’m lucky that my dietary sins are not characterized by glut and excess. However, getting too little of the right things is just as bad. And yes, my steps have often been staggered and without clear direction, with no real focus on progression. My weaknesses have been coddled and withheld from view. Maybe you’ve experienced something similar.
The frustrating thing is that this was willful. Without diligence, even the most long-entrenched positive habits can start to lose their footing. Once that happens there is nothing left but for the bad ones to gain ground. It’s easy to fight back at the start, but these habits are patient. They know that, in time, you’ll grow comfortable with the notion of dullness. Sue you could call it getting older, but I’ll call it giving in.
It’s alarming to wake up to the realization that you’ve let things slip, but at the same time I feel blessed. I remain eager to act, so there’s little wrong from a long-term view. I’m reminded that life doesn’t unfold in a straight line. If our trajectory was consistent and upward, then success would simply be another cheap commodity. It would be reduced to something that you felt was owed. I’m glad this is not the case. Passion is linked to ebb and flow. The blessed high points bring ecstasy, while those low points actual serve to remind you of what you love the most. Sometimes it takes a little while for that passion to spark anew. We have to be reminded.
For me, the love is strength. It’s knowing that I’m working towards a better version of myself. At one time that motive would have been based upon an outward projection. A market assessment of where I needed to be based upon what others were capable of. And to be honest, this is a still struggle almost every day, but luckily I’m learning how to step back and turn that projection inward. This means maintaining an active, mobile and pain free life, sure. But I still need to make that barbell sing. I want to know that what once was heavy for me is now light, and that I have achieved that improved state.
If being strong by one’s own measure remains a physical possibility, why the hell would you choose to be weak?
The path is relatively simple. I’ve gone back and separated out those barbell exercises that are really important to me – the press, back squat and deadlift. Everything else is just as valid of course, but the most important thing anyone can do in this game is decide what their goal is not. Of the things that I could do, I need only do a few for the desired effect. And that’s ok.
The loading plan is just as clear. I must start by being honest with myself. That means picking the right load, not the most impressive one. It means fighting again to add weight every week, even if it’s just a few pounds, because any program that doesn’t seek this progression is just silly bullshit. Performing complicated combinations of sets and reps at odd percentages of your maximum ability provides the illusion of validity, but trust me, it is not going to bring you what you want. Pretending to be more capable then you are will serve to sabotage. Only the brutally simple, pure, patient escalation of total kilograms lifted will do the job. I’m reminded.
All of this should be evident, right? But no, tiny cumulative mistakes are much harder to account for. That’s because no one error seems that important. The frog fries as he grows used to the warming pot, or so I’ve heard. You can also say that taking things for granted come way too fucking easy. Meals get skipped. Hours of sleep are diverted to another cause. Feeling a little shitty slowly becomes normal – A consequence of burning those candles from all ends. But that’s all for naught, I’m afraid. The result is that there’s nothing left to build with. From here the barbell shifts from a tool of construction to one of destruction. It swings right through you like a demolition ball through crumbling concrete. At least this is what experience has taught me. I’m tempted to remedy the issue with a strong counter-offensive; every variable carefully reprogrammed, every macro and micronutrient tallied and balanced. But I know that this is only my overdeveloped ego yammering on to save face. The proper path is quiet diligence.
Every day is an opportunity to step in the right direction. A spare hour is all that is necessary tonight; A little block of tranquility out in the garage. Nothing needs to be overly planned. The body grows warm. A few simple exercises reinforce proper position and pump some blood into stiff regions. Then, focus is applied to those few barbell strokes that will really make a difference – Those exercises that really matter. The discipline comes in knowing that the adaptation cannot be rushed. This response is going to take some time, but it will come. And apart from everything physiological, this hour reinforces what I’m after. It’s a reminder of that thing I love. And what’s more, it represents a tiny step in the right direction. One of many that will accumulate in time.
I never want to lose sight of my goal again, that horizon. But at the same time staring too long from a distance will not help me get there. My bucket will fill drop by drop. I’ll be patient, carrying that water to where it needs to go. I know this habit will make me what I wish to become.