“I want you to hit me as hard as you can.”
A wise man once told me “life is a tutorial.” That being said, I would add it’s also about building up a tolerance. You may ask what this has to do with a quote from Fight Club? Well, besides being a stellar film, Fight Club can be an analogy for training.
Improvement is doing. So, in light of that, if you want to be tough, you’re going to have to take some punches. Consequently, if you want to bring up your deadlift numbers, you’re going to have to deadlift until you start shaking. Common knowledge, right? However, what most trainers, gym rats and athletes don’t think about is what the training is doing to them as a person outside of the gym.
What does it feel like to pick up 135lbs after you just cranked out a few working sets with 275 — light, right? The same principle applies to daily life. Like the war veterans who have seen some sh*t but obviously on a less intense scale. When someone trains with intensity at least a few times per week, they become accustomed to pain and pushing their limits mentally as well as physically.
For example, when the time of the test comes, or work becomes chaotic because a coworker has swine flu, the regularly trained individual has a higher likelihood of keeping their cool than the sedentary loser who has never pushed himself in his life. All the more reason to add a few forced reps to your next routine.
Your Daily Dose of Science
A study conducted by Pat Monaghan and Mark Haussmann found the following: “A number of experimental studies have demonstrated that exposure to a mild form of a stressor in early life can mean that the response to stressors in adult life is more effective, a process termed hormesis.”
The key word being “mild” stressor. We’re not talking about doing several tours in Vietnam and then having the ability to work double shifts during Black Friday at Best Buy; rather, frequent, intense exercise would be considered a mild stressor. There is of course the ability to go too far on the stress scale; however, there’s a good chance none of your first-world problems will get you there.
In any case, the further you take your mental game, the better off you’ll be down the road.
Get enlightened on the next page…
Your Daily Practice
Drawing from some classical conditioning methods, the recommended dosage of mental and physical stress should occur frequently, and in similar fashion. In other words, don’t go diving into a circuit of heavy squats, bench, deadlifts, and burpees the first day. Instead, progress the stress minimally each day or week to prevent your nervous system from going rogue.
A word to the wise: stress is a tool, and all tools can be overused. Physical stress (even severe mental stress) releases a hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol is helpful at first, due to it’s involvement in the fight-or-flight pathway; however, it’s a real b*tch if it hangs around too long.
How do you capitalize on this fickle hormone? Simply put, ignite the stress, then pull the handbrake and go right into some smart recovery — sufficient protein, water and rest. You may have heard these things before, but understanding the reasoning behind it will make it stick.
Bringing It Home
Just like heavy drinking, slow and steady wins the race. Clever periodization, stretching, and deload weeks will keep you out of the physical therapy clinic and allow you to lift long enough to be that marginally creepy old man in the gym.
There’s an evolutionary reason women are attracted to guys who exercise, and it goes far beyond the thick arms and etched abs. People who push themselves through the gauntlet of sweat and pain voluntarily on a regular basis tend to be more organized and responsible. They also have a higher level of self respect and self control (minus the occasional weight room f*ck boy). You get the point.