Do You Want to Be Challenged, or Do You Want to Succeed? Why Consistency Will Always Trump Intensity.

I started training people online about four years ago. Our Spartan Race training group was having great results and I was getting inquiries in regards to distance coaching. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but figured I’d try to help.

After my first few clients saw great progress, I decided this was a good way to help more people reach their goals.

And I started taking it seriously.

I enrolled in the Online Trainer Academy. I became a Certified Online Trainer and have continued to grow my roster of online athletes ever since.

It’s been a great journey, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

And while there has been a heck of a lot more “ups” than “downs”, I had to fire my first client this week.

We could get into all the details, but what it came down to was this – my workouts weren’t challenging enough.

Now, I completely understand wanting to be challenged. I thrive off challenges! I’ve quit jobs in the past simply because they weren’t challenging.

But I’ve also come to learn that “success” is more important than “challenging”. And we simply can’t “challenge” ourselves every workout.

I’ve done workout programs that left me breathless and unable to walk. They were challenging, and I felt accomplished. But my training journals prove that I wasn’t making progress.

According to my training journals, my clients and I have made the most progress when we’ve trained “reasonably”. We always see better results when we are more worried about tomorrow’s workout than today’s.

It took me nearly twenty years of training to realize this, but it’s true – progress comes from consistent, reasonable workouts.

Back to the client…

This individual came to me hoping to be pushed and beaten down. They wanted military boot camp. And five years ago I would have been all over that! But, that’s no longer my style.

Yes, my athletes and I have some fun and challenge ourselves once in a while. Challenges are an important part of training and life! But more often than not, our workouts are pretty reasonable.

If you take a look at my Instagram story, it’s far from exciting. You’ll see me rucking, lifting weights (reasonably), and carrying heavy stuff. You’ll also see pictures of the book I’m reading and maybe a shot of my kids.

I don’t post this stuff because it looks cool.

I post it because it’s my recipe for success.

If I ruck often, I will get good at it. If I front squat a few times a week with a reasonable load, I will get stronger. If I read daily, I will get smarter. And if I play with my kids often, our relationship will blossom.

And this is exactly what I try to get across with my clients. Consistency will always trump intensity.

It doesn’t make for the most exciting social media, but contrary to the norm these days, I try to post the truth.

Everyone knows that social media is full of lies. Most of what gets posted is for show. The crazy stunts and ridiculous techniques aren’t how athletes actually train.

When a workout on Instagram makes you jump out of your seat and yell “Whoa!”… that was the point.

That “workout” wasn’t about getting better. It was about showing off.

Coach Martin Rooney put it perfectly in an old T-nation article:
“Think about it – if I’m training Jim Miller for a fight in two months, when the cameras arrive do I show how we really train, or do I try to psyche out my opponent’s camp by having Jim swim in shark infested waters while I shoot flaming arrows at him?”

Remember – the videos look cool. But they’re more action film than documentary.

So, here I was in this difficult situation. I had a client who wanted brutal, Instagram worthy workouts. Ten thousand burpees. Nine thousand push-ups. Eight thousand kettlebell swings…

The workouts I was programming were reasonable. But they wanted “more”.

I could have easily thrown some gut-wrenching workouts their way and watched my bank account grow. But that’s not who I am.

Over 370 years ago, Miyamoto Musashi told us that “Too much is the same as not enough.” This is a lesson I have learned over and over again through my career. And now, as a coach, it is my responsibility to prevent others from making the same mistake.

Giving this individual “more” – both in intensity and volume – would have gone against everything I believe in.

I tried to explain my philosophy and point of view. I shared my experiences and where I’ve gone wrong in my career. But, at the end of the day, I couldn’t change this individual’s mind.

They wanted to be pushed. I was unwilling to do so.

So we had to break up.

It’s tough for me. I know I could have changed this person’s life. With their history of repeated injuries and setbacks, it was so clear to me what the issue was. But, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…

We left on good terms and I sincerely wish this individual nothing but the best. Perhaps we’ll cross paths again and I’ll have a second opportunity to help.

In the meantime, though, I’m going to keep programming reasonable workouts and sticking to my principles.


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