It’s said that the Colorado River has been carving out the Grand Canyon for the last 5-6 million years. The water is focused. Year after Year, day after day, it reliably flows and the outcome is an iconic land feature that we can see from space. Focused energy, over significant periods of time, leads to massive outcomes. In times past, I’ve used this as an analogy to express to people the patience that they need to have with changes in their body. When we think like the river, the understanding is that we get up everyday and do the work. The river doesn’t get bored. The river doesn’t try to be something that it’s not. The river stays focused on it’s task. That committed focus over time has led to an entire ecology and economy that exist around the river. And the river is still working. Of course, the challenge for us is our emotions and the fact that we have the power to choose.
The Fitness Industry is largely a consumer product. Exercise is marketed and sold to us. There’s a new trend every single year. Sometimes that trend is founded in Scientific Research like HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Sometimes that trend is based on a new group craze like Zumba. Sometimes that trend is centered around competition like CrossFit or Adventure Races. As of late, there has been a large return to bodyweight training, which I’m a huge fan of. However, the problem with products that are marketed and sold is the fact that they have the potential to lose entertainment value in the consumer’s mind. When one trend gets old we move to the next thing, or worse, wait for the next thing. But, how does a black belt martial artist become so good at their craft? How does a gymnast get to the point where they compete at the collegiate level? How does a writer or speaker become exceptional? Repetition over significant amounts of time.
I’ve probably been asked by at least 60 different people: “How do I get my first pullup?”
Assuming they have access to a pullup bar, I give them a very simple strategy:
“Take a rubber exercise band and girth hitch it to the pull up bar. The thicker bands will support more of your bodyweight. The thinner bands will support less. Place one of your feet in the band and use it to assist you through doing a full pull up. Find the right bands that will allow you to do 3-5 sets of 5-10 repetitions. Do this 2 times a week.”
Of course, the follow on question:
“How long will it take?”
Here’s where the challenge comes:
“Settle in to this rhythm for at least the next three years.”
Yes. Three years. Yes. It will get boring and you will want to quit and do something else. But, before you give up, think about this:
- It’s a simple strategy. Once you’ve done it a few times. You won’t have to think about as much. Which seems to be what so many people don’t want to have to do in the first place (This issue of ‘not thinking’ is a seperate post).
- So many people want to get toned by doing hours of mindless cardio (Again, not thinking – Separate Post). You can run for hours and be on complete autopilot. However, that can lead to injury and, on the whole, it doesn’t seem to work long term as a strategy for weight management. However, if you go from zero pull ups, to being able to do 3 sets of 5 with no help, your body will look different. I promise.
This strategy isn’t sexy. It isn’t entertaining. It requires self discipline. It requires you to say ‘no’ to the latest thing. It’s simple but effective.
I’ve only ever seen one person follow through with this recommendation. In less than a year she was doing over ten pullups in a row with no band assistance. She was a beast because she was consistent for a long time.
On a micro level, I have worked on particular movements for years at a time. The hand stand is one I’ve been working on for the last 4 years. I’ve gotten considerably better and I’m excited to spend another 4 years working on it.
On a macro level, I have been intentionally learning about my body and implementing workout/dietary strategies since I was ten years old. I’ve been going through the mental reps of learning (ie I’ve been thinking about it – again, separate post) about and cultivating my own health for the last 26 years. I’m incredibly proficient at it now and I know that there is more to learn. Much of what I do practically, is predicated upon simple movements (mostly bodyweight movements) executed over really long periods of time. At 36 years old my structure is still changing in response to the stimulus. I am patient and I am focused. I have oriented myself to the process and the outcomes take care of themselves. This produces massive outcomes over time.
Gimmicking our way into better health will never last. Total ownership and self discipline are the keys to long term success. At 36 years of age I am able to do things physically, that seemed impossible when I was 16. I have freedom of movement because I have been focused and disciplined in the process of cultivating movement for over 20 years. Colorado River Focus. Grand Canyon Outcomes.
Until next time…