Every new client who walks through our doors to begin their strength training program is handed a composition book. Why do we give them a book? Because from day one of their training, we want them to understand the importance of what they are about to begin. This is NOT an exercise program. It is a strength training program. This book will be a record all of their training sessions, from day one to day 50 and beyond. It will track their progress, help them stay consistent with their routine and will help hold them accountable for their own training. More importantly, every time they open this book, they will be able to see their progress immediately. Every time they open their book, they will be reminded that on day one, they squatted 25lbs and on day 7, they squatted 55lbs. And by day 30, they will have squatted 135lbs. How is this possible, you say? Because they have stayed consistent with their training. Because they have not missed a session. They have made a habit of training 3 days a week.
If something comes up on Monday, their regular training day, they adjust their schedule and come in on Tuesday. They don’t make excuses. They don’t let others dictate their schedule. Even if they are not feeling fantastic one day, they still make it in, to do something, even if it is a little off program. The result? They are stronger. They feel better, move better and sleep better. These clients rely on their book to remind them of where they were, where they are going and this helps to keep them motivated. Their workouts are simple. Three exercises. Three times a week. One hour each session. On day one, they learn how to squat, press and deadlift. On day two, they repeat the squat, adding 5 or 10 pounds to the bar, learn the bench and add 5-10 pounds to their deadlift. On day three, they add another 5-10 pounds to their squat, repeat the press and add some weight, and add 5-10 pounds to their deadlift. And on day four…..well, you get the idea. Squat, press, deadlift. Squat, bench, deadlift. Rinse and repeat.
This is how we ALL get stronger. Not by doing something different every time we walk into the gym. Not by deciding to go to Orange Theory on Wednesday instead of deadlifting because “I needed to sweat today.” Not by deciding to squat with lighter weight today because “I am just looking to “tone up.” ” No, you get stronger, build muscle and lose fat by sticking to a program. By doing your program. The people who walk through our door have already made a decision that they want to be stronger. Who wouldn’t want that?? They understand the importance of training for strength. They may have even researched barbell training, read a book or two about why strength training is important for them and decided that since they have tried everything else, they may as well try this. And in the beginning, it’s kind of easy. Sort of. It can be challenging to learn a new movement. Some pick it up quickly. Others need a little more time under the bar to figure it out. But eventually, everyone understands hip drive, where the bar has to go in the press, how to keep the bar on their legs when deadlifting and how to use their legs when they bench. And as a result, their numbers go up. And up. And up. Then they hit a wall, as we all do. 5 lbs becomes 5 lbs too much so we start adding 2.5lbs to the press. Then deadlifts get harder. So we learn the power clean. Then squatting gets hard. So we do a little re-set. THEN EVERYTHING GETS HEAVY. And what happens?
Well, for me, this is when it gets interesting, I tell my new clients. This is when it stops being a simple A/B program and turns into a A/B/C maybe D program. Most importantly, when everything gets heavy, this is when those who “want” to be strong, stay and those who “think” they want to be strong, leave. This is not a judgement. This is a fact. Getting strong is hard. If it was easy, I say to my clients, everyone would be doing this. In the beginning, sure, it’s easy. Just add five pounds? Do five reps? That was easy. Then all of a sudden, those five reps get hard. The look on someone’s face totally changes. “Whoah,” they may say. “That was hard.” “Nah,” I say. “It’s not that heavy yet. It just feels harder than the last time.” So what do you need to do, I ask them? Get tighter, think about the position more, maybe put on a belt. And when we go through all of this, the next set is “easier.” “That was much better,” they say. Of course it was, I say. You did X, Y or Z. There is a mental toughness that goes along with getting stronger. There is also a level of discomfort that many people are not accustomed to.
As a former dancer, I am used to discomfort. I am also used to pain but never do I allow someone to train with pain. I have learned that lesson myself. But discomfort? Being uncomfortable? I often say to new clients, “You need to get “comfortable” being “uncomfortable.” Getting stronger requires time and patience and an understanding that it is a process and a lifetime investment. Things may hurt. You may be sore. But doesn’t life hurt? Isn’t life uncomfortable? There is a saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” And I believe this. When training gets hard, I see those clients who will persevere through a heavy set of squats, who will push through that last press. And they love it. These are the clients who show up week in and week out to train, to push hard, to back off if needed due to a knee feeling crummy or a back tweak. But they don’t stop training. They simply adjust, do what they can and train.
Then I see clients, who, when it gets “heavy”, find every excuse NOT to show up. In the beginning, these clients were enthusiastic and showed up for every single one on one session with their coach, not missing once. However, once they start training with the group, they begin missing their training sessions week to week. Now that they are no longer accountable for showing up for just one person, they find it hard to show up for the group sessions. Do they still want to get stronger? Sure. But it can be hard to create a habit of training. I am always reminded of another saying that “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” These clients want to get stronger. They want to put the work in. But all of a sudden, little excuses start popping up. “Well, work….,” or “The kids needed..” or “I got home and sat down.” Or maybe it starts to get hard or what they perceive to be hard, they stop showing up. They may even say “Well, I think I am actually strong enough now,” without every realizing just how strong they really could be. They forget that in order to maintain that strength, they have to keep training. I don’t think it is boredom. I think it is the thought of being uncomfortable that makes them stop. But as I said earlier, life is uncomfortable. Why should you be weak too?
The clients who are consistent with their training, who work to take care of themselves outside of the gym by eating and sleeping well and also participating in other fun activities, are the ones who make the most progress in the gym, hands down. These clients don’t make excuses and are the ones who make the most progress. One of my clients had a new baby in May 2022. She was out for 6 weeks and when she was given the go ahead to resume her training, she was back. Instead of those past 90 minute sessions, she has an hour. We adjusted her program so she still gets those big lifts in but also gets some quick accessory work in. She even brought the baby in from time to time when she was still on maternity leave. She has new priority at home, but her training is also a priority. One lift. Two lifts. One hour. 45 minutes. Training is training. If you want to get stronger, if you want to move better and feel better, consistency is the key. Being patient is the key. So just show up.