Why Your Training Should Be Hard

Why does training have to be generally hard? If it’s not hard, it won’t induce change. It has to be hard when we train because our bodies and our lives require it. Hardship builds character. Our bodies are rugged machines designed for a rugged world. As such they respond to difficult physical tasks. The stress, recovery, adaptation cycle supports this idea, as well.

Hans Selye’s stress research taught us that when we are subjected to a stress, once we recover from that stress, and as long as we don’t die from it, we display an adaptation specific to that stress.

If we are seeking a specific adaptation, which for us is increased strength, we have to subject ourselves to a stress specific to that. That means we have to move heavy weight in order to move even heavier weights later.

All of you know this is true. Gyms are full of people moving “manageable” weights for lots of sets and reps, but they don’t get much stronger. If moving “manageable” weights for lots of sets worked, high schools would be full of brutally strong young people. They aren’t, because light and easy doesn’t work for increasing strength. It has to be heavy and hard to get what we want, which is to be stronger.

Novices lift for personal records three times a week to get strong as efficiently as possible. It’s super hard, but it’s super rewarding.

The good news is that you only have to move a weight that’s heavy for you. Your only competitors are who you were yesterday and Gravity. So you have to work hard at moving your heavy weight. Soon, what was heavy will be your third warm up, because working hard works!

This rule doesn’t just apply to strength training. Achieving personal excellence always requires that “it’s hard”. If attaining excellence was easy, Wal-Mart would be full of the virtuous!

Every reward requires an investment. Most aren’t willing to make the investment, so they miss out on the rewards.

Plato tells us in the Republic that the “noble things [are] difficult” and that we can obtain “Naught without labor.” In another dialogue he says What [is] good [is] troublesome. Plato, and your grandparents knew that the easy stuff was cheap, fleeting, and ultimately leave us empty. They knew that if it’s good for us, it’s hard.

Aristotle teaches the world in his Nicomachean Ethics that we become virtuous though habit. We do the best and virtuous thing over and over, and over time, we become virtuous. Common lore tells us that too. We know that “practice makes perfect” and we often have to “Fake it until we make it.”

So, we practice doing hard things so we know we can do even harder things when we’re called upon. We do it over and over, even when no one is looking. That’s where virtue and achievement are found.

One day we will drop the worn out working tools of our lives, and if we’ve made the investments when it was hard, we will have obtained the rewards resulting from struggle, achievement, and the satisfaction of a well run race, and a strengthened character.

When you ask us “What is best in life?” we say it’s the reward we get from doing that which is hard!

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