If you're reading this, you probably have an idea of where you are now (point A), and where you want to be (point B). The middle part is the messy middle. It's the lackluster land where doubt and fear reside.
The only time you're excited about running a marathon is when you sign up and when you finish. The middle part is a silent assault on your spirit. In the messy middle where nobody is cheering you on. There's no cameras flashing. There may not even be any other competitors in sight. It's just you.
The lifters journey is similar.
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If you have no plan once you enter the messy middle, it's tempting to throw the white flag up.
So what separates the lifters who have an unwavering capacity to keep going in comparison to the sophomores in the gym who run on emotional motivation to fuel their training?
You see, in any strength sport, technical ability and physical excellence are very similar amongst the greats. Great weightlifters know how to perform a snatch. Great powerlifters know how to deadlift. Great physique athletes have bodies that make you stop scrolling on Instagram.
The thing that separates them from everyone else is their daily routines. They have designed their behavior to in order to produce the best results in their craft.
The weightlifter didn't start out with a 120kg snatch. The powerlifter didn't start with a 610 pound squat. The physique athlete didn't start with a pair of shoulders that look like two pumpkins.
Instead, they recognized their starting point (point A), and then determined where they wanted to go (point B). And then, they filled the messy middle with single efforts of practice repeated every day.
The key was that they systematized the approach. They put it on auto-pilot so they didn't have to think about what to do every day. This saves them tons of psychological energy, and thus, leaves them with more reserves to practice every day.
And just like you, they too, face challenges, setbacks and disappointments.
But when the storms hit and they enter the messy middle, they can rely on a battle-plan that's been forged by habits. This allows them to develop uncompromising consistency, which essentially sets them apart from everyone else.
If the messy middle has gotten the best of you, it's time to refine and adapt your next approach so it doesn't happen again. Take these 7 habits that effective strength athletes utilize and inject them into your game ASAP. [imagemap id="17395"]
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7 Habits of Highly Effective Lifters
1. They've identified if they are an abstainer or moderatorThere is an emotionally charged debate between flexible dieting and clean eating alive on the Internet these days. The premise for argument is that one is better than the other. Both parties are fighting the wrong battle.
Rather than actually considering the person, strategies are getting slammed down people's throat.
The flexible dieters preach that moderation is key and it's as easy as a poet's dream. The clean eaters shout that abstaining from junk food is the answer and the "one-bite" methodology is like a crack addict taking "one-hit."
The bottom line is that people behave differently. And the diet they choose must pair up with their respective personalities.
Effective lifters have identified if they are abstainers or moderators.
Abstainers perform well when they follow all-or-nothing habits. They feel relieved knowing that there isn't an option. A monotonous approach to food provides them with a "no-stress" plan. A protein, some healthy fat, a fibrous carb and a starchy carb is the make-up of their meals. Think like salmon, broccoli and brown rice for lunch and dinner every day.
Moderators must have the ability to indulge. They don't like being restricted when it comes to food choices. If they want a cup of ice cream of a few slices of pizza, they're going to have it. Moderators do better with flexible rules. By allowing themselves to splurge, it keeps them on track and cravings don't run-a-muck.
The tricky part is that they are so polar opposite that it's easy to be biased with the one we most associate with. However, what works for one person is simply a data point of one. It doesn't mean it works for everybody.
Look at your past habits and see where you do the best. Do you prefer all-or-nothing habits or do you like to have flexibility? Identifying this will end a lot of frustration with your diet.
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2. They've learned how to delay gratificationWe all know that one workout or one meal doesn't yield breath-taking results in an instant. Rather, it's a more a chop-wood-carry-water approach that produces seemingly overnight success results.
So, the question is how do effective lifters fight off the temptation of immediate pleasure in hopes to gain a larger reward down the road? They learn how to delay gratification.
Walter Mischel, a Stanford psychologist did a study with children on delayed gratification. In the test, he offered a marshmallow to each child. But he told them if they waited 15 minutes before eating it, he would give them another marshmallow. The research was aimed to see how long each child resisted temptation to eat the marshmallow, and whether doing so had an effect on his or her future success.
One-third of the children endured long enough to wait for the second marshmallow. The children who waited long enough to get the second marshmallows showed remarkable results years later. They ended up having lower levels of substance abuse, lower obesity, better responses to stress and higher SAT scores.
Highly effective lifters are like the children who endured to wait for the second marshmallow. They are willing to delay immediate gratification for a larger reward down the road.
They don't fall for cheap traps. They aren't easily lured by the insidious shiny objects thrown in their face. Despite any momentary discomfort, they press on and stay focused, knowing that a sweet reward is waiting for them at the end.
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3. They employ positive distractionsThere's more to life than weights, plates and protein shakes.
To be sure, strength sport is one of the last tools on earth that can forge discipline, commitment and integrity in humans these days. However, there is an invisible line between harnessing training into a something that makes you a better person and becoming a basement gym hermit that loses touch with humanity.
It's tragically easy to get lost in your training. Once you get a taste of success, letting the wheels fall off in other areas of life can happen faster Usain Bolt can sprint 100 meters. It's arguably subjective, but how much is a million dollar body worth when you have a 10 cent life to back it up?
Rather than letting the game consume you, it's important to have positive distractions in your life to keep things in perspective. For example, Victor Hugo was a writer who was most noted for his novel Les Miserables.
Even though his work was writing, he engaged in daily positive distraction to curate creativity, connect with people he cared for and to keep his health up to par. After his writing session ended at 11 a.m, he went on a two-hour walk or performed exercises on the beach. In the evening he enjoyed his friends over dinner while they played cards.
It's the space between the noise that makes the music.
Effective lifters are undoubtedly focused on their goals. But they also allow positive distractions into their life to stay grounded. Investing time into non-strength training related activities is important to the longevity of a lifters life.
4. They're willing to give up to keep growing
Anything you achieve requires that you pay a price. Effective lifters arguably understand this better than anyone else. You see, to become an effective lifter you have to make sacrifices.
Before we put some context behind this, lets look at a story from the author Fred Smith:
Something in human nature tempts us to stay where we're comfortable. W try to find a plateau, a resting place, where we have comfortable stress and adequate finances. Where we have comfortable associations with people, without the intimidation of meeting new people and entering strange situations. Of course, all of us need to plateau for a time. We climb and then plateau for assimilation. But once we've assimilated what we've learned, we climb again. It's unfortunate when we've done our last climb. When we have made our last climb, we are old, whether forty or eighty.
Effective lifters never make their last climb. And in doing so, they also recognize that they are giving up some things to keep climbing. For example, effective lifters give up the choice to mindlessly throw McGriddles down their chin slits every day for breakfast and then wipe their mouths of with the bag.
Effective lifters also trade immediate pleasure for long-term growth. Effective lifters give up the choice of recklessly thrashing themselves in the gym. Instead they conduct each training session like symphony. Planned. And executed with purpose. They trade quantity for quality.
5. They train harder than you (probably)All of people want to be a beast, but when it comes time to do what beast do, #beastmode is nowhere to be found. Instead, there at home texting their homeboys how they want to compete next year.
It's incredibly fascinating: The amount of flimsy claims people make about how they want to get stronger or get in the best shape of their life.
What I'm about to say is a free tip, I won't charge for this one: Training hard, is hard. And until you've either trained with a maniac who's knuckles turn white when they grab the dumbbells, you probably don't know what training hard even means.
Effective lifters train hard.
But they also know that training hard doesn't mean lifting till you puke or doing pull ups until your palms are bleeding raw. They follow a sound application of training all out and taking things to failure when its appropriate to do so.
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6. They banish all word-gamesWe live in a world where it's intoxicating to market yourself as a human being who has no flaws. We turn our cheeks to any negatives aspects about ourselves and indulge in the feel good moments.
The cure is usually posting a filtered pic of our latest dopamine inducing life event (like a trip to Vegas, or the new Nike Flyknits you just bought).This is a mask to cover up what we usually need to face head on. But instead we play word-games and justify the delay in addressing areas that need attention. For example;
A lack of discipline turns into "open-minded." A lack of commitment becomes "flexible." A disposition to blame everyone else but you for the lack of results turns into "I'm just not lucky." A day full of busyness that leads to no progression morphs into "I'm so buried with work, I don't have time to do anything else."You see what's going on here? We turn the truth sideways and the responsibility gets shifted away from you.
Effective lifters never do this. They face their weaknesses like a Spartan shoulder entering battle. Brutally confident. Fearless.
7. They do what worksIn 1915, buried in the Jungles of South America, a conflict arose. Two rivaling American companies wanted to occupy the same five thousand acres of land to produce more fruit.
The problem was that neither company knew who owned the land, so they didn't know who to approach to purchase the property.
One company was a giant and they proceeded to handle business like a giant would: Lawyers, piles of cash and fluid business jargon. The other company was small. In fact it was one man. He didn't have the money, resources or brand dominate like the company he was facing.
But his advantage was that he was flexible and decided to do what works instead of playing by the corporate rules. He approached two of the supposed land owners and paid them both off. This settled it. He beat the big boys in grey suits.
While the big company was off preparing legal docs, lining up resources, and bringing high level execs into the picture, the small company did what works. And they won. They got the land even though they were severely undersized the match.
Effective lifters don't waste their time with all the fancy surrounding the strength game today. They simply do what works. They train hard. They eat well. They supplement smart. And then, do it again and again until the desired outcome is achieved.
Wrapping UpYou've got the toolkit to repair your game. Take a look at where your approach might be lacking one of these habits and plug it in ASAP. You can shave off tons of frustration by implementing the habits of effective lifters into your own routine.
Or you can learn the hard way: Continuing to do the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
The choice is yours.