The “C” word. Some people have no problem with it. It rolls off their tongues with the ease of a drunken sailor on liberty. Others struggle with it. They cringe when they hear it. It matters not their age, sex, creed, or gender (or current gender expression) – the thought of embracing it makes them shudder. Some warm up to it, only to shy away, again. They like it, they don’t like it, they like it again, and then they don’t like it again.
COMMITMENT. While definitions vary, I most like the following:
Something pledged; the state of or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled.
How freaking beautiful is the phrase emotionally impelled? Not only for its onomatopoeic nuances (does the word impel not conjure up visceral thoughts of being thrust forward) but also for its powerful meaning. When contemplating emotions one cannot help but think of the heart, the very essence of our being. Therefore being emotionally impelled must mean something of great import. It is not the stuff of childhood crushes and comic book heroes. It means faith. It means belief. It means trust. Trust not only in ones self, but in those with whom ones chooses to surround oneself. Being emotionally impelled means thrusting ones beating heart deep into an abyss that may not have a guaranteed outcome. Thus commitment is not for the timid, the unsure, or the sunshine patriot. Commitment is for those that truly want to embrace positive change in their lives. It is for the bold. It is for the daring. It is for those who believe.
Despite ones best intentions, it is not uncommon for one’s commitment to falter at times. Hell, confessionals are filled with good souls begging forgiveness for lack of commitment. Entire industries have been built and succeeded on our lack of commitment. Just look at LA Fitness or the thigh master.
It is no different in a Gym full of Iron, though contrary to other models our success lies in finding people that are committed and avoiding those that are not. How many of us have kicked ass for a period of time and basked gloriously in our amazing results only to find ourselves back where we started 6 months prior? We go from being on top of the world to lying awake at night wondering what the hell happened and where things went wrong. My guess is it went wrong because of one of five possibilities.
1) You tasted your first modicum of success.
2) Reality throat punched you.
3) You dread failure.
4) You have the patience of a 2 year old.
5) You have ADD.
Regardless of the reason you failed there is commonality between all of them. That commonality is behavior modification, and the lack thereof. The good news is I have a few solutions to offer. Read on and prepare to become, once again, emotionally impelled.
1) You tasted your first modicum of success.
It doesn’t matter what was your goal. Maybe it was learning to triple extend more explosively. It could have been loosing 10 lbs. It may have been getting off of high blood pressure meds or getting your first pull up. What ever it was you came in hot and with laser-like focus and consistency you achieved your first goal. Mission accomplished. Quicker than George Bush can land a Viking on a carrier you were doing your victory lap gulping down donuts and Schlitz like a frat boy at pledge week. Why not, you deserved a little fun, right? You worked hard and got the win. One celebration led to another and before you knew it all the behavior modification you embraced disappeared along with that pull up.
Solution: For you it is not the short-term goal that is going to keep you in the fight. You must think strategically. What is the end game? Is it really loosing 10 pounds? Is it mastering the clean? No. Chances are, if you are a celebrator you walked in to your gym because you were paving a road to illness and dysfunction with reckless abandon. A herculean change was needed. That is the reason your first victory was so exciting. It was your look into the future and a tougher, more fit, and healthier you. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and then move on. No more small victory celebrations with food, they sidetrack you. Reward your self with something that reinforces success in the gym. Rather than going out for a cheat meal, spend that money on a new pair of lifting shoes. Buy yourself a KB for use at home. Take the money you would normally spend going out for a cheat meal and save it up over the course of a few months and buy yourself a new road bike. The key for you to remaining committed is to ensure your celebrations are not a return to the old ways but rather something that reinforces the desired behavior modification.
2) Reality throat punched you.
You were certain that you could will yourself to health and wellness. You made all the right purchases. You bought the knee-high socks, the nanos, the lifters, the lulu headband, the rogue shorts. You had the image down and you rocked the attitude. You rocked it well, too. You paid your membership each month and showed up 4-5 days per week. The only thing you didn’t do was work, hard. I mean agonizingly hard; the kind of hard that leaves you questioning your sanity. Your wallet slimmed down while your waistline continued to grow. It didn’t take long for reality to bitch-slap you and leave wondering why your bank account was the only thing that got smaller.
Solution: This is a tough one, though not insurmountable. If you are not down with working to the point of failure, you probably picked the wrong style of exercise. I recommend doing a few personal training sessions with a coach with whom you have a good bond. Have them take you through the different kinds of workouts your gym does so they can teach you effectives ways to attack them. Use the skills you learned in the training sessions to increase the intensity level of your workouts. You will quickly see improved results. Improved results tend to positively influence one’s commitment level.
3) You dread failure.
I know of no one that wants to fail. God didn’t put us on this earth not to do our very best. You were cruising along and reaching some of your goals. You dropped a few pounds each month. You Pr’d on a few of your lifts. Your ROM improved and you were no longer using a med ball while squatting. After that first year of the easy wins, the effort required to continue achieving success increased. You realized your next win was going to take a greater, more concentrated effort and you wondered if you were going to be successful. Faster than than Kaitlin stopped buying briefs you bailed on the scene while you were still winning. Whew, good thing you quit, right? You didn’t have to worry about failing. You could have kicked ass (the operative word being could) – and that is all that mattered to you. Failure is never fun. It can be painful. It can be embarrassing. It can be discouraging. What it can’t be is limiting. The difference between the craven and the brave is the brave chose to act despite their fears.
Solution: If you are this guy chances are you have been around your gym for a while. Certainly you have been around long enough, given the grueling nature of what we do, to form some deep, well-established bonds with other members. Use them and the camaraderie that has formed between you. Share with them your fear of failure. You will find that they are experiencing or have experienced the same thing. If it the former, the support you can give each other will help overcome your fear of failure. If it the latter, you will learn that failure, while never an acceptable outcome, is at times a reality. Fear of failure should drive you to work harder, not stop you from trying. It is what happens after we fail that matters. Use the camaraderie unique to a Gym full of Iron to get you past your fears and remain in the fight.
4) You have the patience of a two year old.
Everyone wants results. Some want results tomorrow. After a few months of grinding, you got the sense that progress had slowed. It didn’t compute. If this then that! I did this – I want that…NOW! In a world where every thing we want, from infectious disease diagnosis to the shake weight, is a few strokes on the phone away, patience is becoming a rare commodity. Rosetta Stone promises to have you speaking Greek in one month. Amazon is preparing to send drones to your house within an hour of your order. More and more stores are open 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. When I was selling cars we would pick a future delivery date. Imagine that, buying a car and then deciding what day later in that week you would like to pick it up? Driving away in a vehicle the same day it was purchased was unfathomable. These days you can purchase them online and drive home within the hour. We have no patience. Change requires commitment. Commitment requires patience. Patience requires time – a lot of it.
Solution: Enjoy the ride. Soak up the scenery. Revel in the gradual, but lasting, change. It is easy to say, right? If it were easy to change you wouldn’t be reading this. For those whose patience, or lack thereof, is causing commitment issues I recommend taking some time to think about what you really enjoy doing in the gym. Pick one thing that you most like. Maybe it is one of the Olympic lifts, or swinging Kettlebells. What ever it is, dedicate yourself to 2 – 3 months of improving the movement or your ability to employ the implement. Come in to open gym and work on it. Stick around after class and practice a few sets and reps. Read and watch videos about it. Spend some time on forums learning more about it and generate in-depth conversations on the matter with your comrades at the gym. After a while, you are either going to want to continue your leaning, or will want to select a new movement or training tool to explore. It is a win-win situation as either decision keeps you committed and in the fight.
5) You have Attention Deficit Disorder.
Not really. You don’t literally have the disorder. You just get easily bored. You are the classic “jack of all trades master of none”; a modern day renaissance man. For you it is more about the process of learning how to do it, than it is actually doing it. Once the challenge presented by the learning curve is overcome, the actual execution of the task looses it luster. You need a new and constant challenge to stay engaged.
Solution: For the athlete that enjoys dabbling in a little bit of everything – you need to dabble in a little bit of everything! However, your commitment will increase if you do it with an established framework. Set yourself up with short-range, medium-range, and long-range goals. (Hmmm, sounds like a potential blog post topic.) Your long-range goal is the ultimate prize. It is something that is currently well outside your grasp, but not beyond reality at a future time. Your medium-range goals are robust but doable goals that must be accomplished in order to allow you to achieve your desired end state. Finally, short-term goals are the product of the daily, meat and potatoes that make up your weekly/monthly training focus. These daily goals should be such that they land you on the doorstep of your medium-range goals. Giving yourself a framework such as this provides you with a fun, ever evolving, and always challenging road to commitment.
Finally, not often, just once in a while, but often enough for me to take note, I will hear people that are challenged by commitment express a belief that for athletes in good shape it is easy to be committed.
“Exercising is easy for you; you enjoy it.”
“It is easy for you to stick with it, you are in great shape.”
“You don’t understand what it is like, you are not overweight. You don’t like eating.” “You own a gym, it is easy for you to be committed to staying in shape.”
I understand these sentiments, though I respectfully disagree. Ponder this:
• People that love exercise aren’t committed because the enjoy it; they enjoy it because of their commitment.
• Athletes aren’t committed because they are in great shape; they are in great shape because of their commitment.
• Those without body image or weight challenges aren’t committed because they are not overweight; they are not overweight (or are on the path to loosing weight) because of their commitment.
• Gym owners/coaches aren’t committed because they own the place or work there. They own the place (or work there) because of their commitment to health and wellness and making people the best and toughest versions of themselves possible.
All coaches must demand a high level of commitment from their athletes. It is not done with a cavalier attitude. They understand what it means to give something up. They understand the difficulty of sacrifice and the pain of having to choose one thing over another will always cause. At that intersection, where the painful road of choosing crosses the path to success, is where commitment lays.
In 2001, not long after 9/11 and the start of the Long War, I had been given the opportunity to serve again as a platoon commander on my battalion’s next deployment. There were only two things I wanted back then. I wanted the chance to serve as a platoon commander on a battlefield, and I wanted the highly coveted and always illusive spot at Ranger School in Ft Benning, GA. Only 1, maybe 2, Marines per Division (made up of thousands of Marines) were permitted to attend that school.
The first goal was within my grasp. I was going to be taking over 2d Platoon, Golf Company and turn them into the security element for the battalion’s Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF). This was a dream come true. Not only was I was going to have the opportunity to deploy a second time with the battalion, I was going to be able to do it again as a platoon commander and do it on a deployment that was sure to see some action. 2d platoon had been without a platoon commander for months. Never good for moral, it sucks being the “bastard children” without a Lieutenant. Every unit wants a good leader; one the Marines can trust, rely on, and believe in. It was Monday morning when I first met with my new Platoon Sergeant, then Staff Sergeant Jordan. After the ass-sniffing session was over I went to formation to talk to the boys. I let them know that I was their new commander. I stressed that I was in it with them for the long haul. I told them about our mission, that we were going to become the MSPF Security Element, and all the grueling training and the days and weeks away from home that it would entail, and that I would be with them day in and day out. I looked them in the eyes and told them I would have their backs to the end. They were no longer without a Lieutenant.
The very next day I was called into the Battalion Commander’s office. Now Major General W. Lee Miller, he sat me down and let me know that he got me the division’s spot to Ranger School. I managed to keep my composure, but I swear I could have stood up and kissed that man on the cheek.
“Are you kidding me?” I thought to myself. “Not only do I get to deploy as a platoon commander again and lead the MSPF Security Element, now I get to go to Ranger School? Hell yes!”
I was to leave in a week. I’d be gone for about 3 months. That group of young, hard-charging Devil Dogs would have to wait another 3 months for a platoon commander.
It seemed like I was at that intersection for hours. There was no noise. There was no movement. There were only two quiet roads that crossed smack dab through the center of my heart. One took me Ranger School. The other brought me to a promise I had just made to that pack of young, motivated snake eaters and death dealers. It was at the intersection I learned more about commitment.
It was the best choice I ever made in the Corps. I don’t know if they ever knew about the choice I made. I can’t say with certainty that me being there for them made a difference in any of their lives. I know it did in mine. In the nearly two years I spent with those tough sons of bitches I learned more about the best that mankind can offer than I thought possible. I saw the goodness that comes from sacrifice and tough decisions. I learned what it meant to be committed to a course of action and how to see it through to the end.
When you find yourself at that intersection, think hard about what brought you there. In the silence of that moment, listen to your heart. What you need will beat louder than what you want. Listen and commit!
LIVE – WIN – GET STRONG