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A few months ago, I had the opportunity to consult the professional NFL football team, the Cincinnati Bengals. Although I was there to share as much of my training knowledge as I could over a three-day period, I gained as much from the experience as I gave away. Most of the days were spent educating the team about training, but I made sure that I worked out with some of the strength staff and athletes. I did this not only to demonstrate some of the things that I’ve learned over the years but also to get in a good workout as well.

During one of the workouts, a staff member asked me how long I’d been training. I thought about it and realized that I haven’t gone more than three days in a row without physical training in over 20 years! When I reflected on this later that night, I was impressed with my perseverance but also disappointed. I realized that even though I’ve trained consistently for over two-thirds of my life, I’m not as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Many of my best lifts and personal records just might be behind me. As I thought about this, I discovered that I was falling into the trap that most of the world does when it comes to training (whether it’s strength or martial arts), especially in this day and age. I took my overall training experience for granted and placed more emphasis on the immediate results.

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Everything about the world today revolves around instant gratification. In a way, some of the technology is actually making it more difficult for us to stay healthy and stick with our goals. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you about a few of the technological and human changes that have occurred over the last decade and you can make your own decision. Today, if you want your food cooked in a second, you put it in what? A microwave. The food doesn’t have to be prepared, and it doesn’t really have to be good for you either. As long as you can have it quickly, most people will eat it. Although this speeds up the eating process and makes food more accessible, the quality is poor and the quantity is high. As a result, we’re physically getting soft and more diseased.

train consistency martin

Today, if you want any piece of information in a split second anywhere in the world, you go on what? The internet. I remember having to look up my own sources, qualify what I was reading, and actually read the books! Today’s youth are misinformed about many areas from the internet and lose their resourcefulness when it comes to education. They also spend hours upon hours a day sitting in poor postures getting out of shape.

Today, if you want access to any person at any second, you call them on what? A cell phone! This great device may make us accessible, but it’s also helping us to lose our powers to memorize phone numbers, addresses, and appointments, and it increases car accidents at the same time. All of these technological accelerators have one thing in common—they’re taking away our ability to think and experience. To me, that’s very scary.

I want to ask one more challenging question about technology. If you want to be in great shape in a second, you do what? What’s wrong? No answer here that technology can provide? No simple way to spend zero energy and eat poorly and still get fit? That’s right. There’s no quick fix here. There’s nothing that will ever replace good old-fashioned hard work and practice. Not only that, this is where your life happens one plateau at a time.

Years ago, I read the book, Mastery, by Aikido master, George Leonard. This book discussed how although we’re always looking for the quick fix or the upward jump in skills, most of the time spent training and practicing is spent on a plateau. Only after diligent practice on that plateau over time is there another surge of upward movement to the next level. Leonard went on to state that as he evolved as a student, he stopped looking for the breakthrough and started enjoying the practice and the plateau. Think about your own experience. You may have become frustrated with your physical or technical progress because you thought it was too slow or not enough. You may have even quit at the point when progress was right around the corner. Instead of focusing on the results, imagine focusing on the moment. It was there that life was happening.

I love to look back on my writings from years ago because I can actually track my own progress and the evolution of how I think about training. I’m writing this article because I want all my loyal readers to every so often step back from just looking for the next workout or exercise and get back to the principles behind why we exercise in the first place. Training is not about instant gratification. Anyone looking for constant progress won’t stick with training for long. The essence of training is the experience and what you learn about yourself while doing it.

belt squat martin

Training is about the process, not the outcome. If you’re always caught up looking for progress, upward movement, or a new belt color, you’ll be missing the most important lessons that are right there in front of you. You’ll get there, and there’s one simple thing you need to do it—consistency. When Thomas Edison was asked when he would stop working, he said: “I guess the day before I die.” Now that man could teach us a lesson or two about consistency. When it comes to your physical training or martial arts or anything you’ve decided to pursue wholeheartedly in your life, you should have the same answer as Edison. There’s no real destination, no end, and certainly no merit for instant gratification.

If you’re consistent, it demonstrates that you have two very important characteristics—discipline and perseverance. With these two attributes, you can’t be stopped from anything that you’re seeking to achieve. Without them, you’ll never reach any goal that you’ve set for yourself. Think about your own goals and what you’re working toward. Have you been staying consistent toward your goals? Have you been patient and do you always look for the lessons behind the frustration you may be experiencing? Have you attempted to be better at what you do each day more than the day before? Have you been pressing too hard and thinking that you should be fitter or have a higher belt by now? Well, if you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you need to take the pressure off yourself and enjoy the ride. Remember, the tighter you hold a handful of diamonds trying not to spill them, the more you lose. Loosen your grip on yourself and you’ll be amazed at the progress you may start to make.

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I’ve been around jiu-jitsu and the martial arts for a long time. Often, many athletes ask me why I’m not a higher rank in jiu-jitsu. The answer is simple—I may have been around it for a long time, but I haven’t been practicing it as much as I should. Because of this, I’m content with my skill. However, if I decide that I want a black belt, I would have to be realistic about making the commitment to consistency. Here’s one of the most powerful statements that I tell my athletes daily. Where you are in life is exactly where you’re supposed to be because of the things that you’ve done up until that moment in time. To do anything else but accept your current situation would be crazy. The real thing to do is to decide where you want to go and then use both consistency and patience to get there. Enjoy the ride. It is, after all, the path you’ve chosen in life.

I hope everyone enjoyed this article and that it not only helped take unneeded pressure away but also pushed more people back on track toward their goals. Every journey starts with one step, and all the steps after that are equally important. Each workout, every piece of food you put in your mouth, every breath you take—they all add up. In the end, you’ll see that there are no little things. Now, get back on the path and get to work!