If I Knew Then What I Know Now

In The Gym Part 1 – Doing What NEEDS to be Done

“Great work is often built on the mundane. Great cathedrals begin with one brick at a time. And though it may not always seem so grand, as leaders, every day we engage with the mundane laying one brick at time to create something GREAT.” – Les McKeown

How often do we go about our daily lives doing all the “urgent” things and forgetting about the important ones?


We head to the gym with great expectations of 'PRing' the lift of the day, be it squat, bench, or deadlift, only to get “close enough for today.” We have other dragons to slay because of our need to do accessory work, complimentary work, and supplemental lifts, to bring up our weaknesses. We also need to fit in our conditioning at some point (as well as some hypertrophy work for our vanity).

CRAP! We get close to that PR, only to lose our train of thought because we think about all of the other CRAP we need to finish. Having so much to do, and so little time to do it, is the battle cry these particular days.

Why is it we shoot ourselves in the foot? Is it because we read how much volume everyone is doing? Is it the unreal numbers guys are putting up? Are we comparing ourselves to OTHERS with what looks like pathetic little weights next to the 1,000 pound and above athlete for the three different lifts? That’s a 3,000 pound total, right? Is our benchmark too high for the work we CAN do?


I’ve been on that side trying to figure out HOW I'm going to accomplish everything. It wasn't until the IMPORTANT things started to suffer that I understood that the mundane things done on a day-to-day basis – those were the things I needed to do to get me over the top to my GOAL for that particular day. Not until I focused on the small details of the BIG lifts, did the BIG LIFTS actually become just that…BIG!

Most of the time, I wanted to hurry through and hit the numbers or get close to the numbers (say 90 percent or better) and then figure out all the sexy little things that I could justify in my mind to help push the actual number to 100 percent or over WITHOUT becoming bored or losing focus.


After walking out of the gym with five straight MEDIOCRE training sessions, I knew something had to change. I figured that as long as I could get my main lift in, I would concentrate on THAT until I met or exceeded the day’s expectation or a better word – OBJECTIVE.

I don’t want to worry about the things I don’t have time to do, nor do I want to waste my valuable scatterbrain thoughts on it either. I believe you are only going to get a finite number of thoughts, great ideas, and judgments in a lifetime.

Now for the time-challenged and easily bored athlete, I have a new-found focus on the ESSENTIALS, the “specificity” of the training day. Whether it’s a squat, bench or deadlift, each of the training day specifics requires: I squat (or bench or deadlift) until I have met the objective of the FIVE-rep max (5-RM), or the THREE-rep max (3-RM), or the PR inducing ONE-REP MAX (1-RM). I am NOT going to concern myself with the other things. As a matter of FACT, I write nothing more in my own personal training book, beyond the SPECIFIC lift and its 1-RM.

An example:

Today – August 5, 2012 – 5-RM GOOD MORNING. Equipment: SSB and Belt.

If I DRAIN that to an actual 5-RM, not coming close, but an actual FIVE f----n' rep MAX, meaning I got to only FOUR and a vein poppin', gut wrenchin' three quarters, then I am going to be HAPPY with getting stapled THERE. (Not actual joyous ruckess, but you know what I mean.)

FACT 1:  I just made myself physically stronger by doing so, because I strained.

FACT 2:  I mentally satisfied my EXPECTATION for the day's training. I strained.

FACT 3: Everything else is GRAVY, even if I have to cut the session because “LIFE” happens.

If I get to continue with the supplemental exercises and then the accessory ones, then I will just add to the overall joy. If I don’t, then I have still mastered the “mundane” and got ALL of what needed to be done and helped facilitate building my temple.

Big Lifts

Doing this allows for a greater focus of energy and time to the Big Lifts. They’re called the “Big Lifts” for a reason. This is where we're going to get the most “BANG” for our effort, and isn’t THIS what we are about?

Later, we can come back and pick up the fun sexy things that we had to leave out. I’m not saying to forget about them ALL of the time. I just don’t WORRY about them anymore, while pursuing my own personal dragons.

Next, I’ll write about how I adopted this principle into that very thing which gets in the way of our training…"LIFE!”