Can you outsource discipline?
I used to be a keen distance runner, not in the sense that I was actually any good in a competitive sense, but I did spend hours and hours jogging, and I got to the point where I could run a full marathon pretty much at the drop of a hat. “Running”, I hasten to add, at something like ten minutes per mile or slower. That’s very much a jog rather than a run. By the way, you know when you see the Kenyan runners on TV running the marathon in two hours ten and under?
They are running five minute miles. If you can run one mile in six minutes you are very fit – fitter than the vast majority of the population. If you can run a mile in five minutes then you’re approaching county class athletics. But it’s a mind-boggling feat to run twenty-six five minute miles back to back.
As a challenge, if you’re up to it, run one hundred yards in seventeen seconds. That’s how it feels to run that sort of marathon pace.
But I digress.
Can you outsource discipline? What do I mean by that? One thing that you sometimes hear at the gym or being muttered by amateur joggers everywhere is something like “wouldn’t it be great if we could just send our bodies out for a run without us” or words to that effect. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed nearly all the running I ever did, and it was a great way to get out in the fresh air and spend some time with friends in a way that didn’t involve Guinness.
There’s an old saying that you can get anything you want if you want it badly enough, and, it has to be said, there’s probably more than a grain of truth in it. But let’s say that you want to build physical strength and a muscular body – it’s one thing committing yourself to a programme of exercise when you’re sitting in your armchair. It’s altogether another thing when you’re trying to get the last five press-ups out or make the final pull-up of your set.
It’s at this point that I find my discipline most sorely tested.
The voice saying “I want the pain to stop and the endorphin rush to start” in one ear is shouting against the voice in the other ear saying “Go on mate. You’re so close to your goal!”
When it comes to bodybuilding (and I am not a bodybuilder, I just read this quote from a guy who was) “Everything works, and nothing works for ever”. That’s to say that if you do one hundred press ups every day, pretty soon your gains will taper off and you’ll not get any more ripped than you already are.
Which is why the basic exercises outlined in “The Primal Solution” will get you a long way, but when you eventually plateau out, you’ll want to progress to a more challenging regime involving weights (e.g. free weights, sandbags or kettlebells), and some more complex variants of the bodyweight exercises (e.g. my current aim, the pistol squat), even up to some really bad-ass esoteric exercises such as the human flag. And these harder exercises will require some extra discipline.
I know people who have inside their heads a large switch, with the word “override” written beneath it. When they are weight training or doing circuits, they seem to be able to throw this switch and push themselves harder than I would have believed. I think this is a genetic characteristic, and you’d probably find that most members of the SAS or other elite forces are similarly wired.
But I am not built this way, and from a purely statistical point of view, the odds are that neither are you.
So does that mean that you are forever doomed to have sand kicked in your face by these superhumans?
What you need is a training partner, and if you can’t find anyone, you can hire someone. You needn’t pay a fortune, shop around and find someone who will work with your goals.
It was earlier today, as I was trying to make another three pullups, that I realised that my trainer, Nicky May, was in charge of the discipline and my brain had just gone off to somewhere else while my body worked. It was a strange sensation, but if you can believe what your training partner or personal trainer is saying, rather than listening to your inner voice yelling for it to stop, you’ll make real progress. I know that I am.
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