“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”
-Ovid, Roman poet who lived through the reign of Augustus
Ever wonder why your teeth don’t hurt? Habit
Ever wonder why you’re still getting paid? Habit
Ever wonder why you don’t look the same way you used to? Habit
Habits form durability. Without habits, organisms don’t have a chance to evolve and grow stronger and become more capable.
The problem is, habits are often assigned to strictly negatives and we all know the difference between good and bad habits.
Not brushing your teeth = bad habit
Not cleaning your ass = bad habit
Skipping a workout = bad habit
Not squatting deep enough in training and hoping for at least 2 whites in competition = Mucho bad habit
It’s all well and good to go into the gym with copied and pasted workout plans from men and women who’ve already worked up to such feats of excess. Its fine to “go hard” on leg day and feel accomplished for all of an hour after your session is concluded.
Will you be returning tomorrow? How about the next day and the day after that and the weeks and months and years to follow which will ultimately provide you with what you’ve idolized for years? Be it in secret or with more hubris.
Habits that have fueled success are as old as the day is long. If you’re feeling intimidated or even queasy with the prospect of embarking onto a wayward journey, then buck up. Countless individuals trekked similar or even the same paths as you, with far less information and equipment. Habits held their reins. Not the internet and certainly not their “Insta followers”.
George Hackenschmidt, Lamar Gant, Bob Peoples, William Boone.
These are but just a few men that every person looking to get acquainted with weights, exterior strength and interior peace should know about. Not just because they were brutally strong, but because their work ethics are something we should all aspire for, If not to stroke our egos, then at least to feel somewhat accomplished after another day of life. And breathing is a habit we can all get on board with.
All of these men possessed HABITUAL methods towards their training. Sessions were not missed, under any circumstances. Training was viewed as a necessity for a more fulfilling life. Without it, they might as well have been dead.
With discipline being the cornerstone of eventual success, it’s important to refresh ourselves from time to time on the ways of the old and just exactly how people from the past managed their training, especially while leading lives far harder than our own. There was nothing complicated about their routines or their diets or their followings. They didn’t yammer on endlessly about rep schemes and sets or rest periods. They were, however, in league with discipline and maintaining a schedule that would make the IRS flinch during tax season.
Before you raise a fist and grow disgruntled over not being able to time travel in order to succeed with your physical goals, remember, it wasn’t the time period that established their prowess. They didn’t have the gift (or curse) of obsessing over their favorite lifters (they most likely had none of those), nor did they have the time to do so. Instead, they threw caution to the wind and worked with what they had. And that usually amounted to very little beyond a bar, some patience and to quote Peter Stormare from John Wick 2, “Sheer fucking will.”
They formed habits, despite their circumstances (probably without even giving them a second thought).
Their habits became their staples, their life’s blood. Not for any reason beyond those habits feeling “right” and allowing them to move and live better. Thus, allowing for greater performance. As with the absence of idolatry comes greater gains. I think Confucius said that.
One foot in front of the other, day in and day out, regardless of what was being pushed in their respective eras. And During the dawn of physical culture, this avoidance of trends was no easy task.
If you’ve ever bench pressed, you either owe George Hackenschmidt a “Thank You” or a “Fuck You”, depending on how good you are at it. After all, he invented the exercise, along with the Hack squat. But before becoming known as the Russian Lion and before being feared for willfully tossing fellow combatants like they were bath toys, George was baptized in the ways of physicality through more classical means. Namely, Gymnastics, Cycling and swimming. It was through these habits that he fell in love with making physicality part of his daily routine, eventually expanding his efforts into lifting hard and heavy multiple times a week, on top of wrestling whoever felt like throwing their hat into the ring. This was all maintained while working as a blacksmiths apprentice. Never mind that the man went on to write numerous books on philosophy and weightlifting and learn 7 languages fluently.
William Boone spent his life digging water wells between Louisiana and Texas. Once asked about what the job entailed, he could recall little else beyond the heat. “One job digging wells in Texas was so hot that the men had to drink 4 gallons of water a day just to keep from overheating under the scorching southwestern sun.” As soon as the day’s work was completed, he’d march his ass into his backyard. Not his garage or his den or his basement, but his backyard, under the same hot Southern sun he’d just crawled out of and perform his routine, without fail. Boone would eventually work his way up to 700 lb. pull, a 300 lb. bent press (yeah, bent press) and a jerk from the rack of 420 lbs. Not bad for using a pair of squat stands in the backyard and most likely being burnt and dehydrated.
Bob Peoples, a mentor to Paul Anderson (google him) and the owner of a 725 lbs. deadlift at 181, spent his days working on his farm in Tennessee. From there, using mostly makeshift equipment and most likely half dead from the day’s efforts, he’d train. Didn’t matter the season or the circumstance, all that mattered was the next session. His wife Juanita remarked about how he would often drag his weights from his self-proclaimed “Dungeon” and chuck them down a nearby hill out of frustration, only to retrieve them the following day and give them another go. Usually around 2 AM.
Lamar Gant, the only man ever to pull more than 5 times his bodyweight (638 at 123) and the possessor of probably the most crumpled spine in existence, managed to set 71 World Records, while simultaneously holding the world record in all of the Big 3, all at once.
Lamar’s habit? Riding his bicycle 30 miles round trip to his job as a custodian. When asked about this mode of travel, Lamar responded with, “That cycling is good for me. And I’m going to keep right on with it.” If you ever feel like breaking away from your “routine” and “going hard”, give Lamar’s Monster Man Deadlift program a go.
25 sets of 5 with increasing percentages. Lamar’s heaviest set was performed with 585 lbs. The world record for one at his bodyweight…because, habits.
“I’ll start tomorrow.”
“I’ll start next week.”
“I’ll craft a new year’s resolution.”
“I’m tired from working all day.”
“I won’t be able to train as hard today so I might as well not even go.”
These are some of the most common ones we’ve heard.
Here’s some advice: Start now. Stop reading and do something NOW.
It doesn’t have to be much.
Take a walk. Do a set of pushups. Meditate (for real), stretch, shadowbox, etc. The choices are endless, as are the excuses. It doesn’t have to be intricate or sexy or IG worthy. It just has to get your mind and body prepped for the eventual step of “more”.
Where people begin to fall off is when they try and look at the summit of success in its entirety, as opposed to the first piece of rock to grab a hold of. They psyche themselves out and say:
“It’s too much.”
“I don’t have time.”
“I left my kids in the car with the windows up in August.”
Excuses are legion, which is why success is viewed as special. Fret not, there are still plenty of people who will ignore the limitless examples bestowed unto us from modern day life and will continue to waste away. Therefore, success will always be rare. Don’t be THAT guy. Don’t be common.
On a separate note, don’t look at yourself as Eddie Hall or Brian Shaw. This is tantamount to looking at the guys who’ve already climbed the mountain (Hi, Thor) from below and calling it “good”. Doing this routinely will condition your mind to think that you’d much rather live vicariously through those who have gone before, as opposed to going through the same perils and habits as they had to in order to reach the peak, whatever your “peak” is.
Maybe that’s benching another 10 lbs for another 2 reps.
Maybe that’s running a 7 minute mile.
Maybe that’s learning how to rebuild a motor or build a house.
Whatever your peak is,it will only be seen to its apex through the use of habits.
Instead of making it a habit to compare yourself to professionals and making it a habit to dissect their routines and their diets, make it a habit to stick to whatever plan you had laid out, whether through the use of a coach or your own imagination, and allow that plan to play out.
With life being chaotic (We aren’t special, this has always been the case), it can be easy to dismiss one session here and another there or holding off on making that trip down to your local gym and signing up because you believe you’ll be ostracized upon entry. Here’s a hint, nobody gives a shit what you look like and the few and far betweeners who do, won’t ever say anything to you directly. The best athletes, the most serious of members, will be the first to help if asked and the last to talk shit, because they, just like the men and women who preceded them, understand the process. They understand that strength in particular is the result of years of HABIT.
Habits are formed through…Habit. Simple concept and simple enough to execute, but often times, humans offer themselves many an out for never pulling the trigger.
Pull the trigger. Make it a habit.