If the word 'struggle' isn't in your vocabulary, stop reading right now. This post is not for you.
If you had to squat 500 lbs, or watch someone you love die, what would your choice be?
I imagine you'd choose to squat. This imagery might be strong or make you uncomfortable.
Great. Why? Because if you want true strength, the kind of strength that inspires legends, you have to get uncomfortable. You have to face some tough stuff. You have to be prepared to struggle.
The men and women putting their lives on the line to protect us struggle on a daily basis, because in a life or death situation, strength is survival.
Most 7 year olds don't know what discomfort or struggle is, but for me, struggling was helping your 11 year old brother take care of the two sick parents that once took care of us.
We couldn't NOT struggle. If we weren't strong enough to lift Mom out of the bed to her wheelchair, she got bedsores and had to go to the hospital. If we couldn't lift Dad onto his toilet seat for him to use the bathroom, his food tube would get infected and he'd have to go to the hospital.
If we couldn't walk a mile down a busy street to buy the weeks groceries and carry them by hand back home, we didn't have groceries. We dressed our parents and ourselves, while doing school and trying to be kids at the same time.
I would do everyday of it all over again, because I learned my most important exercise tip of my life in that time...
...struggle like you don't have a choice.
If you are a constant reader, you know that isometric exercises are my favorite training method, specifically those taught in 7 Seconds to a Perfect Body. You probably don't know why. More than anything else, I love isometrics because it forces you to struggle to the maximum of your strength and to keep going, because you don't have a choice.
Of course, you do really have a choice. You could do an isometric workout by kinda holding a weight in your hand until your hand drops down and say you worked out.
That's just fine, but that's why you'll never be strong.
When I do isometrics, I force myself to put more into the workout than I thought I had. If I'm training my chest, I have to clap my hands in front of me and press them together as hard as I can.
I don't think you understand. When I press my hands together, my arms start shaking, I feel like a fire is creeping along my limbs, and all I want to do is relax my hands, stop the burn, stop struggling. I only have to press my hands for 12 seconds, but when your lungs are firing and you feel like someone poured battery acid into your veins, 12 seconds feels like a lifetime.
But if I quit, if I let my hands drop before those 12 seconds are up, if I don't put my maximum intensity into that press, I don't fatigue all my muscles, I don't strengthen my tendons like I want...
...and I cheat myself. I cheat the 7 year old Jarell who was strong, not because he wanted to be, but because he HAD to be. I cheat the Jarell who struggled not because he wanted to, but because he had no choice.
So I press harder, breath harder, and fight that desire to quit, because when I train to be strong, I struggle like I don't have a choice.
You can feel free to walk into the gym, do a little sweating and breathing, chat with your friends, and call it a workout. You have that choice.
But if you're gonna learn anything from me or my advice, if you're ever gonna be strong, you have to rob yourself of that choice. Make it so there is no option.
Alexander Zass had to train isometrics by pulling chains that strapped him to a wall in jail. If he didn't get strong enough to break those chains, to bend his cell bars, and climb the wall out of the jail, he didn't see daylight again. Alexander Zass struggled because, if he wanted freedom, he had no choice.
The Great Gama entered a health and fitness championship at age 10 against full grown men, and was doing Hindu squats for more than 2 hours straight. No one would fault a 10 year old for dropping out early, and they'd probably commend him for going even an hour.
But The Great Gama never stopped squatting until he won the competition, because he could never have become history's only undefeated wrestler by quitting himself. He struggled, so much that he was bedridden from leg pains for two weeks.
Because if he wanted to be great, he didn't have a choice.
I'd like to take a minute to introduce you to Jared Johnson.
Jared had been training hard for about 5 years, got himself rather fit at 160 with 9% bodyfat.
Until he suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
Jared stayed awake all the way to the operating room, and had to hold a rag to his own head to keep from bleeding out.
He was dead for about two minutes, but the doctors revived him. The bullet bounced off, but bone fragments from his skull hit his brain and severed the nerves to the left side of his body.
Doctors covered the spot with a titanium plate, and let Jared know that he would never walk or use his left side again.
Knowing that he hadn't reached his own goals in life, knowing that he was still alive, and thus ready to live, responded "Sit back and watch."
He had lost 25lbs in the hospital, so it took alot of energy, hard work, and concentration, but after only 3 weeks he was able to slowly walk.
Doctors still told him that he would never use his arm again, but Jared never stopped struggling. After a month, Jared was able to move his fingers with great difficulty.
His left shoulder had fallen out of socket from the weakened nerves, so he had to retrain that as well, but only about 10 weeks after he was told he'd never walk or move his left side again, Jared was walking and able to lift his arm with difficulty.
Now, Jared is working out harder than ever before, trained himself beyond his initial level, and even has plans to start a gym of his own.
None of this would be possible had Jared stopped struggling at any point along his journey. It was too far from easy, but being strong never is, and Jared is strong.
At this point, either you've got it or I'm beating a dead horse. There may come a time when you have to squat that 500 lbs to save someone. You might have to row enough to pull up someone who otherwise would have fallen. Or you may never have these happen.
But if you want to be strong, then whether you have to do these things or not, know that you have to struggle...
...like you don't have a choice.
"Don't be content with being average. Average is as close to the bottom as it is to the top." - Unknown