Accountants, Animals, and The Value of Training Harder
I just vomited.
And it was a good one.
I know it was good, as I tend to rate my vomit sessions. In fact I have a whole vomit rating system. Mainly because I vomit often enough to have need of one; as you might imagine, this frequent practice results in generally high scores.
(It’s all very technical.)
Before everyone freaks out, I don’t have an eating disorder or anything like that. I just have a mildly sensitive system, which reacts to extreme physical demands by rejecting all the wonderful things I’ve put into my body.
So today was a good one—an intense vomit session after an intense training session.
I stood there, bent at the waist, hands braced on my knees to keep me from tumbling over into my own nastiness, thinking, “Hmmm, more distance than usual this time. Must have been the push presses.”
Whether or not there is actually a correlation between push presses and distance hurling, I have no idea. However, what is clear is how great I felt after.
That must sound strange—which makes sense, because it is—and I should mention that I am not generally into vomiting as a rule. I don’t like, go to vomit parties, or ask girls to do it in bed or watch vomit porn or anything like that. No, that would be too much, even for me.
I just enjoy the way I feel after a workout so challenging that my body responded by voiding the contents of my stomach on the grass. I feel strong. I feel tough. I feel like I accomplished something (outside of the obvious loss of my workout shake and the 100 Calorie Snack Pack I ate before working out).
Training hard just feels right to me, and because of that, I suppose I’ve come to form some strange association between hard work and vomiting.
This is an attitude I seem to have passed onto a lot of my clients.
You see, at Roman Fitness Systems, we train hard. We don’t scream, or throw weights, or go insane and break mirrors. We just push hard, from exercise to exercise, trying to get more out of ourselves than our bodies want to give; trying to walk that terrible, beautiful line between controlled aggression and all out insanity.
We train with purpose and intensity.
Now, from a scientific perspective, intensity in the weight training context refers to the amount of work required to achieve the activity, and is proportional to the mass of the weights being lifted.
That is, how heavy the weight is relative to how strong you are. Or, in more quantifiable terms, the range you are working in relative to your one rep max.
This definition is a little too neat for me, but it makes a good starting point.
Before I continue with the discussion of intensity, I want to side-bar quickly.
I do quite a bit of traveling, so I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to workout in different facilities pretty often. This is great for me, as it keeps things fresh; it’s funny how even the same workouts feel new when you’re not in your normal environment.
However, as different as these gyms are from one another, I see a lot of trends. While most of that is beyond the scope of this post, I need to mention one thing.
Obviously there are people who don’t fit into these categories, but for the purposes of this discussion let’s just stick with these two.
So no matter where I go, I see both of these groups doing their damnedest to make progress.
Well, that’s complicated.
As much as I hate to admit it, in the short term, the Animal has the advantage. Oh, sure, he will have all sorts of imbalances and possibly get injured, but from the perspective of gaining muscle and losing fat, from all the evidence I’ve seen, these guys get the win.
The Accountants have more knowledge, and better programs, and a higher baseline level of training intelligence. But they’re just not working hard enough. (To be fair, most people in most gyms are not working hard enough, not just the guys with training logs.)
They are caught up in minutia. They switch programs from week to week, can’t decide what to do. The worst is that they don’t seem to be working as hard as their less intelligent counterparts.
I know that is hard to hear, particularly if you are one of those people. It doesn’t make any sense that some “meathead” throwing weights around is going to make better progress than the guys who go out of their way to learn the proper approach to exercise.
Bottom line: this stuff is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. My man Jimmy Dugan, of A League of Their Own fame said, “It’s the hard that makes it great.” True words.
If getting a great body was easy, we’d all be 200 pounds and shredded. Every girl would look like Jessica Biel, and every guy would look like…well, me.
The answer, of course, is to be somewhere in between, a mix of these two worlds.
That is, to have the proper focus on intelligent program design, and execute it with intensity; to have all the right knowledge, and apply it with gut-wrenching force.
If we are not going to define intensity solely as it applies to the relative weight being lifted, how are we using it in the conversation of training?
Or rather, we use a more abstract, esoteric definition. You know you’re training intensely because you ARE. That’s it.
We can’t define it, because intensity is as beautifully abstruse as the reason for the training itself. You cannot really define or even comprehend why you are there pushing to the brink – you just are.
If you’ll pardon me leveraging my History minor here, the Roman poet Virgil has a great quote I like share with my clients to help them understand:
“Obsession is the wellspring of both genius and madness.”
The idea is to be absolutely obsessed with your training during your session. Focus exclusively on your program, for 30 or 45 or 60 minutes. Forget your problems, forget your fears, your limits, your homework. Forget that you have a date and need to pick out a sweet outfit.
For my fellow comic book nerds, we want to be the Grey Hulk – the general physical embodiment of the Incredible Hulk, but with the intelligence and reasoning of Bruce Banner.
This is what we do at Roman Fitness Systems.
And while vomiting isn’t really necessary to have a good workout, it does happen often.
Here is a video of the workout session from today:
This is my sixth set of log-bar push presses (in between each is a 120 yard sprint), and the end of the video is me walking off to go empty my stomach on the field.
I only got 8 reps here, but you’ll notice they were all hard. In fact, right after rep 6, I almost put the weight down, but I refocus and bang out two more.
These two reps may have what pushed me over the brink, and cost me my pre-workout shake. But they may also have helped me reach the next level of my training.
The point here is that you have to reach a level of tolerance—you have to teach yourself to be comfortable with a certain level of discomfort. From there, you can achieve almost anything you want.
How to do this?
Increasing training intensity is a process, so here is the basic idea. Try to progress, each and every workout, for the next 8 weeks.
For the next two months, every single time you train, do one of the following:
Don’t stop following you program. The fact that you plan is what sets you apart. It’s what helps you develop in a symmetrical, healthy way. Proper program design is of vital importance, and will help you take your development to the greatest level. Knowing the right things to do, and in the right order is what is going to help you strip fat off your body and build lean tissue.
But understand this: the best training program in the world is absolutely worthless without the will to execute it properly, consistently, and with intensity.
But this will hurt. And while I would never take the view that pain itself is indicative of progress, pain is usually indicative of having worked hard. And working harder will help you progress faster.
Try the above tips for just 8 weeks, and I guarantee you’ll get better results than ever before.
So get your workout chart, download some new tunes, and when you hit the gym, be completely obsessed with the progress you’re going to make. Push till it hurts. Then push a little harder.
When your body pushes back, you’re on you way.