Episode 338 – Are You Honestly Trying As Hard As You Could Be?

Written by Jonathan

About eight months ago I started working with a new client, a woman in her mid-50s who had just gone through several breast cancer surgeries and treatments. She’s in remission for now and wanted or wants to get back into shape again, to improve the mobility and flexibility of her shoulders and neck as well as increase her overall strength and muscle tone again.

When we first started working together she was nervous about injuring herself, but I slowly introduced new exercises, movements and discovered together what she was capable of. After our first few sessions she became more comfortable and was able to move and lift what I would consider to be a fairly substantial amount of weight and do a lot of what I would consider intermediate and advanced exercises, especially considering her age, surgeries and treatments that she went through. I think she even surprised herself, that she was even more capable than she realized.

With everything she’s been through we chose to work this way together, I designed the exercise programs, but I let her set the pace with respect to the number of reps, the amount of weight and the general intensity of the given fitness routine on a given day. Although she progressed very quickly at first, she started to plateau relatively quickly, she would take a lot of water breaks, she always has a story that she would manage to tell in the middle of a set and would sometimes even stop exercising during important or noteworthy parts of the story. Often when I tried to get her back on track or push her a bit she would get a tad dramatic and say things like, ‘How many more reps do I have left? I’m clinging to life over here’ here or ‘I’m really suffering today,’ and other things like that. Of course she was working hard, she was really pushing yourself, but I’ve worked with enough people to know she still had some effort and strength in the tank to push herself a little bit more.

Then about three months ago her 21-year-old daughter, who lives out of town, invited her to attend a Boot Camp that the daughter goes to three times a week and is very intense, with lots of running, heavy strength training exercises, as far as I can tell too many repetitions and by my understanding a very high rate of puking. Of course my client was scared to go to a place like this, but she wanted to prove to her daughter that she could do it. I also wasn’t super keen on it for a variety of reasons, but I thought what the heck let’s take your training up a notch and get you into good enough shape that you don’t join the vomit club and can walk for the remainder of your trip. So we stepped up a notch and over the past two months she got noticeably stronger, noticeably faster…. I guess I should actually say comfortable running because we hadn’t been doing any running up to that point and she worked hard, at least harder than she had been.

Two weeks ago she went to this Boot Camp and survived. She sent me a picture at the end and trust me when I say this, she was quite pale, quite sweaty and it looked like she needed help standing up, but she survived.

All this to be said when she came back and we did our first session together she starts doing the warm-up and then stops mid set and looks at me and says, ‘I can do more and I can work harder. I thought I was working hard, but I wasn’t can we start working harder during our sessions?’ Of course, was my answer, but I thought in my head that, I have been subtly trying to push her a little bit harder ever since we started working together, but ultimately it’s up to her to set the pace of the workouts. I mean of course I can make an exercise harder if that’s required, I can definitely make a program more intense and of course I can create what I would call specific and appropriate rest periods and water breaks, and I can encourage her to push for one extra rep or to run a little bit faster if that’s what I think she needs to do. But what I can’t do is tell her to stop talking through the work out, I mean I could, but then I wouldn’t be training her anymore, I can’t stop her from drinking water in between exercises within a superset if she feels she really needs it, if she decides the last rep is her last rep and that she can’t do anymore I can’t make her do any more raps all I can do hope she’s being honest about how tired she actually is.

These were all procrastination strategies or what I might call a case of ‘itchy nose’ syndrome that a person uses throughout a workout to do less exercise and not work as hard as they are capable of, which may be fine, but ultimately means they won’t be as strong or as fit as they could potentially be. It took a crazy intense boot camp workout for my client to see that she was capable of more, she was capable of being stronger, she was capable of being faster and going forward she will try harder because now she has seen the difference it makes. She’s not a delicate broken flower, she’s strong, she’s capable, she’s resilient and she’s able to do more then she realized. She just needed to be able to experience and see what she was capable of, and I feel she’s capable of even more. Now during her sessions she still has stories, but she doesn’t stop an exercise to tell me about them, she still drinks water, but only during official water breaks and she doesn’t dally between exercises, because she knows in order for her body to change it needs to be as hard as she can handle without breaking her spirits and now she knows where that line is.

My question for you, as you listen to this, are you trying as hard as you could? Are you working as hard as you could? Are you being honest with yourself and your abilities? Are you capable and could you do more?

I can sit here and tell you what you should and shouldn’t do until I’m blue in the face, but ultimately it’s up to you to make a decision to do something, then it’s up to you to do something else again and again, but you can’t do that until you have an honest conversation with yourself and decide from here on in I’m going to tell myself the truth.



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