24 January 2019
WHEN WORKING HARD DOESN’T WORK
There’s no question that maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires real, consistent effort, and the weight of this obligation is only increased for the bodybuilder or performance athlete. However, the fact that achieving a particular goal requires hard work
Work ethic is extremely important, but it’s not a substitute for intelligence. Here’s why.
There’s no question that maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires real, consistent effort, and the weight of this obligation is only increased for the bodybuilder or performance athlete. However, the fact that achieving a particular goal requires hard work does notmean working harder is always the way to overcome failure. To put it bluntly: while combining a shitty work ethic and a shitty strategy obviously leads to shitty results, instituting a better work ethic without fixing that shitty strategy will still generate shitty results.
I can speak to this with great confidence, from personal experience. In 2016, I underwent a nine-week cut which ultimately got me in the best shape of my life; although I remained far from contest shape, that hadn’t been my goal, and I achieved what was likely a true 10-12% bodyfat – actually quite lean on a male (see below). Now, based on that description alone you might think the experience was an overwhelming success – and purely in terms of the overall outcome, it was. However, my approach to creating that outcome wasn’t without real problems. Specifically, I was so intent on maintaining a high training frequency (both in terms of total number of weekly workouts and the frequency with which I trained each bodypart; I was lifting six days a week and trained each bodypart 3-6 times a week) despite my reduced calorie intake (and, thus, lower recovery capacity), that even given the use of quite a lot of caffeine, about twice a week I would find myself really, really putting off training as a result of sheer fatigue (not laziness; I wanted nothing more than to feel better so I’d be highly motivated to train), and/or I’d go to the gym exhausted and ultimately be unable to finish my session.
I’ve not thought to mention this before, but for the sake of illustrating the severity of this pattern, I’d like to share this story with you…
One night in particular, I was so exhausted that I cut my workout short, left the gym early, and, when I got home, I literally crashed my car – into a completely stationary pillar (which I’d driven past innumerable times prior), going less than 5mph, in a parking deck.Yes, it was that really that ridiculous – and for the record, I’m an excellent driver, but I was so. damn. tired. that night, I couldn’t even accurately judge the distance between me and a large stationary object less than ten feet (~3m) away.
I think it suffices to say that in a context like that – and let’s be real, the idea of constantly overworking yourself, whether in the gym, at work, at school, at home, or in life in general is hardly inconceivable – working harder is not the answer. Instead, the answer is to work smarter – a concept I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen effectively described, so I’d suggest it’s a matter of working more efficiently, more sustainably, and more consistently (keeping in mind consistency depends on sustainability, and sustainability is made more practical through efficiency; when it comes to human behavior, it’s hard to argue any one variable is truly independent). By applying these three principles, one ultimately works more effectively; they generate better results, whatever the area: personal growth, interpersonal relationships, mental and physical health, professional and financial success, or – the real reason we’re all here, obviously! – body composition and physical performance. And all of this can be had without necessarily working harder, but working smarter and harder – applying an extreme work ethic to an awesome strategy – is as close as we’ll ever get to life’s golden ticket.