Do the Work

By Will Kuenzel

My first routine when I got started was incredible.  Well, incredible might not be the optimal word, but it worked very well for a 15-year-old with tons of drive and a little help from his dad.  My routine was as follows:

Monday: Push

Tuesday: Pull

Wednesday: Arms

Thursday: Push

Friday: Pull

Saturday: Arms

Sunday: Rest

Push day consisted of squats, bench press, and behind the neck shoulder press.  Pull day was deadlifts, bent over rows, and upright rows.  Arm day was barbell curls super-setted with skull crushers, then dumbbell preacher curls super-setted with overhead triceps extension, and then standing dumbbell curls super-setted with dumbbell kick-backs.

Is this the most optimal routine?  Most of us know that not to be the case.   It’s kind of haphazard, but it’s a lot of work.  Only one day off a week and we didn’t have any clue what a deload was. Sometimes just putting in the work can be the most important thing.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, and there can be plenty of better options, but the best option is the one that gets done.  Sitting on your butt does not accomplish anything.

We would finish every arm session by having a contest to see who could do the most dips.  When we first started this, my dad would double the number of dips I could do.  If I did 7, he did 14.  If I did 10, he did 20.  Even up until the point where I did 15, and he did 30.  At 245lbs and almost 50 years old, looking back I’m still impressed by this today, almost as much as I was back then.  Finally, the next time we did dips, I did 16.  My dad did 17.  I did 17; he did 18.  He was always pushing me.  But in turn, I was still there.

We did this religiously for almost 12 weeks.  Never missed a day.  This was also after having worked on the farm for 7-8 hours those same six days.  Either cutting weeds out from under an electric fence, removing old fencing and replacing it with new, digging ditches, cutting wood, moving hay, or feeding cattle.  I knew what work was.  I won’t say that I enjoyed the work, but I also don’t remember complaining.  My dad might tell another story, but that’s at least how I remember it.  I do look back at that time fondly for several reasons.  One, it was a fantastic time spent with my dad.  Two, it taught me a valuable lesson in hard work. Three, I honestly started to realize what being physically fit meant.  It was life altering because I have not stopped training in some form or fashion in the 20 years since that summer.

I’m not the 15-year-old that I was then, but I am who I am because of that 15-year-old.  We didn’t have TV – we got one channel on a clear day at best.  I did have video games, plenty of books, and about a hundred acres I could disappear into. Despite all that, I chose to get up every morning, eat breakfast, and head out into the field for a day’s worth of work.  I wasn’t forced to get up and work.  I remember one day, in particular, I didn’t feel like it, or at least more so than usual.  My dad didn’t say a word, he just got in the truck and drove down the barn and did the work anyway.  Did I sense some amount of disappointment or something? I don’t know, but I didn’t miss another day.

It wasn’t until years later, probably 15 years later, that I properly thanked my dad for that summer.  It stuck with me since I vividly remember much of it.  It ended up having a profound effect on who I am today, and I’m incredibly grateful for it. It gave me a lesson that I wouldn’t fully understand until only recently, but its effect was still there all this time, whether I knew what the experience was or not.

I always had the idea that I could work more.  My last year of high school, I enjoyed and was motivated to pole vault more than anything else.   I was the first to practice.  I was the last to leave.  I would travel 2.5 hours two or three times a week to a distant school for better coaching. I would practice and then drive home those 2.5 hours and still get all my classwork done.  In college, I would continue to pole vault while starting engineering school.  I’d work out in the morning, go to class, go to practice, go to class, and then go to study hall or go to work.  When it finally got to the point that school was taking more time and I stopped vaulting, I picked up two more jobs.  Looking back, I honestly can’t tell you why I was doing all this.  My parents were paying for college.  It wasn’t like I was putting myself through school.  I just felt like sitting on my ass was the wrong thing to do.

I’m wiser now than I was; I understand that it’s not always just working that gets us through, but the proper application of dutiful work. Going back-relating back to that original training routine, all that work could have been optimized, but sometimes you have to start putting in the work somewhere.  I am not afraid of the work, though.  It’s a lot of work owning my own business.  It’s a lot of work to maintain a lasting relationship with my wife of, at the time of writing this, 12 years.  It’s a lot of work to be a dad to two beautiful daughters.  It’s a lot of work to maintain my physique, health, and mentality.   Life isn’t easy, and I don’t ask for it to be.  I choose my problems.  I happened to be smart enough to pick good issues.  I don’t talk about these things in a capacity to brag, and I am certainly not complaining.  I have the best problems.  I have the best things that need work.  We don’t always get to choose every problem or obstacle, but when we do, we must make the most of them.   Don’t be afraid of the work.  Don’t avoid the work.  It’s not the work that’s tough.  It’s what happens when we don’t work that’s tough.  The consequences of not taking action are where the real problems lie. What if I didn’t work on my relationship?  What happens when that marriage falls apart?  What happens if I didn’t work on me?  What happens when my health fades?

Life is a struggle. It will not be easy.   Life will not get better.  We are what gets better.  We develop the skills, passion, and work ethic to overcome the problems placed before us.  Hopefully, they’re the problems we’ve chosen, so we have something to strive for.  Even if not, put your head down and do the work.  Do the work, and you’ll have the best of problems.  Do the work, and you’ll be better.

To read more from Will, be sure to check out his other articles and training logs for his gym, Low County Strength.  To learn more about putting together a purposeful plan and the mindset behind training with intent, be sure to grab your copy of 10/20Life 2nd Edition today.

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Low Country Strength

Will Kuenzel is the owner of Lowcountry Strength (www.LowcountryStrength.com) in Charleston, SC. Will started his athletic endeavors as a pole vault; finishing up his collegiate career with a best vault of 16’9” at a whopping 160lbs. He the track and field world to pursue bodybuilding, his first show in 2005, he won 1st place in Men’s Novice as a middle weight. One year later he took 2nd as a Men’s Junior heavy weight. Since 2007 he has been a competitive powerlifter and totaling elite as a 220lber. His best lifts in multiply equipment are a 710lbs squat, a 605lbs bench press, a 615lbs deadlift and a 1930 total. In 2008 Will started Lowcountry Strength out of his garage. Since then it has moved into a 16,000 sq/ft facility and shares space with a mixed martial arts studio. With all disciplines of powerlifting, strongman, MMA, jiu jitsu and other sports in the Charleston area getting trained under one roof, Will heads up the strength and conditioning for a wide variety of athletes and clients.

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