Strength Training Isn’t Always Fun

By: Brian Carroll

Do you enjoy your strength training and programming all of the time? You are probably doing it wrong!

One of the things I enjoy asking my groups at seminars is “Do you want to enjoy your training and have fun, or do you want to be good? You can’t always have both and most of the time you won’t have both”

Newsflash: Doing what you suck at is not very fun, but it is what you should be doing if you don’t want to suck.

One of the main points in the philosophy of 10/20/Life is “have a purpose with everything you do, and never do just to do, do what you suck at and attack your weak points”. This means to focus on attacking your weak points with your assistance work.

Training won’t always be fun and it shouldn’t be. It’s called training, aka working out. Putting in work, it’s fucking work, BRO.

FUN is overrated, brah.

You know what’s FUN for me (winning aside and being successful, of course)? To do speed work (I call it form work) and watch everyone’s eyes pop out of their head when I move 500-600 on the deadlift faster than they move 225. But if not done for a purpose, it’s useless really (I don’t do speed work, but I will do ‘form’ work that lets me practice dialing in form work with submaximal weight).

See the difference? Wanting to do = fun. Needing to do is NOT as fun.

On The Flip Side, What I Need:

I’m not a good grinder, so my Wednesday work (squat/deadlift assistance where I attack weak points and weak muscles) is super important to attack the quads, upper back and hams where my weaknesses are and have been exposed on the squat and DL. I’m not great at chins, rows, shrugs, piston squats, and grinding out reps on the leg press. I’m not good at this shit, but it’s what needs to be done.

People like to say “you need to enjoy what you’re doing or you’ll burn out or get sick of what you’re doing, it needs to be fun”.

Well, to a certain extent that is true, but you can love something and not like it very much at times. Love and like are not the same thing. If you don’t understand that, then don’t ever have a relationship or live with anyone, ever!

Having anything worth pushing for is not going to always be fun. Remember that and if someone tells you it’s all been such a fun process all of the time – question their sanity, their accomplishments. Moreover, and this is a BIG ONE, if they are actually who they say they are. Lots of fakes, frauds and pretenders out there. Make sure you know who you are getting in bed with.

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There’s been many, many pro athletes that have hated to train, practice and participate in the process along the way before game day or competition. Not always, but at times. Do they love the game? SURE – but they don’t always enjoy the process. Remember the Allen Iverson sound bite? “Practice. Practice. We talking about practice?” Do you really think he enjoyed his whole hall of fame career, the injuries, the set-backs the many long seasons he played, and all the camps and practices? You think that it’s always such a fun time? Hell no, it isn’t. Just because it’s lifting weights, or a ‘game’ doesn’t mean that it’s not WORK.

Think again about this being FUN.

Byrd and I have talked about this for a while now, Scott and I have discussed CrossFit at a high level and playing pro football and Beth and I have discussed going after goals. More recently in Atlantic City, Jordan Wong, Adam Driggers and myself had a great conversation about how after a while, strength training and in particular powerlifting becomes about chasing numbers and when you start to stagnate, face real injuries, miss your goals, have bad showings, have strings of bad luck or even have to really start grinding for every lb that you PR, it becomes WORK. It’s work, plain and simple. It’s not very fun and anyone that loves to struggle and fight 24/7 is a maniac.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel as if it’s worth it and its normal to feel this way. We discussed how each year, each meet the expectations and stakes get higher. The highs are not very high when they come but the lows are much lower when they hit. The bar is always raised/pushed higher each time you start a training cycle, enter a competition and the chances to become successful and achieve your goals become more slim the better you get. Not to mention, this could be your last one (insert training cycle, any competition etc) ever. You really never know when your time could be up.

Beating A Dead WHORE…. Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and it goes on….We all see rookie lifters all of the time…400 deadlift, I’ll be at 600 in 6 months! Maybe, but probably not and even if you do, the progress eventually slows, this is certain. Ever wonder why you see some big names come and go so much in this sport? 2-3 big meets and even 2-3 big years of excellent lifting, then they stagnate, get hurt and don’t have the mental fortitude to come back and start over. That, or they aren’t even hurt and quit just because it starts getting hard.

Why do athletes/lifters disappear all the time (especially in powerlifting)? The answer is easy. Because it’s freaking hard to stay in one piece, its freaking hard work and it is a job. Make no mistake. I see this all the time… “but I love the grind and I love the process”. You can enjoy any kind of torture or process that you go through (when you look back upon it and at times during when you gain more perspective) but that doesn’t mean that it’s not some serious work.

Something else…

It’s All Rainbows & Butterflies

LOL…no.

You probably haven’t been doing it long enough, failed much, sacrificed much, been injured seriously enough nor have you pushed for anything worth a shit. Everyone loves the new girlfriend, the new hobby, sport or activity until they really get to know it, have issues with it, and it starts to cause them issues.

Remember, people work to retire. Not work to work for their whole lives. They retire and can enjoy and reflect upon the hard work they put in over 20-40 years of sacrifice to live a certain way once the work is done. Much like an athlete participates, or competes to achieve a certain goal after a while. I don’t lift weights and compete to lift weights, I lift weights because I have goals to hit and it takes work to get there. Yes, I lift weights because I love it, but loving something will not always see you through. There has to be more to it than just loving something or having passion about it. There’s been many Rudys over the years with more passion than a Mardi Gras sex party with free Cialis and X for any and every one. And you’ll never know them because there needs to be more than desire and passion to keep you in it because passion dies and so does desire.

Is It Worth It?

YES.

You must see the end-game and keep your eye on the prize, as stupid and cheesy as that sounds. That alone can keep you going and chasing feeling of accomplishing your goals, the ‘high’ that comes with setting a goal and seeing it through is what keeps me going, not the process and the work.

Make no mistake, to me its addiction, not a like. Not very enjoyable, but addictive. Success is addictive and what I chase. This doesn’t mean we/I enjoy the process all of the time, that’s for sure, or even most of the time. Make no mistake, anything that has not been accomplished before, or even rarely done – takes sacrifice. Some things take a lot of sacrifice and heartbreak. Trust me.

If you haven’t sacrificed relationships, money, your time, other peoples time and money, your body, your mental state (big one) and the like, then I don’t want to hear about how the process is always enjoyable or hear about the process from you at all, actually. Why? Because 16 years in, I can tell you it’s NOT FUN much of the time when you have goals to chase and hit, when it takes up so much of your mental and physical energy.

I was talking to Danny Vega the other day. Danny is a Graduate of UF and Columbia and played football at a very high level. He knows a little bit about dedication and sacrifice and we started to chat on this very subject. A former CrossFitter, Danny knows that these endeavors and goals that we want to reach take a lot of time and sacrifice. We’ve spoken about his work in CrossFit and how competitive it is, same with Scott Paltos. Any idea how much WORK it took Scott to be a good gymnast with no background in gymnastics, and being 5’10” 240? Think that was fun for him to have to start from zero in this area and be so far behind everyone? Vega said the same thing about qualifying for regionals. It’s no joke as these people live the life, meaning they are athletes 24/7 and eat, sleep and breath CF. It’s a FUCKING JOB.

“But Brian, you sound like an elitist with your goals of 1145 squat, your 2700 total in a second weight class and with your situation and goals in general is different than most”.

OK, fine…but, you’re missing the point….

That’s not what I’m trying to come across as at all. But let’s be real – if we want to get specific, someone with average numbers and an average lifting career is, in most cases, is going to be due to an average genetic ability, average work ethic, average time spent on the ‘hobby’, average and minimal sacrifice, average mindset as well average approach and average investment. Not always, but a lot of the time it’s the case. There is not much investment and not very much at stake. There is a massive difference in having a hobby that you love and enjoy and being all in, in it to win it and be the best you can be.

Some will not get the athletes mindset, some will never get it. In my experience, it’s sometimes is what that separates 1st -2nd place from 4-6th place. Being an athlete 24/7 is a major principle of 10/20/Life and with that… comes MORE sacrifice.

Ever been injured to the point of pretty much having to accept that you might be done? I have, so I can speak with authority on this subject. It’s not a fun position to be put in but it will make you do at least a couple of the following things.

1. Will make you think about the things you have done and have not yet done.

2. It makes you wish you were better to your body.

3. If you have heart and the mindset of a true athlete, it will challenge you to prove the experts wrong and come back better.

4. If you have heart, you will do whatever it takes; start over. Rest, not train for months, do stupid rehab movements etc.

5. You learn to not take health and your body for granted and how it truly is a limited resource.

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One of the biggest and most important principles of 10/20/Life is being an athlete and being good to your body 24/7 when in competition or the gym or field, and when you are not. What does this mean? It means carrying yourself like an athlete no matter what you are doing, whether it’s hanging out at a summertime cookout, taking the trash out to the street or even laying on the couch. You have to be aware of what you’re putting your body through at all times and use the whole risk vs reward way of thinking. ‘Do I want to risk doing this when I could injure myself? Should I be doing this? Is this going to help my lifting, rehab, physique etc?’

So, can strength training be fun? YES, no doubt. If it isn’t ever fun then we wouldn’t do it. On the flip side, when you have specific goals and numbers to hit and you have tunnel vision for these numbers, fun can take a back seat while specifically working towards these numbers. What you need to figure out is if the real FUN of reaching those goals is worth some real work, some not so fun training sessions and some serious sacrifice. Most would agree that yes, it is.

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Brian Carroll

Brian is a world-class powerlifter with over two decades of elite and pro-level powerlifting under his belt. Coming back from a devastating back injury in 2012 that broke multiple bones and that most experts said he would never recover from, he has returned to the pinnacle of world-class lifting (while 100% pain and symptom-free) and is now dedicated to helping others avoid the same mistakes that he made in the past through private and group coaching in Jacksonville, FL. Brian’s impressive recovery has given him the opportunity to teach and deliver talks to physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, professional strength & conditioning coaches and experts from all facets of sport, on how to avoid injury, while building anti-fragile strength and resilience in athletes.
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