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What High-Intensity Training Taught Me About Life
The very first thing that I need to address in this essay is what I mean when I say "high-intensity training."
I’m talking about the type of training where the workout consists of doing at least two, but often more, exercises performed back-to-back-to-back for multiple sets, or rounds. With no rest between. Or just enough rest so that you don’t collapse.
If you’ve been following my instagram page for a while or you’ve downloaded my free Daily Struggle programs, you are familiar with the type of training I’m doing. Also, if you are a member of the Sisyphus Society and you’ve been following one of the programs inside, then you have certainly already learned the lesson I am about to share.
Before I get to the actual lesson, let me just say that I am not necessarily suggesting that all of you should do this kind of training. I encourage you to engage in any physical activity that you find enjoyable, and that makes it easier for you to be consistent.
However, I am willing to argue that this kind of high-intensity training puts your mind to the test more than any other form of training. The only other type could be ultra-endurance events. But that’s not something that you can do on a daily basis. So, if you want to maximize the mental/psychological benefits of your physical training, I suggest you ramp up the intensity at least a couple of times a week.
Now, finally, the lesson.
It will come as no surprise that the lesson is about effort. But it’s not the typical "you need to push hard" or any other generic piece of advice. I believe I have something actually valuable to share.
The lesson is that you cannot, or at least shouldn't, wait until you are at your 100% before putting in the effort.
Let me explain.
Let’s say I’m doing a workout consisting of 20 squats, 20 push presses, and 20 pull-ups, repeated for 5 rounds as quickly as possible. A stated before, the idea with this type of training is to take rest only when absolutely necessary. And if you are serious about pushing yourself, "only when absolutely necessary" means you will rest only when, if you don’t take a short break to catch your breath, you will collapse.
Depending on your level of fitness, at some point in the workout, you start taking short breaks. And as you move through the workout, you start feeling the need to take longer breaks. Then comes a point where you feel like you simply cannot keep going. You are out of breath, and your heart feels like it’s about to burst out of your chest. You need to take a long break. We are talking about a type of break where you don’t look at the clock and you let yourself fully recover.
When you’ve felt this enough times, and I’ve been feeling it at least a couple of times a week for the last 4 years, you realize something.
If you took the rest that you felt like you needed at that moment, you wouldn’t even continue the workout after it.
You’ve entered too far into the zone of discomfort. The only way is to push through to the other side.
If you took the rest that you feel like you need, once you’re ready to continue, you would actually be starting over. That’s how much time you would need to be back at 100%.
What’s the solution? Divide your effort into as many reps as you need and take short rests between them. Do 5 squats, catch a couple of breaths, then do 5 more, then take a couple of more breaths. Keep repeating.
What does this have to do with real life? Am I encouraging people to fall into burnout?
No. I am not a proponent of the hustle culture. As someone who has experienced burnout firsthand, I am aware of the dangers of it.
I am also aware that, for most people reading this, there are things that they want to do in life but feel like they don’t have enough time or energy for them.
First, for this training metaphor to make any sense, you need to actually start doing that thing. Then, what I’m trying to say is that you cannot wait to be at 100%. You cannot wait to have what you think is an adequate amount of energy or time.
If I waited to be at my 100% regarding time and energy in order to write, I would’ve stopped writing almost 3 years ago, and I would still be waiting. And I would also be waiting to make every major life move that I actually ended up making because I kept this training metaphor in mind.
If you started, the most important thing is to keep the momentum going. If you wait too long to "recover" or, in this case, to be ready, you will come to the point where you are not continuing your effort but you are actually starting over.
Divide the total amount of effort that you want or need to put into accomplishing something. Divide it into as small pieces of effort as you need in order to be able to keep moving.
Just make sure to keep moving.
Thank you for reading.
P.S. For anyone who is interested in challenging themselves both physically and mentally, the Sisyphus Society will open for new members in around 24 hours.
I truly believe that the content and resources provided inside cover all aspects needed for a healthy and sustainable approach to personal development. And, most importantly, you won’t be going through it alone.