Following my last post, I received a variety of comments and questions. Much of the feedback touched on beginner gains and realistic expectations. For instance, several readers attempted to counter my entry by stating that they had in fact made rapid gains as a beginner.
I will start by saying it is great to read about early improvements, but I’ll add that I am not suggesting otherwise. On the contrary, a beginner is able to make faster gains than he will at any other point in his life. When you enter the weight room for the first time, you could almost look at a barbell and gain strength. Anyone who transitions from a life of inactivity to one of deliberate and repeated physical exertion is naturally going to improve.
I preach a message of patience and consistency not to suggest that you won’t make early gains, but instead for encouragement once your rate of improvement declines. No one continues to improve at the same rate indefinitely. If we did, we would all continue to set new world records. The reality is that it is much easier to gain strength when you are weak. Once you have developed a moderate level of strength, it becomes much more difficult to continually improve. An already strong athlete who is training to become stronger must be patient.
Anyone who has trained for any amount of time has hit a sticking point that was difficult to surpass. In the words of the late, great Mel Siff,
“The inevitable reaching of a ‘sticking point’ in training is one of the single most frustrating experiences in the life of any athlete. It may lead to loss of form, loss of interest, decrease in motivation, the unnecessary or premature reliance on anabolic substances, an endless search for plausible ergogenic aids, injury or even the end of one’s sporting career.”
Rather than pretending that such barriers do not exist, I would rather be brutally honest from the onset. There is no viable reason to deceive a knowledge seeking adult who wishes to better himself physically. Since when did deception become a motivational tool?
Perhaps I am in the minority, but I do not consider it discouraging to uncover the truth. Isn’t that what we are after? Beginners should never be fooled to believe that dramatic results are a few weeks away. Yes, they will make early gains, but let’s be realistic when discussing the extent of those gains.
Isn’t it more discouraging to start with unrealistic expectations and then find out otherwise as the weeks and months pass? If the fitness industry ever wishes to legitimize itself, the first step is to eliminate the deceptive marketing campaigns. You will be hard pressed to find any other industry with such a misleading marketing style. A used car salesmen won’t tell you that his vehicles can fly, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a nutritional supplement that promises human levitation.
In summary, I encourage you to defy the odds. Don’t train to be average. Strive to reach levels that go beyond what is realistic, but don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than expected. Significant results take time. There are no shortcuts. Training shouldn’t be viewed as a sprint. It is a continuous journey with many potholes along the way. There is no reason to panic and assume something is wrong just because you’ve hit an obstacle or temporarily stalled. The best of the best have bad days and hit sticking points that can be physically and mentally taxing. It’s all part of the process. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
Rather than pretending that there isn’t a challenge ahead, let’s prepare for it each and every day. When the time comes that you hit an obstacle, you will be better prepared if you knew it was coming. And when that sticking point rears its ugly head, realize that it will not stand up to the test of time. That is when patience and consistency truly come into play. If you stay on track and continue to grind, the obstacle will eventually fall. You just can’t lose focus and start hopping from one program to the next. Be patient. Be diligent. Learn to embrace the grind. Welcome it. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
That is how real results are earned.