Does the exercise matter, or the mindset?

I remember growing up and seeing all these training books about how to train like the SAS, or the Marines, or the Seals. All the fitness magazines with new ideas on how to get strong within 4 weeks…

Helpfully, in the next edition, 4 weeks later, there would be another article telling you how else to train to get fit in another 4 weeks. These days we have magazines telling you the shortcuts to success, how to train like Kilian, the killer workout that will make you look like Henry Cavill or Jason Momoa, how to train harder for your next sportive etc.

This got me thinking about the path vs the advertised path and it occurred to me that for the vast majority of the time, it isn’t what you do. It’s the mindset.

A lot of getting strong, fit etc. is down to getting out there and doing something, and doing it regularly. At the beginning, manipulating specific exercises, number of set and reps is not anywhere near as important as just getting out there and doing the thing. (Of course later in specific development, it may well be).

Take, for example the differences between every Men’s Health/fitness magazine ever produced. Over a year there are probably the same exercises re-cycled a number of times. There is the “arms exploder” headline, which will include biceps curls, preacher curls, bench press etc. There will be the “legs edition” which, no surprise will include Squats, Deadlifts or some kind of variation on the theme. In running magazines they will show you how to get faster every month by mentioning a specific set of hill reps or speed reps that someone did at some point in their training for a race. A magazine will tell you which shoulder exercises a certain person did to look like Thor… and so it goes on.

For most of us, it really isn’t about the specific exercise. It isn’t about whether you want to work out like a Navy Seal or like Thor. It’s about connecting the thing on the page and ACTUALLY doing the thing.

We all like to pretend that we can do that, but do we have the discipline to get out and do the thing, day in day out, paying attention to what we eat, paying attention to rest and recovery for week after week, month after month?

Probably not.

It is way easier to get buried in which exercise is the magic one. Which thing provides the short cut to the desired body shape/ speed/ ability. If the books and articles we read were truthful, they would say “go and move, move every day for a month, pick up things that are heavier than you normally pick up and challenge yourself every day. Once you have done that and have the discipline and focus, then you should perhaps try this….”

Until we are honest with ourselves that magic bullets do not exist, we will not realise that doing things the “hard way” is in fact the short cut.

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