Realistic Expectations, Delayed Gratification

First the bad news; you can’t get the benefits of exercise from a spa experience. The good news is that you can reach your personal best and it doesn’t require a struggle. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into a spa lie down on a couch and take a nap or engage in a leisurely conversation and then leave after half an hour feeling relaxed and rejuvenated and confident that you are more fit and capable of any physical activity than you were when you entered. That’s obviously not realistic, yet such amenities are often given priority when choosing an exercise facility. The pampered sensation is quite appealing.

The truth is that no amount of exercise benefit can be simply granted to you or imposed on you. It isn’t a treatment that is applied like a manicure or a haircut. Exercise is done consciously; pushing the limits of our strength in order to stimulate growth; to expand the limit. This growth is a reaction to the threat to our equilibrium that exercise presents and that is inherently uncomfortable. This does not mean that everything that is uncomfortable will stimulate benefit. It’s a common trap to think that doing penance by punishing ourselves or subjecting ourselves to torture will gain us a reward.

The results that we gain are largely determined by three factors; 1) Genetics, 2) Our willingness to give effort and 3) Our method. Regardless of any other factor, our genetic potential is fixed. Don’t play the comparison game. It’s unfair. The best we can do is to maximize the attributes that we’ve been given and not be disgruntled that someone else may display greater ability while giving relatively little effort.

Our individual genetic potential is like a window. It represents a range of possible physical attributes. Within that window our effort and our method determine the extent of these attributes that are realized. Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda won the gold medal in the men’s marathon in London. Looking at him, it is easy to see that genetically he is well suited to that event. He is very slight of frame. His legs are strong enough to carry his weight for that number of strides at that high pace. His method is to train specifically for that distance and pace. His effort was enough to put him at the extreme limit of his genetic window. (This is not necessarily his optimal health.)

Behdad Salimikordasiabi of Iran won the gold medal in the men’s heaviest class of weight lifting. Again, it’s very easy to see that he is genetically suited to that event. His method was to train for the specific movements against a heavy load. His effort was enough to put him at the head of the class. (This is not necessarily his optimal health.)

Both of these men are examples of a genetic window that is fairly extreme, a method that pushes to one extreme within that window and an extreme effort. If Kiprotich had trained with his maximum effort using Salimikordasiabi’s methods, then Kiprotich would not have been in London to compete in any event. Likewise if Salimikordasiabi had trained his absolute best using Kiprotich’s methods, then he too could only hope to be a spectator. In fact it’s likely that if these two had cross trained this way then Kiprotich would still outperform Salimikordasiabi in the marathon and Salimikordasiabi would still outperform Kiprotich in weight lifting, but neither would be anywhere near exceptional by Olympic standards. That’s how big the genetic factor is, yet most of us do not have a window that is close to any extreme. And these two men are not opposite extremes, they are different extremes. Also understand that these men’s training methods are not exercise though the training methods did include some measure of exercise method. Training and exercise are two very different things.

With our genetic window already determined we can concentrate on our level of effort given to our selected method. Proper exercise means one thing: stimulate muscle growth by introducing a high demand in order to adapt with greater strength capability. The renaissance method offers the ideal exercise by being the most efficient way to deliver that demand. Our best effort then yields the best results allowed by our genetics.

An important thing to remember is that there is a big difference between long term results and immediate achievement. A grand display of strength today is not at all the goal of exercise. Rather the growth for a long time to come which will afford improved strength when needed is the point.

Consider math exercises in elementary school. What is the point? Is it to obtain the correct answer right now? We already know that answer. It’s in the appendix of the book. Is that particular answer what we’re after? Or is it an increasing ability to use various functions to become able to do greater things for a long time to come? Growth is the goal. The immediate performance is just one of the tools we use to guide our progress.

Understand the goal, carefully determine the method, apply full effort, and evaluate the results according to genetic potential.

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