Blinding fear, wall building, and deep seated beliefs that block our ability to progress, are all challenges I have faced myself and barriers I see every day in the gym. These types of fears not only keep us from reaching our goals but also push us deeper into habits and beliefs that further foster the fear and create training plateaus. The overcoming of these impediments is what separates your average gym-goer and the professional athlete. Whether I’m watching a professional on TV (Strongman, Kickboxing or Football etc.) or actually in their corner coaching them through a fight or lift, I tend to notice certain behaviors that separate them from your average athlete. Here are some of those behaviors:
Professionals do not have the time nor desire to waste energy on mistakes made. They can acknowledge mistakes, and then take action to do better moving forward. When punches start to fly or heavy weights are being lifted there is no time to think about past mistakes. If you do, the chances of you getting hit or missing your lift just escalated astronomically! A professional acknowledges his or her mistake(s), doesn’t freak out, remembers what they’ve been taught, and then…executes.
I see this more in fighting, yet it certainly happens in lifting as well. A fighter has spent the last three months preparing specifically for an opponent who has a particular style of fighting. Suddenly, in the first round of the fight, the opponent starts doing something completely different than what we have been preparing for! A professional notices the change and properly responds the way any well trained first responder or elite level Special Forces Operator would react. That is to remain calm, remember your training, and move forward because freezing is not an option. Failure to act in the ring (like in life) is a recipe for disaster. Sometimes you must play the hand you have been dealt, and sometimes you have to play out a bad hand.
Attack your weaknesses! This certainly applies to both the fighting and the lifting world. For instance, when doing a bench press most people will think it is all chest, triceps or that you are only working from the hips up, however, that is a false premise (think of your classic gym bro). You must have leg drive, and that leg drive needs to be done in the correct sequence! To break training plateaus you must address the weak spots in your training. You can throw a punch as hard as Mike Tyson but you must have the proper footwork to put you in the right position to land it! Professionals are great at finding, acknowledging and then working to correct these weak spots to become better athletes. To humble yourself in training is no easy task, it takes a real professional to become a master of his or her craft.
I used sport specific analogies to describe the differences between the
average athlete and the professional, however, these analogies could
certainly be extrapolated for broader more universal truths.
The gym is not the only place where we encounter plateaus and strife, perhaps the greater lesson is to do your best to deal with all of life’s problems with more professionalism.
To paraphrase Friedrich Nietzsche, “A man is measured by how much truth he can tolerate.” My belief is that the greatest professionals (in sport and life) are adept at uncovering, confronting, and prevailing over their most shrouded truths.