You Must Love the Process

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I never expected to have the desire to deadlift 225 pounds for 20 reps, let alone actually achieve that goal. But today, I finally did it.

A quick aside for those who will say, “ThiS DoeSN’t couNt beCauSE the BaR didN’t COme to a dEaD sTop,” allow me to respond.

First, I don’t care.

Second, I’m not a competitive powerlifter, so I don’t have to pull each rep from a dead stop. This goal was for fun. It was for me.

I’ve shared in prior articles that I like the touch ‘n go style for higher rep sets because I don’t feel fatigue or soreness in my lower back the following days. This was always the case with dead stop reps. (Read the article You Should Ask Yourself “What Else Can I Do?for more information.)

For the past several months this is the goal I’ve been steadily working toward. And it made me realize why I’ve been able to achieve this goal, among other strength and health goals I’ve set over the years:

I love the process.

You see, that’s the huge misconception people have about achieving health, fitness, and performance goals. They want to lose weight, or perform a pull-up, or squat their bodyweight, or run a half marathon, or improve their cholesterol. Wanting the outcome isn’t the issue.

The issue is not loving the process that is demanded to make those goals a reality. (This is discussed in detail in The 100-Day Reclaim and Lift Like a Girl. Paid links.)

It wasn’t enough for me to say, “I’d love to deadlift 225 for 20 reps.” I had to define the process and focus on the weekly goals I had to hit to get to the desired goal. I created a training regimen, stuck to my plan, and adjusted when necessary. Perhaps one of the most important elements that led to my success: I showed up and did the necessary work even when I did not feel like doing it.

I didn’t always feel like deadlifting, or lifting weights of any sort. But because my goal was more important than the short-term gratification of skipping a workout, I showed up and put in the work. Even if the workouts weren’t stellar, it didn’t matter. I stuck to my plan, I kept feeding the all-important workout habit, and I showed up and did my best on any given day. (This isn’t to say I didn’t use lighter weights or reduce training volume when I knew I needed it. I certainly did because listening to your body’s feedback is critical for long-term success too.)

When my progress stalled, I had to analyze why that was. I didn’t get frustrated. I didn’t get discouraged by the setback. I took this as a necessary challenge to overcome, and I knew I’d come out better by facing it head on, and coming out stronger (physically, and mentally). Was the setback temporary and just a random glitch in performance, or did my programming need to be adjusted? 

One tweak I made to my programming: I went from deadlifting once every 10 days to doing a single all-out set every week. I am not suggesting everyone try this (in fact, I would recommend it for few trainees), but for now, it’s been working extremely well for me. The past month and half I’ve seen quicker progress with my single high-rep set.

You must find a way to love the process. Or enjoy it, at the very least.

And there are ways to make this happen. Begin by asking yourself some questions.

Do you really want the goal you seek? Do you really want defined abs and the lifestyle required to achieve that goal, or do you actually want to feel strong and confident in your clothes, and want to forge a more easily sustainable lifestyle to keep the results?

Are you even setting the right goals that will keep you devoted to the required process? Are you setting goals out of obligation? Do you really want to deadlift heavy, or would you prefer to focus on cardio-based activities, or dumbbell or bodyweight exercises? Do what is best for you, not what someone says is “best.” Yes, my idea of a good time is deadlifting heavy weight. It may not be yours, and that’s fine.

How can you make the process more enjoyable? Maybe you need to perform fewer exercises per workout, and give them your full effort and attention. Maybe you need to recruit a workout partner. Maybe you need to try some new exercises and activities until you find something you enjoy. On the nutrition side of things, instead of vaguely “trying to eat healthier,” focus on trying new foods or recipes that you’d enjoy. Learn new cooking techniques or try new restaurants that make achieving that goal easier and enjoyable.

How can you make the goal more meaningful? For the person who needs to lower their cholesterol, the goal of a smaller number on their future lab work may not be super motivating. Perhaps, instead, the focus could be on increasing energy levels, sleeping better, being able to engage more easily in meaningful activities, increasing strength, forging more healthful eating habits, etc. In other words, allow lower cholesterol to be a great side effect from going after more important goals. (This is exactly what I recommend in Screw Fat Loss for those individuals who have chased fat loss for as long as they can remember.)

Instead of obsessing over a goal, find a way to embrace the process required to get there.

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