George is a pretty strong guy. He is 5’10”, 170lb soaking wet, and a stud by all counts. Every day, George walks into the gym, does 100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups and 100 squats. He wipes the sweat off his brow, chugs a protein shake, and leaves. This goes on day after day, week after week, month after month. George is strong, but he doesn’t seem to be getting any stronger. “The workouts are the same as they have always been. Why have I stopped growing?!” George yells out in frustration. Well, George answered his own question.
Remember in physics class when your teacher would try and get you to memorize the definition of Newton’s third law? Well it’s about to come in handy! Newton’s third law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Let’s see how that applies to George: George’s body has become incredibly capable of handling the exact amount of work that George throws at it; 100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups and 100 squats. So long as George continues to do that same workout, his body will stay the same. Why? Because it doesn’t NEED to grow. His body is perfectly capable of the tasks that George gives it, so it will remain the same. So long as the level of demand remains at equilibrium with what his body can handle, there is no need for change. What then must George do in order to progress? The answer is simple: George needs to trigger growth!
Triggering growth is straightforward in theory, but can get incredibly complicated at a cellular level. For the sake of this article, let’s stick to theory. In order to force your body to grow, you need to put it up against stimulus it cannot handle. Think back to your first CrossFit workout. For me, it was Jackie. 1000m row, 50 thrusters at 45lbs, and 30 pull-ups. Up until this workout, I had never really pushed myself to my limits. I had always given it my all until I hit about 80% of my cap, and then paced for the rest. Well, after the 1000m row, it took every fiber of my physical being to keep thrusting that bar upwards and every shred of determination I had left to keep me from putting it down. A few more minutes after that and I was on the ground, vision fading, struggling to find a position on the floor which didn’t hurt. It was AWFUL, and awesome. You know what I did that day? I grew! I grew a lot. Every day after that I was able to push myself to that point, if not a little past it. Thrusters at 45lbs became easy. Then thrusters at 65, 75, 95, 115! Every time I leveled out, I increased the stimulus and forced my body to grow. There were days where I listened to my body and rested. There were days where I was not able to do more than the previous day. But if you pick a day in March of last year and compare it to a day in August, you bet your @$$ I was either doing more work in August, or amping up the intensity.
Being complacent is unbelievably easy these days. We live in a society where struggles have been almost completely removed. We don’t have to hunt or forage for our food, defend ourselves or our families from predators, or event take ourselves where we need to go. We have supermarkets, fancy houses and cars, respectively. All of the challenge, the stimulus, if you will, that used to trigger growth in our bodies has faded. All of the things that would have made us stronger, faster, healthier have now been replaced with things that make us lazier, slower, complacent. It is ludicrously easy to fall victim to our way of life. To remove all struggle and never grow.
Well, I urge you not to!
I beg you to take the few hours a week you spend at the gym and challenge yourself.
Do more than you think you can.
Put yourself up against something you can’t fully handle.
It doesn’t have to be more weight, or more reps.
Do it faster!
Do it with more intensity in your breath.
Do it because it will make you better.
Do it because it will trigger growth, both physically and mentally.
A little struggle is a good thing
Remember: You’re only as strong as what you put yourself up against.