At the end of the week, I color in a block on my Memento Mori grid. It is 52 blocks wide, and 80 blocks tall. I started doing it on May 1st, 2011 – the day I started to take this website, my online personality, and my life more seriously. I’m 11 blocks down, and every Saturday morning has become a reflection of the week’s accomplishments.
This idea is far from my own. I got it from Nate Green’s Hero Handbook (page 21), which is free to download. It’s a great read, and I hope you check it out.
Phil, my Metal Monday producer, doesn’t like the idea of keeping a Memento Mori. To him, it’s counting down the weeks until he dies. But I love it because I use it differently. It allows me to put more meaning into the life I have left.
HOW TO USE THE MEMENTO MORI
I have an idea of what I want to do and where I want to be. I guess you can call them goals, even though I just wrote about the downfall of goals.
Every Saturday morning I ask myself if I gave enough effort through out week. If I did, I’ll smile, color the block, and approach next week with no changes. If I didn’t, I’ll smile, color the block, and see what I need to change so that I don’t have to fake another smile next Saturday.
NOW IT’S ABOUT EFFORT
Previously, I harped on showing up. Once you show up consistently, the next step is giving meaningful effort. This applies in all aspects of life, not just training, so don’t limit your thinking on this.
You can’t give effort unless you show up, which makes showing up important. But, you won’t get anywhere unless you give effort when you show up. Michael Jordan didn’t get to the court and hope for the best. It’s rumored that he shot 100 free throws per day.
Effort is tricky. You don’t realize it’s importance until you hit a rough patch. For instance, if Michael Jordan missed a game winning free throw, he’d be sour. Especially if he didn’t shoot his 100 free throws one day that week.
Fake smiling on Saturday morning — knowing I lacked effort – is hard to swallow. It’s a purgatory of sorts. It’s not a place that you want to be because it says, “I have enough motivation to start, but not enough to finish.”
As mentioned, giving effort applies to many facets of your life. But this is a fitness blog, so it’s time to transition back. Here are five ways to increase your effort in what you do.
1. Ditch Total Autoregulation
Autoregulation is tailoring a workout on a day to day basis based upon the normal fluctuations in your body’s capacities. It sounds great, but most people are apt to underestimate their capacities. This gets you in the wrong mindset. You’ll always ask yourself, “what can’t I do?” instead of “what can I do?”
But I like autoregulation, you just have to change the way you approach it. Have a certain weight range that you want to hit and train at a personal maximal intensity in that zone.
A great example of this is Jim Wendlers 5/3/1. Your warm up sets are weights that you can hit, even on a bad day, that escalate up to a final percentage that is completed with as many reps as possible. Reverse Pyramid Training is another autoregulation based program. Ideally, you want to lift according to how your body is responding to the weight, not according to how a piece of paper says you should respond.
2. Use Timed Work
Nothing jacks up intensity like timed work. It’s a great way to break through mental barriers and get away from numeral constructs. Having three sets of ten reps slated is going to affect you mentally. You’ll be tired on the tenth repetition because you’re supposed to be, not because you truly are. Instead, put one minute on the clock and get as many reps as possible. You have to go hard and fast. To ensure that you do, set unrealistic goals. Try for one repetition per second. Yeah, it’s kind of crazy but that’s the point. The higher you set your standards, the more you’ll try.
3. Train More Frequently
People are afraid of training the same lift on a daily basis, but I think it’s something everyone should experiment with. It’s a highly autoregulated process but because you’re training almost every day, showing up trumps effort. Dan John is the man when it comes to this philosophy, so check out his 40 Day Program and Even Easier Strength.
4. Be More than You Are
Pick a person or moment that motivates you and surround yourself with it. At the very least, make it readily available. For example, a few weeks ago I was very lethargic. I had just finished two softball games and nine holes of golf (no cart) in 90 degree heat. I didn’t want to move. But I was watching Sports Center when a special of the 1999 Woman’s World Cup came on. I was so jacked after watching it, I had to lift.
For me, it helps to think of the best of whatever it is you’re trying to do — an idol of sorts. Do you think they slack off? The following Michael Jordan commercial is one of my favorites. Use it wisely.
Training partners are underrated. Usually, getting a training partner that you look up to is a good idea because you always want to impress them. I’ve found, however, it’s better to get a training partner that looks up to you. Because then you can’t flake out. You have to be the person they think you are. You can’t quit.
My girlfriend runs hills with me a few days a week. She doesn’t really like it, but she does them after I berate her for doing her silly Jillian Michaels DVD’s. I’m taller and faster, so I work less than she does when we run. She doesn’t realize this, so I can yell at her for being out of shape and slow (shhhh, my little secret). Don’t get me wrong. I get tired too. But I can’t show it. I can’t let her see my pain. I can only yell at her for putting her hands on her knees in fatigue if I’m standing tall. I can only yell at her for not trying hard enough if I’m giving it everything I have.
Once you learn how to show up regularly, you have to learn how to put in the effort to succeed. Using these five strategies will help you on the days you struggle, but try to spark yourself from the inside. Adopt an attitude of attack. Own every repetition. Have confidence in yourself. Be a Mendelbaum.
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