Strength training means a lot to me because it is a great teacher. There are many lessons that I did not learn, or completely missed the point on. Either they were too abstract for me, or I was not ready for it, or I did not have enough wisdom and/or context to understand them. Viewing them through the lens of strength training clarifies much larger lessons.

Photo by Ostap Senyuk / Unsplash
(strength) training is a sandbox for life

It is a safe place to learn, to experiment, and to apply some concepts or learnings. It is a contained and constrained lens, which is exactly why it works so well.

focus on the next set. focus on the next rep.

Enough of the abstract. Let me pick an example. When I start a training plan, I look at where I am today and where I will be in 4 weeks and then the end of the year, and blah blah blah. Calm down.

Let's focus on this training session. Stop worrying about outcomes.

Okay. Breathe. Today, I am going to do 10 sets of 10 reps on the kettlebell swing *.

Do I have time to do 10 sets of 10?
How soon can I finish it?
When will I go to the next weight?
Ssssh. Let's start the first set. Okay.
First rep. Hmm, can do better.
Second rep. Could've planked harder.
Third rep. Was thinking about the second rep. Not sure what I did there.
Fourth rep. Stop thinking about the 2nd rep.

Nonsense. This just leads to a very sub-par set, a poor training day, poor neural learning, poor strength+endurance gains. While I might have done 10 sets of 10 reps, it leaves a lot lacking. The following scene explains the difference.


Focus on the next rep. Do it as well as I can. Try to apply all the skills that I have learned. Only the next rep matters.

After that, the next rep. Then, the next rep.

Until I park the bell.

Photo by Michal Vrba / Unsplash

With this focus and clarity, I am generally able to

  • stay positive. Previously, I would get annoyed at an average rep.
  • be aware and in the moment. Previously, I would space out.
  • build on each rep subconsciously. And constantly improve but without crippling myself.

I can do this

I wish this just automatically happened in life, now that I have done it while strength training. Even in training, it requires conscious thought. It requires dedication and a bunch of other things. But that's what makes it fun and enjoyable.

And in that context and setting, I know how to do this. Equally importantly, I know I can do this.

I try to deconstruct that, and try to apply it in bits of my day. Like writing this post, and writing this blog.

It is a lot easier today than it was a year ago. Simply because I keep working on it, and it slowly becomes a habit.

Of course, there are days when I just wanna zone out and workout. That's okay too!

I have many similar lessons that my sandbox teaches me. For Kasparov, it is chess. For you, it is something else. You already know what that is. Deconstruct it. Build on it. Your turn!

*  1 rep (repetition) refers to doing the kettlebell swing once. A set is a number of chained reps.