Written by Dave Thomas
Owner, Performance360
Published: 2013

The workout is over, it’s now time to cool down, put away your equipment, clean up the mess and track a particular lift, or maybe once in a while, a time on a challenge workout.  So, you walk up to the giant white wall and write down 175# x 3 and thoughts of some kind are going through your head. Perhaps you were apprehensive to do so, maybe proud, nervous, insecure, or maybe you’re among the group that doesn’t write anything.

Bet your ass, you’re definitely making a conscious decision and feeling something when you put yourself out there.

As a culture and industry, we have slowly, and in our opinion for the better, morphed into wanting fast results, constant results and never ending results.  We are in the era where exercise is considered a sport, watching weightlifting YouTube videos is not just for competitive powerlifters and saying snatch in every day vernacular doesn’t get you slapped.

These are all good things, however as a collective industry we do a pretty poor job of relaying to folks that you don’t always have to PR, break a record or fall in line with others’ goals.

In fact, 95% of the time you are not. So, it’s very important you have focus on the fact that most of the time you are in there to get better and just inch along towards either your ultimate goal or maintaining a good body and high level of fitness.

When forming Performance360,  we wanted individuals to develop their goal-driven results for the individual, not to dictate what goals should be. It’s why there is always the option of fat loss vs. strength, jumping for athleticism or for fat loss, etc. not necessarily always being the best in the class.

What matters is not the deadlift but the confidence and strength that accompanies it.  It’s why Shawn Anderson pulling 565# feels the same way as a girl in month three pulling 100#. Why Raechel Campbell jumping 46″ feels the same as a new overweight male moving to the 24″ for the first time.

The whole idea behind a group environment is motivation.  The idea is to challenge yourself, enforce pride in what you are doing, and motivate you to beyond what you think you’re physically capable.   To recognize achievement but not make it the only focus.  That’s it.  Always with the end game on your own goal, and if that’s heavy weight, just feeling better, losing ten pounds, jumping higher, all around improvement, looking hot as crap at the bars or whatever else drives you. The more pride, motivation and the more you’re engaged in what you’re doing, the better you will do and the more tangible results you will achieve for yourself.  Just like everything else in real life, if you are engaged and committed, you will succeed.

If you’re trying to go faster to keep pace with the girl next you, then the side effect will be greater fat burn. If you’re trying to deadlift more to catch those who have been training longer, then you’re getting stronger than you otherwise would by lifting without them.

How many of you would have ever taken flight on the higher plyo if you didn’t see one of your peers do it before you?

It wasn’t and probably still isn’t necessarily a goal of yours per say, but it was peer elevation that brought you to accomplish a higher achievement.

There are little Leo-like inceptions and successes going on every day that you might not notice, little occurrences where your brain catches up to your body and allows it to do what it’s always wanted.  Run faster, jump higher, lift heavier, get leaner, feel better, look awesome.

We’re not talking ra-ra cheerleader type stuff, just the natural human tendency to push yourself when you’re around others. Without the group environment, this level of motivation would not exist and we’d all most likely still be running in place both literally and figuratively.

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Why are we saying all of this?  Because sometimes, there can be a nasty  flip side and a tipping point to where the group environment, highlights on YouTube or social media can reach a tipping point and reverse from positive motivation to negative envy and obsession.

Where finishing 2nd on a Challenge Day results in a head hung low because one person out of nearly 200 beat you.

Or, dissatisfaction with deadlifting 500 pounds because someone in a country that ends in a ‘Stan’, weighs 360, spends three times as much time in the gym than you and is probably on steroids can do twice that.

Or, finishing up in the back end of the group during your first week and assuming you’re in a gym with a bunch of fitness freaks you’ll never catch up to.

Or, becoming upset and frustrated because your jerk is stuck at 205, even though it’s probably twice where you started.

Any of these sound familiar?

As a staff, we’ve seen all of these. We’ve stood back and casually observed it all, the successes and the failures. You guys know that our coaching style is not always yell and scream and aggressively hands on, but more of a reserved approach where we point out the big flaws, are direct when we need to be but not micro manage the movement. Rest assured, we know when we observe disappointment and dissatisfaction, there are very few things we miss inside a given class and nothing makes us better realize we have failed than when someone’s head is down when they should be celebrating.

The group atmosphere is there to motivate, inspire and make you aware that you are more capable than you think you are. It is there to make you focus on what you did accomplish, not what you didn’t.

The very specific reason we remain independent is because we do not buy into the thought that fitness is competition. It’s about self improvement, sticking to your developmental path and not allowing the daily finish line to tell you if you’ve succeeded or made progress.

Think about your group of friends and what they do on a regular basis. Could any of them show up and do what you do day in and day out? Maybe one? Two? Spread that out across the entire population and realize that you are participating in a very high level of fitness. A lot of people try us out and many don’t last. They quit. They talk a big damn game and then throw in the towel only to  move back to a process where any failures don’t stare them in the face with excuses like “my schedule was too tough” or “24 is cheaper”, or some other horse shit excuse.

We might time for what we want to make time for, and if you make time to improve your health and abilities, you, sir or madam, are winning.  Regardless of accomplishment.

It’s hard to have perspective on what you have accomplished in the past.  In an era of what have you done for me lately, we always want more, more, more, now, now, now so it’s easy to get lost in the present.  Combine that with the fact there is no species harder on itself than humans and it leads us to have expectations beyond basic survival.  Not only do we want to survive, we want to thrive and be dominant in all that we do.

The point we’re trying to make is not to lose sight of your own accomplishments within a sample of other high-end folks.  It’s like when all of us chumps sit around and watch football on Sundays and criticize our team’s least favorite player. Guess what?  That player who might be getting burned by Calvin Johnson is still in the NFL.

As an individual, there are dozens of reasons you are built to perform the way you are. For starters, your gender. Men and women are hard-wired for different types of naturally occurring muscle fiber. For women, endurance comes most naturally while men it’s strength. Additionally, the length of your appendages. The size of your foot arch. The humerus to forearm size ratio. The diameter of your wrists. How your feet naturally fall when you walk. What you do for a job and whether or not you sit all day. How much sleep you get. Your shoulder to shoulder measurement. Bow legged, pigeon toed or duck footed. If your grandfather played sports.

Man by Leonardo da Vinci

The reason this is considered a masterpiece is because perfection in the human body is nearly impossible to find.

We could fill 1,000 words with different physiological and genetic conditions that are out of your control.

Screw it. Let’s keep going.

If you have longer arms you are naturally going to be good at deadlifts because the bar has to travel a shorter distance to lock out,  yet you’ll struggle with presses and overhead movements for the opposite reason. Conversely, if you have short arms then the former movements will be a challenge while you will most likely excel at the latter. How about height? Smaller, lighter people will absolutely destroy Challenge Day circuits with body weight movements because they can get up and down faster, as well as propel themselves through the air at an easier weight because they must apply less force to move a lighter mass. The flip side? Bigger, heavier folks will have a greater ability to move objects because they can apply more force, yet jumping, burpees, running all take a much larger toll on them.

Did you know if your humerus to forearm ratio is close you have a greater likelihood to jerk a heavier weight because of the speed and angle the bar leaves your torso?  Being set up to be an exceptional Olympic lifter has a ton to do with having a long torso and short appendages.

What is the point of all this and why are we telling you all of this?

The point is not to let your genetics dictate your outcome or reside yourself to predetermined outcomes. The point is that anatomically and genetically speaking, everyone has their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Think of what you do in the gym on a weekly basis. You probably have an exercise in which you tend to excel.  In fact, most of you are really good at something but your brain chooses to ignore it because of another area you might be lacking.  And those of you who might not be really good at something, you just haven’t noticed or had the time to let it shine through.

There are girls who can pick up two hundred and fifty pounds, but can’t do a pull-up.

There are girls who can perform five perfect strict pull-ups who can’t lift half of that.

Yet both become internally frustrated and only focus on what they each cannot do.

Everyone feels this way about something. Give me a person in our gym who you think kills it and I will tell you something they suck at.  I’ve observed all.  The point is not to be negative, the point is to shine light that we all have weakness and that it’s human.  In gathering research for this article, I had a buddy of mine email me saying he gets bummed out every time he overhead squats because there are people outperforming him left and right who are lighter and possess half his strength on other movements. Never mind the host of genetic factors out of his control, such as the fact he’s tall so the weight is further off the ground and away from his area of base.

His back squat is 465#.

Yet, the emotion is not channeled into happiness over a 465# squat, tops at his gym, but envy over another movement that plagues him.

Four sixty five!

Such is the human condition.

We are not all amazing at everything. You have strengths and weaknesses, just like within your own personality and professional career.  You embrace your weaknesses and attack them. The gym and genetics are the exact same as is how far you are long the developmental curve.

For example, when you start a serious program your gains will typically increase anywhere from 10-20% your first few months, busting PRs left and right, dropping roundhouses on everything you do, every time you do it and leave the gym feeling…

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That percentage goes down as you get further along the developmental curve, ultimately whittling down to two to three PRs per year.

Does that mean you are weak or doing something wrong? Absolutely not. It means you have been a complete success towards reaching your genetic potential.  It makes the victories sweeter and the training more meaningful.

But, rather than focus on how we have earned a status of 95th percentile of the American population, we focus why we’re not in the 99th percentile with the superfreaks and negatively obsess over it.

So what about those superfreaks? Those who dominate everything. Those who are the strongest, fastest, have the most endurance and can jump the highest?  Those you see on TV with the freakish bodies and motors that don’t quit. Those that ruin it for the rest of us by showing no weak links or ability to fail.

There is a saying that goes, “You either win the genetic lottery or you don’t.”

They are the 1% of the 1%, the athletes who destroy junk food yet are ripped and those who NEVER tire. They don’t have a magic formula, they have an amazing work ethic and a gifted capacity for growth and development.

Show me someone who is perfect and I’ll guarantee you they will go on ad nauseum about the things they cannot do, it’s just what they CAN do is thrust into a public spotlight whether it be the board at P360, YouTube, Facebook or TV.

This is Darwin’s hand at play, folks. Plain and simple genetics paired with hard work, and using folks like this to merit your own success is a complete injustice to your own hard work and achievements. It’s a cold, hard reality of life that there are those with better gifts than you and anyone who says otherwise is either a liar or just plain uninformed about training and gene potential. We all develop at different rates and those with accelerated genetics develop at an accelerated rate. If you spend all of your time comparing yourself to the 1% of 1%, you will be permanently motivated yet perpetually disappointed.

It’s a fine line to walk.

Let it motivate but not disparage.

As an individual, regardless of body type you have a ton of potential for physical prowess. Hard work beats lazy genetics any day of the week. Give us a handful of hard workers over an army of the gifted any day of the week. You don’t need gifted genetics to get strong, fast, lean or athletic. You are a breathing, lifting, jumping example of this. We have seen bad athletes become great athletes right in front of our eyes.

As we bring this post to end, quickly take five minutes and write down what you have accomplished since you started your training.  Start with what actually matters; how you feel on a daily basis, if your job has improved and your level of confidence. Then, get to the stuff that doesn’t really mean jack; what you squat, you deadlift, your box jump improvement or any other tangible measure of strength or athleticism within the gym.

Seriously, go do it.  We’ll wait.

We’re willing to bet you check off at least eight to ten improvements, both tangible and intangible.

At the end of the day we are a community of individuals each with unique goals specific to what drives and intrinsically motivates us individually. Wanting to be the best is as American as Burger King, awesome and encouraged on a daily basis, but never let others define your success or dictate your own goals and the satisfaction that accompanies them.  Let the accomplishments of your peers and strangers humble, motivate  and keep your motor running but never let them distract you from your own gains.

After all, where would we all be today if not for the pushing of others?

We’d probably still be running in place.

Performance360 specializes in Strength and Conditioning for all levels of fitness.  It is located in Mission Beach, San Diego.

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