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Next Level

So, there are those of us who work out regularly to look and feel better and improve our general health.  There are those of us who just like to lead active lives and enjoy nature and the occasional physical activity.  And then there are those of us who like to challenge themselves to push past our perceived physical limitations and see how far down the rabbit hole we can go.  While this last one is certainly an admirable pursuit, as are the other two, I must say it is the one I most commonly see go sideways.

Kris at IPF Raw Bench Worlds.
If you are contemplating taking things to the next level with your training, you must first sit down and realistically assess what you are about to take on.  Next level training is not just about pushing yourself in the gym, but also managing your personal life, your recovery, and your expectations.  It also means knowing when to go low and slow and when to go hard.  The most common mistake a lot of people make is that they think next level means going harder all the time.  But, if you can go "hard" all the time, without recovery, you aren't really going very hard at all.  This applies if you are running, lifting, or trying a new sport.  Give your brain a chance to catch up to your body and vice versa.

For those of you looking for that new challenge, the first step is deciding what to do and to do that, try answering these questions:
What are your current strengths and weaknesses?
What do you enjoy doing?
Is there anything you haven't done that you want to try?
Do you know anyone who can help you get started, give you advice, or be your coach?
Where are you now?  Do you have weight to lose, strength to gain, skill to develop, or a cardio base to build?
Do you have the patience to improve those qualities? 

No matter where you start, I've never had a successful high level athlete who wasn't willing to make sacrifices in their personal life to ensure their success on the field or the platform.  If you have to show up and train hard five days a week, you need to get to bed early, be more proactive about nutrition and recovery, and cut back on or eliminate the partying.  You probably need regular chiropractic or massage care (or whatever kind of recovery intervention you prefer) and you need to take your warm-ups and workouts seriously.

You also need to manage your expectations.  I always urge clients to set their sights on what would be their own personal best.  For a young, strong athlete going from weightlifting to throwing, I will have relatively high expectations of distances, heights, and overall performance (and yes, in the video below I expected Gwen to turn that caber even though I did not).  For a beginner runner, I will be looking at improvements in their speed and endurance over time, not necessarily how their time compares to others.  So, if you have a good coach, listen to your coach and don't discount his or her predictions regarding outcomes and how long it may take you to get there.

A post shared by Sara Jenkins Fleming (@havefungetstrong) on

Most of all, you need to be patient.  Training at a high level is not about constantly testing your limits, its about showing up every day and doing your Recommended Daily Allowance of work.  Its boring, its hard, and it is the key to your success.  

Next time you see someone achieving something truly great, think about how many months, years, or decades went into that achievement.  Think about the self-sacrifice, the planning, and training that went into that one moment.  What was their RDA for all of that effort?  As we watch the 2018 Winter Olympics think about where these athletes began and how many years it took for them to get where they are now.

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. -Colin Powell

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