Friday, December 29, 2006


Tom Furman had a great blog entry the other day entititled "Dont be a sissy"
The post deals with the topic of toughness and the difference between mature,real world toughness that reveals itself when the chips are down and the narcissistic, almost manufactured toughness of the obsessive trainee and the specialist athlete.

And do I know that world. I have spent most of my life trying to control, manipulate and otherwise bend- to -my- will my body and my mind and my environment to adhere to the training and competition goals I had set forth. And for many, many, many years nothing else came ahead of my training,my competitions my recovery and creating the ideal environment to make gains from. I only had to look around at the best in the field at whatever I was trying to do to see exactly what I needed to bring to the table to have a chance of success.

But I have always thought of this as my career and I was doing what was necessary to get ahead. I always wanted to be the best I could be and learn from the best there were.At the very least I could read them and or talk to them.I always thought that inorder to be a pro one needed to live like a pro first, and then you could be one. I still feel that way.

I have always known this as being Hardcore. Hardcore lived and breathed and slept and ate and dreamt their goals. I remember dreaming about gymnastics every night from 9th grade through college. Every night.My heroes were always the most hardcore at whatever sport I was in and relished being like them. The Bushido code of the Samurai called for total committment and devotion to the goal,no matter the price and I tried my best to live up to it.

I didnt have the most talent of anyone but I knew I had more will and more willingness to sacrifice than most anyone I met. I loved the fact that one could not 'buy' physical success, it had to be earned. And by default if you had it you have earned it. The most democratic of situations and one I still relish today.

I lived like an ascetic monk and focused as much as possible on "perfecting" my life so that it supported training as much as possible.Money meant nothing to me and possesions were things that just got in the way.

Society rewards obsessive compulsive successes in all walks of life. IN big time sports to big time business. How many hours a week does a partner in a big time law firm or VC firm put in each week? As many as it takes,and how balanced is that? Not very but people rationalize it with " thats what you gotta do to make the big bucks". Which is true.Is it balanced? No.

If you do this for an amateur sport, as I did, people think you are nuts because there is no "payoff". Well, no monetary payoff perhaps but is that all that matters? I could never have learned the things I know about training and the body without that obsessive,one pointed laser beam behavior.

One can only recover from so much stress. To be a top athlete requires that as much of that stress come from training and not from other distractions like real jobs and demanding families.

So most top level athletes are on the brink of illness and injury all the time and live in a very narcissitic world. The next step off ANY peak is down. To be a top athlete, and these days there are NUMEROUS monetary rewards, means making many sacrifices.

But there are only so many chances one has and it soon becomes obvious what once was a passion is now just a hobby.

Of course this all changed, as it must, with a wife and a son. From focusing on just yourself to realizing your son and wife, and not you, is the most important thing in the world.And that decisions about what you do have to be put through that filter first. Not your competition or your training goals.

And thats where becoming real tough instead of just gym tough comes in.Really learning what "man up" really means each monday morning. realizing that the commericial that says "challenges dont build character, they reveal it " is correct and that how big your arms are or what your best squat is doenst mean much in the real world.Doing what needs to be done regardless of whether you want to do it or not does.

One of the joys of my life is being able to train myself first thing of the morning. I always have my best energy early and loved being able to totally focus on the training goals of the day.But my clients like that too and they come first. SO I have to train after expending maximal energy on being the best trainer I can for the first part of the day. THEN its my turn, when I'm stiff, cold and tired. Boo freakin hoo. Man up, get in the gym and get what I can done as best I can.

Now, as I approach mid century I realize THAT is my new Hardcore.

I am now training for Toms version of toughness and it's perfectly appropriate for this stage of my life. Being able to do real world tasks strongly and with good energy is way more important than any specific number goal of my training. My training now is to make me tougher, more resilient,more mobile, more enduring and more balanced ;not just as big or as strong or as skilled as I could be.That was for another time.

And yes it was FUN.I still beleive that to accomplish great things in life one has to be, as Jon Pall Siggmarson said in his video" I'm a little crazy; yes I have to be." There is a price for everything, including a balanced life. What the value of anything can only be answered individually. I have many scars but wouldnt trade any of them for the experiences that produced them, thats for sure.


Chris said...

Great post.

Thanks for your writings and inspiration here Rif.

Mark Reifkind said...

thanks man, its appreciated.

AL said...

Wow. Really good stuff Rif. You walk the talk.


Mark Reifkind said...

thanks al, I try to.everyday.

Tom Furman said...

Now as we both hit 50, let us go to the T-Nation forums and read about the 140lb guys and their supplement stacks!

Good stuff.

Mark Reifkind said...

thanks tom, yours was one of your best posts ever. great stuff and very inspiring and thought provoking.