Just Show Up

This is a guest post by Jen Ellefson.  Jen is one of the coolest people I know and this post just further proves my point.


I’m not a big fan of fitness New Year’s resolutions. While I encourage everyone to exercise and eat right, New Year’s resolutions presents a false quick-fix mentality that I believe is one of the systemic problems with our culture’s health problems. Let me clue you in…there are no quick fixes or easy solutions to fitness, losing weight, or changing your habits. It’s a lifestyle. It’s consistency. It’s hard…very hard. As the great strength coach, Dan John, so simply and eloquently asks, “What happens on day 31 of a 30 day diet?” Yep. Exactly. Do people continue on their New Year’s resolution journey? Or do they pat themselves on the back for completing 30 days and then slip back into old patterns? In my opinion, it’s likely the latter. Why? Because it’s hard.

For me, I do some sort of training every day. It’s part of my routine. It keeps me sane. It makes me feel alive. It pushes me outside of my comfort level. It challenges me. It keeps me honest. It humbles me. It makes me proud. But it’s not easy. Not in the least.

Do I kill it every day at the gym? Absolutely not. Every now and then, I go into the gym and absolutely own it. I destroy the sets. I feel unstoppable. I feel like I am a super hero. But that is every now and then. It is not the norm. In fact I can recount in the last year or so about three times where I felt like that. One day we had rope climbing and I felt like I could fly up and down the rope. It was effortless. Another day this past summer, I felt amazing during a horrid 23 minute challenge and came in at a pretty fast time. And the most recent time was the beginning of October at the Tactical Strength Challenge where I was totally trained and prepared and had that “in-the-zone” feeling that I haven’t had in years. I mention these three memories not to brag but to say that those days of “killing it” at the gym are so not the norm. Nor should they be.

Most days at the gym, I just show up. Again…I’ll refer to world-renowned strength coach, Dan John. He calls this “SUDS” (show up and do something). Yes, I work hard. That goes without saying. It’s in my DNA. But am I giving 100% effort? No. I don’t have that in me every day. No one does.

A lot of my training partners are 20-somethings. Sometimes they are teenagers and I could feasibly be their mother at this point. Ouch. Note to self…never ask a young woman how old she is unless you’re ready to accept the fact that you are indeed, literally, twice her age. That was a rude realization. I digress. What I notice is that I can more than hang. In fact, in many cases, I am at the front. One of my training partners told me that I’m the carrot…the one to chase. While I find that totally flattering and motivating, I’ve come to realize that there’s a reason why I can hang (and will continue to hang). It’s consistency. I show up and do something. I generally don’t have excuses. I make training a priority in my life (and my family’s life). It’s that important to me. To us.

I recently read an article that talked about “training maturity.” I really like that term. The premise of training maturity is that you act your age as far as rep scheme/sets/volume/etc. As you age, you have to modify and adapt according to your needs and your body. I am still working on that. The other main point of training maturity is that it is cumulative. So, for example, I’ve been legitimately training in some shape or form since about the 8th grade. I have a huge foundation of work capacity, muscle, and muscle memory. Here’s an example…over the summer, I was training with a high school basketball player. We were doing some challenge and I was killing it. She was struggling. Was I stronger than her? Maybe. Maybe not. Was I fitter than her? Maybe. Maybe not. The difference between us, I believe, was that I have 20 years of training under my belt as compared to her, with just a few years of training. My work capacity has developed (and still is developing). My skills are developed (and still developing). My foundation of strength is solid (and also still developing). That’s training maturity for you. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with age. It has to do with the consistent length of time (in years) that you’ve been training. So, if you start training for the first time at age 40, you’re going to be very immature as far as training goes. It makes total sense. When my training partner is nearing 40, and if she trains consistently between now and then, she’ll have great training maturity as well.

So, do I write all of this to make you feel bad or to be braggy? NO. I write this to say that consistency is key. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting your journey at age 16 or age 65. Or, if you have training maturity and are continuing on your journey. Make your New Year’s resolution consistency. Make training – whatever it is you like to do – a habit. Build it into your schedule. Don’t make lame excuses like “I’m tired” or “I’m too busy”…everyone is tired and too busy. If it’s a priority for you, you’ll make the time. Show up and do something.*

*And note that the food that you intake is part of the consistency…that’s a post for another day though.

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