Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Are You an Exerciser or an Athlete? Part II" by Charles Staley

OK Fellas, here's part II of this great article by strength coach and the developer of the EDT System for building muscle and strength, Charles Staley. There are so many nuggets of gold, to borrow a term from my buddies over at bodyweight culture, in this article that I hope you guys print this one out and really study and think about these five brief, yet packed, habits that athletes possess.

"Are You an Exerciser of an Athlete? Part II"
By Charles Staley, B.Sc, MSS
Director, Staley Training Systems

Last week I differentiated between the "exerciser" mindset and the athletic paradigm. I equated exercisers with an amateur approach, and athletes with a professional attitude toward fitness. Most importantly, I demonstrated how the fundamental distinction between these two divergent perspectives is one of attitude: exercisers hate what they do, they do it begrudgingly, and they wouldn't do it at all except for their certainty that they have to do it.

Athletes, on the other hand love to train. In fact, they tend to overtrain, because their work ethic has become so ingrained that they live and die by a productivity-based ethos.

Becoming an athlete doesn't require advanced pedigree, a nasty steroid habit, bulging biceps, or even jaw-dropping talent. What it does require is a commitment to a set of practices that define the athletic lifestyle. People who consistently practice these habits can call themselves athletes, while those who do not continue to reside in the exerciser caste.

As you continue to read, take a self-assessment to see how many of these five habits you already practice, and which ones are missing from your dossier.

1) Process Orientation:

The athlete pursues goals, but the bulk of his day-to-day attention is focused on processes. A premise is first developed which states "If I do this process, it should lead me to this end." Once the premise is established, the athlete trusts the premise (much like a pro golfer must trust his stroke under competitive conditions).

The athlete shifts his sights away from the long-term goal and devoted his entire energy toward the day-to-day practices and habits that will give him the best chance for success. These practices encompass everything from training tactics, to nutritional and recuperative strategies.

2) Delayed Gratification:

The desire for instant results is the hallmark of an exerciser. Athletes know that the big payoff is worth the wait. One telltale sign of maturity can be found in sound nutritional practices: many people can commit to an exercise program, because there are immediate benefits- endorphin production, muscle pumps, greater energy, etc. However, there are little to no short-term benefits to be gained from a sound nutritional program - the payoff takes time to accrue.

3) Systemization:

Athletes record, document, and analyze their training, and often, their food intake. In other words, they keep records. When you don't have systems, you need to reinvent the wheel every time a unique situation presents itself. Athletes tend to know their maximum capacities in various exercises, they know how they react to various nutritional practices, and they're also familiar with the psychological states that produce superior performances. All of this knowledge is gleaned through the process of record keeping. After all, the best way to predict future performance is to study the past.

4) Professionalism:

The previous three practices are all components of professionalism, but here, I'd like to discuss a "root" habit that gives birth to all of them: distancing. This practice is perhaps best personified in the old weightlifter's credo "There is no joy in victory, no agony in defeat." Athletes maintain a certain impassionate distance from their craft. They know that if they identify too closely with their role, they'll be less likely to put themselves on the line, in the competitive arena.

Instead, they simply put in the work, do the right things, and resign themselves to whatever outcome might occur. Athletes know that commitment to the effort means more than the outcome produced by the effort. Exercisers on the other hand, are typically unwilling to put in the time, and instead resort to pills, powders, plastic surgery, and various other shortcuts that inevitably lead to failure.

5) Functionalism:

Exercisers are concerned exclusively with "form:" an improved appearance. Athletes are concerned exclusively with "function," which results in better form than what exercisers typically achieve. Put simply: form follows function. When you train like an athlete, you'll look like an athlete


I hope you'll notice the consistent parallels between these 5 practices. They all stress means over ends, practices over outcomes, long-term growth over immediate gratification. All of which are expressions of maturity. If you're currently living an exerciser lifestyle, you're ahead of the curve, but why not set your sights higher and join the athletic community? All it takes is making a decision- taking action, right now. Not sure how to start? Click the "comments" link below and let me know how I can help!


skay said...

Dear Mr.Low Body Fat,

Many Congrats to you on your weight loss.. I am still going through the posts you had created in the beginning.. It's really inspiring and motivating.. I tried many times to lose weight.. I am 6'0 feet tall and weigh 193 pounds.. very unevenly distributed weight.. all to the belly and ass area.. though I begin very well.. After a month inevitably something happens and i get a break in my routine and get back to gaining weight.. But I am determined to come back to this everytime.. have to keep trying again and again until I can really do it.. Hope to get it right soon.. Thanks a lot for your posts again.. It's truly inspiring.. Good Luck.. Sk

Peter said...

Super post...that part about Delayed Gratification being important to a serious approach really hit home.

I've long heard that delayed gratification was a hallmark of long term success and "professionalism." Going to school for 11 years and deferring income generation until then, etc. But it hadn't occurred to me how that carried right over into proper dietary attention, which folks like Mike Mahler and Steve Maxwell have pointed out is a majority of the fat loss game.

This post has really helped me redirect more proper attention to those unsung yet critical areas, nutrition and proper recovery. Thanks again for a truly helpful post.

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Sk, thanks for sharing your story and I'm glad that Staley's article hit home with you as much as it did with me.

Peter, I couldn't agree with you more. As someone who went straight from high school, to undergrad, to grad school(s), I know the meaning of being a broke college students well until my late 20s! It's funny because we were willing to forgo making money for our career, but when it comes to our bodies, we want it to happen yesterday. LOL!

It just goes to show me that the more we compartmentalize our lives, the more difficult we make it. Thanks for your comment, and I'm glad that this article was helpful to you. On another note, Peter are you familiar with Alan Aragon? If not, I highly recommend you check him out.

Peter said...

I'm not familiar with Alan Aragon, but am always glad to check out a recommended resource!

Many thanks, again.