We want it all, and we want it now. Nobody wants to wait for anything. Everything is delivered at light speed and all information is at our fingertips in this era of fast living. But in strength sports, we know this cannot be the case.
If I had a dollar for every time I talked to strength athletes (especially women) who want to be good at strongman the very first time they touch an implement, I might be.... $20 richer. ;-) But really, the predominant wish is to be good at (insert strength sport) right now, without putting in the hard work.
This brings up another important question; what is hard work? We definitely do not all have the same definition, and that is when things can get tricky. But one thing we can all agree on, is it takes time. Unfortunately, success in strength sports takes time - even for a gifted athlete. A gift can only take one so far before hard work is necessary.
That's not to say that Russian strength phenoms won't get far, but let's be honest here. We've all heard the saying "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work..." yes? So let's talk about what it means to those of us who are not phenoms to "work hard."
For most of us, working hard is as simple as consistency. That means consistency in training, consistency in diet, and consistency in rest and recovery. It's pretty difficult to be good at all of these, all of the time. I shoot for about 80-90% consistency at hitting my goals. This allows for a little wiggle room when life happens. Some days you need an extra hour of sleep or a cupcake. Let's be honest. Pick a level of consistency that you can be CONSISTENT with. See what I did there?
What does it mean to be consistent in training? Hit your numbers. Show up. Don't sandbag it, and don't overdo it. Follow your program. If you are following a cycle and you feel like doing your own thing, just know that you're short selling the program. You aren't allowing it to the magic it was designed to do. If you're working with a coach or trainer, trust them. Follow the program!
How can you be consistent in diet? Pick a moderate diet that will fuel you! If you want to lean out, do so for a short period and then recover by allowing some cheats. Then, repeat. If you want to maintain your mass, eat enough to fuel your workouts. Enjoy treats now and then, or daily if you really want to. But try to hit the macros (protein, carbs, fat) that will allow your body to perform. I try to hit around 40/30/30 (p/c/f) for optimum strength and recomp, but each of us may have a different happy place.
What's consistency in rest and recovery? Perhaps the hardest of all training elements, this one is complicated for some of us. We train because we love how it makes us feel. Resting is the opposite of training. But without consistent sleep, rest, and recovery then there is no meaningful training. I try to take at least 2 rest days during my usual training and 3 if I am peaking. There is no excuse for training and lifting HEAVY A$$ weights 6-7 days per week and expecting your body (not to mention your mind, and specifically your CNS) to recover and deliver. Sure, you may be making gains... but imagine what you could do if you'd allow some recovery?
With all of this being said, it still takes TIME. Time is the magical factor that we cannot control. We just need to roll with our plan and give it months, YEARS even. I started training in 2012 in crossfit and three years later I am really just starting to be a truly competitive strongman athlete. Sure, I did well the first couple of years, but I wouldn't have even considered competing at nationals back then. I still have room for much improvement (don't we all?) and it's important to note that some of the truly elite strongman/woman athletes have trained for 5+ years.
Just to show you what consistency can do, check out these two deadlifts - nearly one year apart from each other. You can see visibly the difference that the year of consistency has made. Not only in my deadlift, but in my physical appearance. You can also see I'm lifting more and with greater ease, less technical issues, and more efficiency. The differences are there.
Have you done your time? Are you being consistent? If you can say no to either of these questions, then it's time to push onward knowing that you've left out the most fundamental concept. Patience is key and consistency is king. Wake up every day knowing that you are closer to your goals, but know that they may take longer than you want them to, and that's okay. Enjoy the journey, I promise you it is worth more than the destination. <3