When I was 13 years old, the football coach told me if I wanted to play football, I was going to have to hit the weight room. I took that as a clear statement: I would not play if I did not lift weights. The football coach did not tell me anything else. He didn’t tell me how to lift weights. He didn’t tell me what weights to lift. He simply told me to hit the weight room, or don’t play.
I made a decision that night. I wanted to play football, so I was going to lift weights. Unfortunately, I did not know there was more to weight lifting than the bench press. Fortunately, I didn’t know the bench press wouldn’t get me as strong as I needed to become to play football. In other words, I became intimate friends with the bench press in order to be able to play football. At age 13, I began bench pressing with my dad’s Joe Weider concrete weight set. There was 60 pounds on the bar, and it crushed me. Dad screwed on the collars so I couldn’t change the weights. So, I put one end of the bar In the dirt and placed the other end of the bar at my shoulder. I began performing one arm presses with dad’s 60 pound barbell until I was strong enough to bench press it. Again, I had no coach. I didn’t know what I was doing. But every day, I wrestled that bar.
Soon, I was strong enough to bench the 60 pound barbell. By age 14, I was able to bench 120 pounds. Oh, I made the football team too. By age 15, I could bench 240 pounds. When I was 17 I had the largest bench press in school – at the time – 335 pounds. I weighed 150.
I never missed a day of training, unless I was deathly ill. So yeah, I benched almost every day of the week! I had a huge chest and skinny, tiny legs. I loved it! I didn’t eventually learn about squats, but I never took a liking to them. In high school, somehow my desire to play football turned into a desire to become very strong. I was addicted to the weight room. In truth, I was addicted to the bench press. I believed the way of strength had to come through the bench press. When I graduated from high school, I found out the NFL Combine looked at how many times an athlete could bench press 225 pounds. So, I toyed with the idea that I could make an NFL team – through my ability to bench press! By the time I was 21 I could bench press 225 pounds for 38 reps in a row. I know, it was ridiculous, but I could do it.
I’m telling you all of this to tell you one thing: I wanted to be strong. But I didn’t know the best way to be strong. I did everything “wrong.” I trained every day that I could get out of bed. I benched and I benched and I benched. I overstrained. There were days my chest was so sore a breeze from the wind would hurt. There were days I almost died because I did not have a spotter – true story. I was stupid. I didn’t know what I was doing. I allowed my desire to be strong to override all logic. BUT, I showed up every single day. And despite my stupidity and my lack of knowledge, I became strong, very strong – at the bench press, which did have some carryover…
I never benched over 400 pounds. But I did develop a strength and endurance on the bench that most people never see. I became very good at the bench press. The secret to my success (my bench prowess!) was not what I didn’t know, though my ignorance could have actually helped me. My strength may have been achieved from what I believed: I believed the bench press was going to make me strong like Superman – I really did. But I am most certain my strength came from what I did: I showed up – day in and day out I found my way to a weight room.
Now, fast forward about 15 years – I crawled a mile one day at 6 am in the morning. I used the same method I used when I wanted to be good at the bench press: I showed up every single day, and I believed I could do it.
I didn’t just decide to crawl a mile one day. I crawled and I crawled and I crawled almost every single day for over 3 years. Some days I crawled a little, some days I crawled a lot. But every day, I crawled.
And this is the secret to becoming and achieving: Show up and believe in what you are doing.
When you were a baby, you did not have a choice. You showed up day in and day out and struggled to move. You struggled and you struggled until you struggled less and less. Through constant effort you built your nervous system and developed your strength. You put in all the effort and all the hard work. Eventually, you learned to stand and walk. Your abilities began to come to life and you found new struggles and challenges to show up for. You did all of this, without choice, but with grit and determination.
Now, you have choice. Choice to wield grit and determination. If you want to have the body, the life, you were designed to have, you must show up; day in and day out. You must choice to move, to press reset, every single day. YES, every single day. It is what you were designed to do: move, engage, believe, be.
Do you believe you can be strong? Show up. Even if you do it “wrong”, show up. Showing up is the secret. Looking towards the prize, the goal, the horizon, show up and engage every single day. Even if you fall short of whatever it is you are aiming for, if you show up and engage, you will be so much better off and so much closer to where you want to be.
What do you want? Do you want to be strong? Do you want to live life better? Do you have a dream of success that you are reaching for? If so, just show up. And when you are tired of showing up, keep showing up. Don’t stop. Show up. Become.