Years ago, I was training in a university gym and a young man caught my eye.
He didn’t look remarkable. He was a normal height, a normal weight, and he was doing a program probably out of a muscle magazine – a few big movements and a lot of arm isolation exercises. It wasn’t the worst routine, but it sure was bad.
The only reason I noticed him was because he had an unusual habit – he would get all the weights he needed for his workout, collect them all up at once, and then put them in a pile in the corner. Then, he would go through his program facing the wall, far away from the mirrors and other people.
That was strange enough, but he also worked with the kind of intensity I’d normally expect from a reasonably high-level athlete. By that I mean he wasn’t screaming, or dropping weights, or jumping around. He just set his feet and executed his plan, even if it hurt.
And some days it was obvious that it DID hurt. I saw him grind out slow presses and squats and curls that a lot of people would have just walked away from, saying “I’m not feeling it today”. Not this guy. He persisted regardless. I saw him once do a set of eight curls where he had to put the weight down at least three times to get all the reps in. Who works that hard on curls?
And he never missed a day. Once, I saw him working out in tailored cargo-style shorts that were obviously not for gym use. He’d obviously forgotten his gear and gone anyway.
I had time off later that semester, and was out of the gym for about a month. Eventually, I went back, and the first person my first Monday back was that guy. Only, it wasn’t. Even from across the room, the difference was immediately apparent. His shoulders were broader. His arms looked vascular. (Arms are often one of the first places this happens as you lose weight from the ‘outside in’.) He was thinner. His face was different.
And he was still plugging away, with his curious pile of weights and his garbage fire of a program.
Even just the sight of this guy who I never met left an impression that has lasted now about ten years, and will continue to last.
The right plan is a consistent and forceful one. Nothing else matters as much.
Our guy never had a clue what he was doing. His program never changed, and I can guarantee that it wouldn’t work forever. But even in a few short months, he’d made a lot of progress – ONLY because he showed up, and got to work.