A Course in Obstacles

by Johnny Pain

I recently received the following question in my email.

“I am going to start the GSLP and right now I live a little over a mile off of my college weight room and my only form of transportation right now is a bike.

In fact I’m going to be using my bike a lot to get around the campus for class and back to my dorm.

My question is, do you think biking around as much as I already do would hurt my LP on the squat and deadlift?”

Years ago I watched a well known strength guru attempt to convince a middle aged woman to give up a weekly 5k run, and a duo of boxing training sessions with her son, a boxing coach, so that she would better progress on her strength training.

While his logic was sound on the surface there were two major problems with the approach:

For one, the woman greatly enjoyed her weekly run, having been a runner for most of her life. She had reduced her mileage from the neighborhood of twenty miles per week down to three over the course of about a year, determining that three was enough to give her a fix while keeping her aging joints feeling better.

Second, she really enjoyed her two weekly sessions with her son. Her show of interest in his passion had served as a major catalyst for an overall strengthening of their relationship. She liked the one on one time with him, and the improved conditioning and toning that she saw as a result.

The woman was understandably disheartened in learning that it would basically not be worth her while to begin a strength-training program at this point since she was unwilling to give up the activities that she was already committed to, and which she found so intrinsically rewarding. Fortunately, I was able to explain to her that she could “have her cake and eat it too”. She became a coaching client of mine and remained so for some time, all the while progressing to impressive strength numbers, as well as continuing to enrich her life in her other pursuits.

In her case I wrote a stripped down template for her to follow in the weight room, and limited her to two sessions per week. It was a perfect fit for her, and she could not have been happier with the outcome.

Life is a course in obstacles.

Often times there are “obstacles” in our lives that prevent us from having an “ideal” environment in which to make progress in the weight room. These are often self-imposed as in the woman’s case above, but can also be a matter of circumstance as in the case of our bike riding college student. The fact of the matter is that we will always produce more results from training than from not training.

Will his deadlift and squat not progress as well as they would if he drove to school and the gym? That depends:

Imagine he drives everywhere including to the gym where he half asses his strength training and is not aggressive in making weight increases on the bar.

Now imagine he pedals his ass off daily and then goes HAM on the weights each session like he’s lifting at gunpoint (again, I’m sorry Drago).

How much he will progress is a result of how much effort he puts forth and how committed he is to growth and change. Those variables are infinitely more important than his mode of transportation, his choice in or lack of weightlifting shoes, the placement of the bar on his back in the squat, or any other trivial detail that he or someone else could perceive as an obstacle on his road to his destination.

This logic and shear law of nature extends far beyond the weight room.

Work = Reward. Always.



Johnny Pain is the man behind StrengthVillain.com as well as the East Coast’s notorious Greyskull Barbell Club and several other ventures. He is the author of several books on subjects pertaining to strength and conditioning. He can be found comically entertaining questions on his Q and A forum at StrengthVillain.com or can be reached for consultations, training seminars, or speaking engagements at john@villainintl.com.

Also, you can follow him on Twitter: @thejohnnypain and on Instagram #johnnypain




2 Responses

  1. Kucifer

    Great post, JP.

    Since our consult, life has gotten crazy busy with work, raising the little one and another on the way. I think the old me would’ve used this as an excuse to stop training but my system of beliefs was strong enough to avoid that.

    I cancelled my gym membership, searched cragislist to assemble a shitty set of iron plates, squat stands, neck harness and pull up bar and threw it all in the basement.

    Now I make sure I get in a 3X5+ set of one of the major lifts, neck work and an accessory lift every night after the little one is in bed. It only takes 30 minutes or so and i’ve seen consistent results across the board. That’s literally one episode of shitty TV in exchange for a shot at beastliness.

    Plus you’d be surprised at how challenging it is to lift iron plates quietly. It adds a new dimension to the whole game.

    Anyway, thanks again brother. You’re doing good work.


    September 5, 2012 at 12:58 am

  2. Virgilio Hegwer

    Today we don’t use a calf anymore to build physical strength. However we still use the same approach Milo used. This article will give you more info on what strength training is, its benefits & how to get started.”-.”

    Have a good week <http://wellnessdigest.co/index.php

    July 5, 2013 at 8:19 pm

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