consistency[kuh n-sis-tuh n-see]
Want to get good at something? Do it a lot. Getting strong is no different. A bad program done consistently is light years more successful than a brilliant program done sporadically.
Above all else, consistency is the number one factor in success. Add busting your ass into the equation, and you have a recipe for blowing away all expectations.
I was at a Christmas party 5 years ago at a client’s house when I was introduced to a couple who had a son who played hockey on his high school’s freshman team. I was currently training a pretty competitive junior hockey team, and they wanted to talk about maybe training their son. I had just bought my house and decided that building a garage gym was a much better idea than having a place to store my truck during the freezing New England winters, so I said sure, bring him on by, and we’ll see if I can help.
Now, my garage gym was a meathead’s paradise. The whole floor was rubbered and the walls were made of cinder blocks so you could throw medicine balls in any direction you wanted. I had a homemade platform, a squat stand, dumbbells up to 90’s, gymnastics rings, Airdyne bikes, a sled, plyo boxes. I outfitted it the way I liked to train-kind of gritty and dirty but with all the toys I’d ever want.
On his first day, Gav did a great job. He was like any other freshman kid in the weight room-a little nervous, excited, relatively quiet. I’m terrible at remembering to take pictures or videos of memorable moments, but thankfully I grabbed this video of his first day learning to hang clean and front squat:
He was a pretty decent young athlete and after a day he was hang cleaning and front squatting a massive 75 pounds.
After they left, his dad called me up. He called me so fast after leaving that I thought that they might’ve forgotten something.
“He fucking loved it!”
And so it began. For the next 3 and a half years, Gavin trained at my house no less than 2 days per week. His dad would drive him, intend on waiting for the hour and change, but quickly started to figure out that Gavin was always looking to do extra, stay longer, and work harder. He would stay as long as I would let him before I’d throw him out and cut him off.
When his parents were working and he couldn’t get a ride, he’d take the 45 minute train ride to the station near my house after school. I’d go pick him up at the Dunkin Donuts next door where he was hammering down a bacon, egg, and cheese for a pre workout meal, train for a couple hours, then bring him back to the train for the 45 minute ride home. That’s nearly 4 hours sacrificed for a training session.
Eventually, he got his license and was able to drive himself. He had a job, a girlfriend, and was on the varsity hockey team but still made training a priority. I remember him having to the decide between Airdyne sprints or going home to shower before work because he was short on time.
He did the sprints, skipped the shower, and just went to work covered in sweat and probably smelling terrible.
He literally never missed training sessions. The only time he did was when his grades slipped once and his parents decided to hit him where it hurt and ground him from training for about 20 minutes. He got his shit together, prioritized his schoolwork, and was back again in no time.
He helped me shovel snow so we could get into the garage to train at times. He trained on Sunday mornings throughout his entire high school hockey career because that was the only time he really had free.
This was Gavin bench pressing 300 pounds the day before he left for college in that same garage with the same bar he was front squatting 75 pounds with a few short years earlier.
Gavin is now at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He’s no longer a kid that I coach, he’s a friend that I make sure to catch up with regularly. He and his dad were at my wedding, I was at his high school graduation, and he still sends me training videos whenever he’s setting a new PR.
Training has become an anchor for him, like it has for so many. It gives our lives structure and is an outlet for us. Giving your best is a habit, and the more often you do it, the easier it is. Training is an opportunity to develop that habit, which then seeps into all of the other aspects of your life.
The point is, consistency isn’t always easy. When you’re 15 it’s not being able to get a ride to your training session, so you sack up and deal with 90 minutes of round trip train rides to get it in. It might mean that you’re short on time, so you wake up early on Sundays after a late Saturday night game to train because you know if you don’t, you won’t be as good in the other areas of your life. It might mean that it’s summer vacation and it’s 95 degrees and the garage is a friggen sauna and you don’t want to train in it, but you suck it up, and between every set you walk outside to get some air that isn’t 95% chalk and dust. It means in the winter you put the bar in front of the heater so your hands don’t freeze to it like the kid’s tongue in a Christmas Story.
Gavin taught me a lot. He reinforced the concept of consistency, and if you just keep showing up, keep giving your best effort, day after day, you’re going to reach amazing heights. Not every day is a highlight. There was a period of time where his squat wasn’t budging and he was freaking out that he was getting weaker. We stayed the course, made some adjustments and he powered through it. He didn’t give up when his squat stalled, he actually did quite the opposite and searched the internet high and low for solutions and would come in for his next training session with 50 questions and ideas on how to fix it.
He looked for solutions rather than accept mediocrity. I had a whiteboard in that garage that I used to write down ideas or workouts at times and more often than not it was covered with explanations to questions he came in with based on the research he did on his own. Hell he still sends me Instagram videos of people hitting big lifts and asking if I think they’re really possible.
Our training was basic as hell. If we did anything besides these exercises over the years it wasn’t more than once or twice:
- Front Squat
- Back Squat
- Bench Press
- DB Bench
- 1 Arm DB Row
- Ring Chin Up
- AB Wheel Rollouts
- Single Leg Deadlifts
- Single Leg Squats
- Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats
- Reverse Lunges
- Ring Pushups
- Ring Rows
- Overhead presses-DB and BB
- Airdyne sprints
- Sled Marches
- Medicine Ball Throws
- Jumps-single leg and double leg
- Farmer’s Walks
As much as I’d love to say that I wrote him amazing programs that led to his success, it was just his perseverance, his effort, and his belief in that if he kept working at his goal, he would reach it.
Training for Gavin started as a solution to a problem: he was young and needed to get stronger and faster to play hockey at the next level. What it turned into was a vehicle that built a lifelong friendship and an opportunity to learn about himself and what he wanted out of life.
Training isn’t just about sets and reps, or burning calories, or getting a 6 pack. It’s about setting goals and working your ass off to reach them. It’s about sticking to a plan and seeing it through, and it’s about seeing the direct correlation between hard work and success. It’s about lots of conversations about life and love and nonsense and Youtube videos and ball busting and laughs.
It’s about the process. The process that transcends lifting hunks of iron and putting them back down.
If it wasn’t for squats and deadlifts and power cleans, I never would’ve met a young kid who had all the potential in the world but might not have realized it yet. People like Gavin are why I do what I do, and I learn more from them than I think any of them realize.
So thanks, Gavin. Thanks for showing up buddy.