Train Like a Pro

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Recently I committed to reading a book a week. 

A couple weeks in, so far, so good..

Anyway, last week was one called “The War of Art.” - Steven Pressfield

Pressfield discusses the “overcoming of resistance” - i.e. how to unlock your inner creative forces. Or really, how to tackle any task or venture where you might normally get stuck. It’s a short, enjoyable read.

There’s one part in particular that has resonated with me for many areas, including with training. 

Pressfield talks about the difference between Pro’s and Amateur’s in their work. 

Pro’s take it seriously, they are in it for the long haul. Interestingly, they aren’t as attached. 

Amateurs on the other hand are overly identified with their craft, they are rushed and impatient.

Note, there might be no actual difference in “ability” - someone can be just starting out, but be training with a Pro mindset already. Someone could be years into their journey and still train like an Amateur.

Also, we need to pass through the stage of the Amateur in one field at least, in order to turn Pro. This could happen when we are young, in our professional field as an adult, or some other time..

Having trained alongside both professional and amateur athletes, I’ve seen a lot of both!

So, how do we know which we are? We know we want to get results and the Pro gets results.. so..

If we find we are the Amateur, how do we become the pro?

There is one extract in this book that has stuck with me. In it, we learn that perhaps the amateur is simply too enthusiastic. Could this be all there is to it?

Let’s take a look:

The Pro is Patient

"Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: It uses his own enthusiasm against him.

Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an overambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. 

It knows we can’t sustain that level of intensity.

We will hit the wall. We will crash."

Very often, people come in to the gym with a date - say a wedding that they want to “lean out for.” Or, perhaps they want to a certain movement pronto, like pull-ups or a ring muscle up.

The want it Now. They are very much playing a short game.

Meet the amateur - It’s not a bad position to be - hey, the amateur is getting on the court, and we need to pass through this stage.

BUT, when you place them alongside the pro, you can start to see some differences.

The Pro on the other hand, approaches their health and training as a journey. 

They understand that the trick is in starting to learn and follow a process. When the body leans out, great! When the sexy movements come to them such as the muscle up, they welcome them! 

But they understand that this isn’t the end and the following of the process is what is important. When they do get the muscle up, they turn up the next day just as before and keep working.

"The professional, on the other hand, understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare.

… The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the starts time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work."

The amateur trains seven days per week, early on, no matter what.

The Pro sets up a sustainable movement and training practice around her life.

The amateur races through each workout, glossing over the warmups, looking to get to the main course as quickly as possible

The amateur’s primary focus is on numbers and time, and how quickly they can get a particular movement.

The Pro gives as much attention to the warmup as the workout

The amateur focuses on intensity to satisfy a cortisol addiction

The Pro goes into this zone occasionally, but their main focus is on consistency and quality, even if it’s the most basic progression

The Pro understands that patience is what will win the game. It’s not just what movement you can do, it’s also the quality of the movement

The amateur just goes to the gym to “balance” out their life, hoping to hit goals

The Pro aligns other lifestyle factors with their journey where possible to improve sleep, nutrition, stress and posture

"The professional steels himself at the start of a project, reminding himself it is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash.

He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul.

He sustains himself with the knowledge that if he can just keep those huskies mushing, sooner or later the sled will pull in to Nome."

The training journey is fun and rewarding, but it takes time. Whether you are looking to correct imbalances or injuries, or learn new movements,

It doesn’t matter, as the patience required is the same.

The Amateur wants it done now (or, usually in an 8-12 week "shred challenge" it seems)

The Pro already understands there is no end-date.

The Amateur goes from one 12 week challenge to another, changes or blends programs together to try to get results faster..

The Pro settles in for the journey, has an insatiable desire to learn.

The amateur hits a hurdle, a minor injury, a work deadline.. and stops

The Pro already understands these things are part of the process and are factored in


The Pro reaps the rewards, despite not expecting them and not getting too hung up on them.

The Amateur blames hurdles, lack of time, or others for not getting their results quickly enough. 

In reality though, the main difference is simply patience.

john marsh