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“Effort” – you get back what you put in!

By Jason Fowlks (PFT, PNC, NPC national level bodybuilder, APA record-holding powerlifter)
People who witness me regularly in the gym know that I train with ferocious intensity and total focus (99%of the time). I talk to myself, I yell, I grunt and scream sometimes, and I’m known for saying things like “You wanna train, or you wanna go home!!?” or “Let’s go, we’re here to WORK dammit!!” or “This is where we win, in the GYM!!” Most people know that this is just my way of mentally psyching myself up, and forcing myself (and whoever’s with me) to give every ounce of effort possible during each set. On the other hand, people who’ve never seen or heard me train just think I’m some kind of lunatic. Well, yeah, I guess I am a little crazy, after all, it’s not normal for us as humans to love inflicting excruciating pain upon ourselves (and others) on a daily basis. This type of (somewhat sadomasochistic) behavior is an aquired trait, which for me, is the result of years of repetitious EFFORT… leading to gradual success… one grueling workout after another, one properly-planned meal after another, lots of blood, sweat, and tears. Lots of lactic acid, inexplicable muscle soreness, tightness, cramping, and exhaustion, day after day, year after year. And although not too many people possess this trait, it CAN be learned over time, by just about anyone. The hardest part for most people is to finally decide to stop making excuses why they can invest their time, money, and energy into everything else except their own health and fitness, and to just get started. The problem is, nowadays, people are always looking for the “magic pill”, the shortcut, the quick, overnight trick to getting results. They want to “get rich quick”, instead of paying their dues and putting in their time and work, day after day, week after week, year after year. This is why the hardest thing for me as a trainer to do is to have to teach someone COMMITMENT and EFFORT. If you don’t already have those two ingredients, then you’re definitely not ready to begin a training program. I tell people all the time that “The results you achieve are totally dependent upon the effort you exert over time.” You must be willing and able to mentally force your body to physically perform under stress as far outside of it’s comfort zone as possible, on a consistent basis, if you want it to respond and progress.
This effort doesn’t stop when we leave the gym. If you’re not approaching your daily eating habits with this same discipline and motivation, then you’ll never achieve your goals, no matter how hard you train. Everyone knows that “you can’t outwork a bad diet, and you can’t out-diet bad work ethic”. If you don’t work equally hard at both you’re just spinning your wheels and going nowhere. For example, I train like a wild beast, all year-round, but I’ll be the first to admit it, I LOVE junk food. I love pizza, burgers, fries (anything fried lol), candy, cookies, ice cream, cheesecake, brownies, chocolate, soda, etc..(I can go on and on). So during certain times of the year, when it’s NOT my goal to get “shredded”, but rather to “add size”, I can certainly allow myself to enjoy my favorite junk foods (in moderation). But when it comes time for me to go to work on myself, and get ready to step on stage in my underwear in front of hundreds of people, I know that months beforehand I have to “flip the switch,” kick my training into high gear, ramp up the cardio, and give all the junk up. I must only eat the things my body needs (even if I don’t really “like” it, some I even detest, like sweet potatoes eww) every day, week after week, until I’ve met my goal. This takes lots and lots of EFFORT. Especially since, for a big guy, I’m not a big eater (a “certain gym owner friend of mine” has been making fun of my “little girl” appetite for years lol), and sometimes have to force-feed myself 8 to 10 eggs, or 10-12 oz. of cold, plain fish and asparagus everyday all day, even when I literally feel as if I’m going to puke at times. And if at any moment, I slack off, and go back to eating junk food, or skip just ONE MEAL, all my hard work could just go right down the drain. It all comes down to one word…EFFORT.
Effort is the key ingredient to achieving success, not only in the gym, but in life. Just like most of us weren’t lucky enough to have been born into a wealthy family, most of us weren’t lucky enough to have been born with perfect physical genetics either. In both cases, the less we were born with, the more effort we must put forth in order to achieve success. This success comes at a price, and comes over time. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”…we’ve all heard this a million times, but what we mean by this is that your success happens cumulatively, over time, with the proper mindset, focus, discipline, determination…and EFFORT.
So whether you’re 18 or 80, it’s never too early, or too late, to start investing in your health and fitness. Once you begin to think of it as a lifestyle, and not just a “quick fix,” a “hobby,” or a “chore,” and you’re willing to begin making time to work on YOURSELF, and working at it with positive and consistent effort and have patience, I promise you, you WILL achieve positive results!