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"Train Insane!"... Or maybe not. The Dangers of Motivational Quotes

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“No Pain, No Gain”!

Everyone loves a good motivational quote. They are inspirational, they are catchy, and they are repeated incessantly in gyms, in sports, and even at your work place (depending on how intense your coworkers are). The good news is that for the most part, they are fairly effective. They help unmotivated people get off the couch and do some physical activity. They give you that kick in the butt that you need to change something in your life. However, it is very important to understand the negative effects of a strong and very quick motivational tactic such as these quotes.

             To start off, I just want to say that I am a quote fanatic! I love them! I even have a daily fitness quote app on my phone. When I was in high school, my bedroom walls were filled with my favorite quotes that I would type out and print on pieces of paper to tape onto my wall. It looked like you were walking into the Quote Hall of Fame when you entered my room (which was always super clean, right mom?). As a young boy looking to make the NHL, these quotes drove me every single day to improve myself and strive for excellence. You know what, for the most part they worked (aside form me actually making it to “The Show”). I learned the meaning of putting in hard work, of sacrificing short-term pleasures for long-term gains, and developed an iron will along the way. Now, those are all great qualities to have, but here is what most experts in the physical training field will agree upon: these quotes have a very dangerous side. Take for example, the one I already gave “No pain, no Gain!” Now, while training is hard, if you are experiencing pain throughout it, STOP! Training should be uncomfortable to the point that it is bearable, not painful to the point where you cannot get out of bed the next day. Too many people live by this saying and think that they only had a good workout if they are sore the next day. Guess what? Soreness is not the sign of progress! Lifting more weight and improving your sports performance (as an athlete) is! Can you run, jump, throw, or even lift your best when you are gut-wrenchingly sore? Heck no! You can barely sit on the toilet, yet along play like an MVP! Yes, sometimes you will be sore, and that is ok, but chasing soreness is not the answer, chasing progress is!

            Another dangerous quote that I’ve seen is “Train insane or remain the same”. Now once again, cool rhyme, nice and to the point. To start off, most people do train insane, it’s called CrossFit (but that rant is for another time). Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (which you don’t get). So, it appears we have a paradox. How can one train “insane” (meaning the same way day after day) and expect different results, when that’s what causes you to stay the same…? There is a huge difference between training insane and training hard and smart. Doing exercises that are right for your body, that feel good, and that you progress in is key to getting better and changing, whether its your body composition or your athletics performance. By going into the gym, doing whatever your “bro” is doing and then maxing out on all lifts because it’s  “insane”, will only leave you injured, broken down, and won’t give you those life changing gains you so desire.

            One of my favorite quotes I had on my bedroom wall was one I got from legendary quarterback Tim Tebow (ok, not legendary, but what a great human being!). “Everyday he is out there, training while I am not. One day when we meet, he will win”. This is lengthy, but really instills the fear of failure, and to a kid like myself who had experienced a lot of athletics failure, it hit all the right buttons. This quote drove me to training 5-7 hours per day when I was 19. Yes, 5-7 hours PER DAY! Why? Because I had to be training at all times to make sure that when my “opponent” was resting, I was grinding. When my “opponent” was grinding, I was grinding harder! In the fitness industry, there is something known as the “minimal effective dose”. This means, what is the smallest amount of training you have to do to see the changes you desire? Once you figure that out, only train that amount! By doing more, you are just adding more time in the gym, taking away time from other things in your life you could be doing (like eating good food and resting), and adding more unnecessary stress to your already stressed-out body. Most people in the general population only need to train 3-4 days per week for an hour tops! Any more than that and you better be a bodybuilder, powerlifter, or Olympic Lifter as lifting is their sport. For some team athletes, there may be occasions where you train more days per week, especially when the season is getting near and conditioning is important, but ask most strength coaches (the good ones anyway) or athletes at the pro level, and they will tell you that they only lift 2 maybe 3 times per week during the season. Do they look like they are slowing down? No! Because they know the importance of rest and recovery for the body. I tell you what, train hard, just like this mysterious “opponent” is. But when you finish your training session, go eat some good food and get some rest. He may keep “training while you are not”. But I can assure you, by the time the championship series come in the playoffs, he’s gonna either be hurt or too exhausted to play, and you are gonna be hoisting the trophy while “he is not”.

            Obviously this only scratches the surface of all the negative quotes out there. The purpose of this post is simply to make you more aware of what you are telling yourself and realize that while it is great to be motivated and get moving, there can be negative side effects that you need to be cautious of.

            Now that I totally shattered your whole motivation to go to the gym and get on the “gain train”, let me leave you with some quotes that I like to use that will help pump you up in the gym, at work, or in life, but not drive you “insane” or leave you in pain. I have gotten these from a lifetime (23 years anyway) of keeping my ears open reading good books/articles, therefore I do not know who said each one directly (sorry to the original authors):

  • If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together
  • If nothing changes, nothing changes
  • Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care
  • It’s not enough to stare up the steps. We must eventually step up the stairs.
  • What happens to you matters little. What really matters is, what are you going to do about it?
  • The best ability a player can have is their availability

And the best for last…

  • Train hard. Recover harder

Now, go train smart!


Cole Hergott

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Ryan has prepared me mentally and physically, and has prepared me with the strength and confidence to compete at a university level sport.

Mariah Bruinsma