The truly hard stuff


Humans have no real defense for a great story. So, when we begin to explore exercise in any serious way, we have to tread carefully. The allure of fitness marketing is strong. It can be tricky to untangle it from the realities of a sustainable exercise practice. Hard is a compelling story. It’s appealing. It sells. Yet it often falls apart under pressure. That can’t be right. The real hard stuff is more like iron wrapped in cotton; you can’t evaluate its substance just from looking at it. You have to find it—and then feel it. The problem is that this kind of hard tends to live off-camera and in the grace notes. It’s tough to locate but important to find.


Some thoughts:

What looks hard

  • Pushing the majority of your sets beyond smooth execution and into jagged movement. Getting it done no matter what
  • Completely overhauling your nutrition or lifestyle via rigid rules
  • Relentless focus on a single metric, like caloric intake or weight on the bar
  • Tough self-talk. Being highly critical of yourself
  • All or nothing. Go hard or go home
  • Using all of your available bandwidth and energy
  • Rugged individualism
  • Comparison—with others or past/future versions of yourself
  • Being unwaveringly tough


What is hard

  • Maintaining a high standard for execution—even when it requires changing the plan
  • Continuously running small experiments, finding what reliably works, and keeping previous practices in a holding pattern—when not refining them
  • Looking at health through a systems lens. Zooming out when stuck
  • Compassionate self-talk. Being positive, and solutions-focused with yourself
  • All or something; find a way to maintain an integrity of practice—even if incredibly humble
  • Maintaining an energy reserve as a default setting
  • Community, collaboration, asking for support when needed
  • Presence
  • Being unwaveringly kind

A final thought on hard things:

“I am looking for the human who admits his flaws

Who shocks the adversary

By being kinder not stronger

What would that be like?

We don’t even know”

―Naomi Shihab Nye

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