I like to say “last set, best set” when we train at my gym, so the title of this column is right in my wheelhouse. The impetus behind the words puts you in the frame of mind to summon energies that you may not have thought were available at that stage of your workout. But those energies are there. Digging deep is one thing. Digging deeper is a whole other gig.
Anybody can win the first quarter of a game. Anybody can take the first set of a match. But the W goes to the guy who digs deeper than the other guy. The guy who ultimately wins is the same guy who sets the table to feast on those not-so-little victories. The planner. The methodical bastard who maps it all out. Not the goof who wings it. Not the knucklehead who tries to fit it in. The plodding, toiling, slogging, OCD, not- to-be-denied, first-in, last-out grinder. Those victories add up. Those are the bricks that make up the foundation of the house of who you are, not just how you look. Looks are a by-product. The foundation is what you can rely on.
Over time, cutting corners whittles away even the best laid plans. A little bit less every time means a lot less over time. What you do in your training not only speaks volumes about you as a human being, but it also affects every other aspect of your life. Pushing yourself during exercise pays dividends across the board. As a result of that effort you’ll not only be stronger, more fit, and more physically appealing to yourself and others, but you’ll be more resistant to injury and to illness. You’ll be a more patient partner, spouse, and parent. Your rate of absenteeism will decrease at work. Your mental acuity will be improved, and your errors and turnovers in the game of life will decrease. Fewer mistakes equal more production, which equals better quality of life. But you have to work for it for it to work for you.
Any time I work with an athlete, if there’s ever a discrepancy on the rep count (Let’s be clear, it’s never me, I went to Duke…), my guys crank out two more. It’s a thing of beauty. And it’s what makes them who they are. And it’s what keeps me coming back to work. The great ones do more. And they do it without questioning it and without questioning them- selves. You can, too. And you should. Showing up late or leaving early shorts you, no one else. Cheating your rep count or your cardio minutes is cheating you, no one else. Holding back, not leaving all you have in the gym or on the field or court, is holding back only yourself, no one else.
You don’t know what you can do until you can’t do something. You have to push until you can’t to know what you can do and did do. Drive it until it runs out of gas. Don’t pull over just because it gets to E or the warning light comes on. Drive it until it sputters, jerks, and stops. Now you’re done. Go fill up and come back tomorrow. The weights will always be here, waiting for you.
Gunnar Peterson is a trainer to celebrities and pro athletes in Hollywood.