800 pounds is a LOT of weight. Put that weight onto the shoulders of an average man and it’ll crush him straight down into the ground.
Now imagine loading 800 pounds onto your shoulders and squatting down until your thighs are parallel with the ground, and then fighting your way out of the hole back to standing.
Squatting this much weight is an almost impossible achievement. At most powerlifting competitions it’s pretty rare for someone to squat over 600 pounds, even for competitors who live and breathe heavy iron. And if they do max out like this, then they feel depleted for days or even weeks.
But in 2018 powerlifter Chris Duffin squatted 800 pounds every day for an entire month to raise money for charity. He repeated this herculean task day after day with no ability to fully recover from the enormous strains on his musculature, nervous and endocrine systems.
30 days of this in a row made it a damn near mythic achievement.
Chris later said that he learned a tremendous amount about recovery from this challenge.
For example, he learned to pay attention to every little detail and every potential problem; he simply couldn’t ignore a niggling pain somewhere in his body because the next day it could be a full-on strain, and then it could derail his entire project. He had to address his physical aches and pains as thoroughly as possible with every recovery tool available to him before he had to squat again.
This idea doesn’t just apply to powerlifting…
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a very physically challenging martial art.
In BJJ we have a saying that, “Injury is the enemy.” If you’re injured you can’t train effectively, so doing everything you can to avoid the big injuries is the best way to maximise your training and accelerate your learning process.
I’ve got one more example for you…
Long canoe trips (of which I am rather fond) also require you to continually tweak and adjust your paddling technique to take the load off irritated body parts and transfer it onto new body parts.
For example, if your shoulders hurt you might use more forward flexion and less rotation during your stroke, or try the opposite (more rotation and less forward flexion). You might change the way you grip the paddle to minimise an incipient case of elbow tendonitis. If your back is sore you might subtly change the way you sit, or adjust the height of your canoe seat, or the position of your legs.
(Incidentally on a canoe trip this concept doesn’t only apply to your body; it also applies to maintaining your equipment. A small tear in your raincoat is much easier to repair than a large rip. Noticing the little tiny holes at each end of my map cases could have prevented the maps on my giant solo trip from getting soaked, a giant complication that I ended up dealing with for the entirety of my 1000 mile solo trip across the arctic.)
The overall goal in training is to prevent little pains from turning into major injuries.
You don’t want to be a whiner who complains about everything, but you also don’t want to be a tough guy because ignoring warning signs is one of the fastest ways to bring your progress to a screeching halt.
Progress here requires you to walk the fine line between being a hypochondriac and a stoic. Anything hard to achieve is going to end up hurting, but the goal is to make it a sustainable, manageable pain.
Recognise and address the little problems early and you’ll avoid the big problems later on.
Related Articles and Videos
Chris Duffin is a super-smart, analytical, and incredibly dedicated BEAST of a human being. He’s an ultra-elite powerlifter who has both deadlifted AND squatted 1000 lbs for reps.
I spent almost 1 1/2 hours chatting with him about his insane feats of strength at his gym and manufacturing facility and got a ton of insights into his training methodology and mindset.
Click here to check out episode 236 of The Strenuous Life Podcast with Chris Duffin
In 2019 I made my way to the Thlewiaza River, flowing mostly through the tundra, crossed by herds of caribou, rarely visited and generally untrammeled by modern man.
The whole trip took 42 days in which time I descended wild rivers, ascended other rivers against the current, and crossed huge lakes lashed by summer storms.
Click here to check out the pictures and posts from this trip.
If you keep asking your body to push hard without giving it the time and support to recover then things are eventually going to go catastrophically wrong.
Click here to check out my post on the delicate balance between stress and recovery for optimal progress.
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