I am a little bit of a nut. [Okay, I may be a little bit more than a little bit of a nut.] I remember the day that I was offered a place on the Northern Arizona University Track and Field Team, I went to the library to look up the world records for throwing events. From there, I proceeded to reverse-engineer my plan for breaking the shot put and discus world records. Situations and time frames being what they were, those plans never came to fruition. Nevertheless, from these humble beginnings came my modus operandi for every record that I’ve ever broken: start with the best that has ever been recorded, and then close the gap between where I am and where someone else has been, step by step. And I close that gap aggressively. I have not broken every record that I’ve set my sights on, but I’ve broken more than a few in various arenas—hammer toss, squats, push press, jerks, curls, deadlifts—and there are many more that will follow.
My favorite thing about my mode of approach is that it shrinks the scale of the goal in relation to where I am. No goal is impossible, although some may seem that way when viewed out of context. Learning exactly what has been done allows me to keep in mind that someone has already done what I want to do, sometime, somehow. That means that it can be done again and that it can be beat. There is no such thing as an unbeatable record. When I decided that I wanted to be certified on a Captains of Crush Gripper, I bought a No. 2.5, a No. 3, a No. 3.5, and a No. 4. I figured that I would play with the 2.5 for awhile and I’d be able to close the 4 in six months or so. But, it turned out that I could not even come close to closing the 2.5. Undaunted, I still crafted my battle plan for the 4. I am now officially certified on a No. 3, and I can close a 3.5 at will—I’m just waiting for the chance to show Randy Strossen. The No. 4 is going to take a couple more months of focused TLC, but I’m definitely closing the gap on closing it.
Louie Simmons has a great philosophy that he shared with me: break a record every workout. It could be one extra rep, one extra pound, one extra second—no matter what, make sure that every workout shows some form of growth. This philosophy has the power to transform every workout into a personal best. Even if you’re not quite hitting your goal every time, at least you’re establishing the next level to keep pounding on. Big records, little records—they all build momentum. They all help you to maintain your focus. They all stoke your confidence by showing you that you’re making real progress. First, set monster goals, and then work backwards to your starting point, the point where you are right now. From your starting point, and at every point of your record-breaking path, ATTACK! When you reach a plateau, look back on how far you’ve come, but only for a minute; then, regroup and attack again! This path has no end, and the beauty of it is that you’re breaking records every step of the way, as you come closer to your name going up on the record board.
So, how do you break a world record?
- Assess the possibility realistically. If you are a shot putter throwing in the low 60’s, have been throwing for a number of years, are at the upper limits of your strength and capacity, and have limited time and resources to devote to training… hang it up. There’s no point in torturing yourself. However, if you have been throwing less than ten years, have a proficient quadrathlon score (assessed for standing long jump, standing triple jump, 30-meter sprint, and back overhead shot put throw), are still making consistent progress, are already a 70-ft. shot putter, have a flat and incline bench press max around 600 lbs, are reasonably injury-free, and have disposable time and resources to dedicate to the pursuit… then you may very well be the one to dethrone King Barnes from the shot put. [He’s been sitting on the throne since 1990—it’s about damn time!]
- Make a specific plan. Set a definite date and look for numbers that will measure your progress. I’m talking quantitative results here. A number! Whether it is a time, a weight, or some other numerical unit of measure, it needs to be quantifiable. The date that you choose needs to be your do-or-die date, be it the day with the highest prize money, the most favorable conditions, the right people in the audience, whatever. Set one date to focus on. Ideally, you will have a date about 4-6 weeks prior to your do-or-die date that you can use as a first attempt, or at the very least a progress check. Use your appropriate training strategy/deload/peak cycle for both attempts. If you are not within a reasonable margin on this first attempt and it is not just a psych-out, then make adjustments as you approach do-or-die. And if you just pooched it, then get your fucking mind right or quit pretending to be a champion.
Look for a whole post on the deload/peak concept later on. For now, just don’t make up numbers like some Internet training asshole. By the time you are at this level, do yourself a favor—collect empirical data on what your unique body is actually capable of and complete a couple of test runs. Compare various rest times and deloads. Based on actual data, what kind of a peak is reasonable for you to expect of yourself? Is it 3%? 5%?? Find out, maximize it, capitalize on it.
Chance is a motherfucker and wants to shit on your success at every turn, so leave as little to chance as possible. Plan according to what works for you, but please plan. A plan will keep your training on point and give you the security on game day that you are on track to perform at the level you are expecting.
- Get in flow. If you’ve never experienced flow, then it’s probably not in your stars to do anything recordable. Sorry. Flow is the rush, the zone, the best feeling in the world, when your higher self is operating at optimal condition and you’re just along for the ride. Your mind commands and your body performs in response, and it happens faster than the speed of thought. At this level, your performance is only limited by your fear and ignorance. You rise above the stagnant thoughts that are polluted by doubt or hesitation. Flow is not just a matter of believing that you can achieve—it’s releasing the entire concept of limitation. It’s an elusive phenomenon, but, when it happens, it usually makes a noise that is remembered for awhile. Read The Rise of Superman and any other books you can find on achieving and optimizing flow. It can be trained and become a critical part of your peaking program.
- Execute and repeat—plain and simple. These tools can all be applied for personal bests at any level. If you’re world record material, then do it. Quit making excuses. There’s no reason that your personal best isn’t the record that stays in the books for a long time.
No matter what your goals in life, they all need to be achievable, believable, specific, and anchored to a definite timeline.
Anyone remember Usain Bolt, the Olympian from Jamaica who smashed a sprint record, even though he pulled up and victory danced the last 8 meters? What could his time have been if he had run all out the whole way? How fast can a human run? How high can one jump? How strong can one be? These questions have all been answered hundreds of times. But every answer has been proven wrong because the answers keep changing. I truly believe that there is no limit to human potential. Someone at some point will break the 7-second mark in the 100-meter. Someone will perform a 14-foot high jump. At some point, the long jump will be equivalent to today’s triple jump numbers. Well over 300 ft. in the hammer is possible. A 90-ft shot put will eventually be a reality. The question isn’t “if” but “when.” All records will fall, to be replaced by new records, and then those records will fall as well, as long as someone keeps pursuing them.
Leave any comment, question, or suggestion here on the blog or email me at email@example.com if you want to continue this discussion or pursue my online coaching. I would love to hear from you.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”—Lao-Tzu