Training Smart Vs. Hard

Finding and Cultivating Your Inner Drive

“If it’s not raining, we’re not training!”

“Pain is weakness leaving the body!!”

“The more you bleed in training, the less you bleed in war!?”

“There is no such thing as overtraining, just under-recovery”

Why do we say these things? You have to admit, they all sound uniquely stupid! Yet, I admit, they do have an intended effect. They were quoted (by who knows originally) with the goal of motivating a tired, lazy, or less motivated person to do something. Probably something hard. Why so? That is exactly what I will explore in this article.

So why do we need motivation in the first place? Because we are designed to expend as little energy as possible, except in a couple of cases. The first is in search of food and water, and the latter is likely in search of someone to procreate with. Those are basic human biological functions that drive us at a very basic level. Those things allow us to survive and thrive as a species.

What we are NOT driven to do is one hundred burpees. Or a twenty-mile run that is not in search of food. Or an extended training session in cold temperatures. None of those endeavors are instinctive, as much as you hardcore brutes and brunettes want to think they are. Extra energy expenditure is simply not part of the human survival instinct. Have you doubt about what I write? Watch a few episodes of ALONE on History (and Hulu) to get a glimpse at what humans focus on when they have to survive with basically nothing. They do NOT run around and pick up heavy rocks for no reason. The fact is, we are designed to conserve energy…or in other words, be “lazy.”

So once again back to my question…why do we need these motivation statements or motivational influencers on the internet? We don’t! We already have all of the inner drive we need to reach our goals. We simply have to find it, listen to it, and cultivate it. This article will help you do that.

FIND IT. You are the only one that can truly find your inner drive, and focus it on a specific goal or set of goals. You are the only one that can search for, define, and act on it. There is something that is driving you from the inside. Find it. And define it. I can tell you that this has to come from the inside, but it has to come from you. I can tell you this for an absolute fact, you will never reach down deep if someone else is defining your target. You will not drive yourself the same. My experience is that I will push much harder when I decide to do something versus someone else telling me to.

LISTEN TO IT. Be honest with yourself. If you aren’t saying “I can wait to do XX” tomorrow, then you probably don’t really want to do XX. So why are you doing it then? I can tell you this, if you have not really listened to your inner self, in the long run, you will not make it. Does reading this scare you? Maybe because you are doing something you really don’t have an inner drive to do? Good! Stop wasting your life. Find your inner drive. Seriously folks. You only live once!

CULTIVATE IT. Now to the fun part. You have defined your drive. Your passion. That exciting goal! Now we get to cultivate it. This is a big process, and here is where we discuss smart training vs. hard training. First, you need to set goals, click here to see my system. Then we begin. Let’s address those awesome motivational statements again…and maybe how to intelligently use them.


“If it’s not raining, we’re not training!” Unless we are practicing our skill in the weather to test our gear, abilities, and strategies then this is simply stupid. If it were true, then all NBA teams would add shower systems to their stadiums and turn the water on during practice. We will have better skill development sessions when we can focus on the skill versus our discomfort. But we can use weather and environment for a specific purpose. Let’s use environmental factors intelligently. Some ideas:

  • Practice your Jiu-Jitsu or combatives skills on the grass or even pavement (intelligently….).
  • Cycle an inclement weather day into your practice and instead of avoiding the rain. Note how it affects your gear, body, and technique.
  • Perform your high-intensity workout in the heat and humidity or cold instead of a climate-controlled gym. Note the effects on your heart rate, breathing, and recovery times.

“Pain is weakness leaving the body!!” I good buddy of mine used to say, “Are you hurt, or are you injured?” “If you are injured, let us know…but if you are hurting then suck it up and push on!” A high level of pain is an indicator that something is wrong. Listen to your body. As a man in my late forties, I have two total hip replacements and the first two knuckles on my hands creak when I close them. This was a direct result of throwing low kicks with maximum power on a heavy bag, and punching a rope wrapped post to condition my knuckles when I was young, ignoring the pain. My knuckles used to be nearly the size of golf balls. I could have trained MUCH smarter. If you like your body, use it intelligently. There are prices to pay in conditioning but make sure you know them and accept the long term.

“The more you bleed in training, the less you bleed in war!?” I do NOT want to bleed in training! If I am, I probably need to get a clue and change it up. But I realize this is more of a “suck it up” statement than literal truth. This one is a bit tricky since there are absolutely times we need to suck it up and drive through. But then, there are times when this is simply stupid. Some intelligent thoughts on this:

  • Blood and blisters are bad in most cases. Slide on your handgun tearing your hands up? Get some moleskin or have a gunsmith remove the edge that is cutting you. If you are focused on the pain, versus the technique you are working on, that is stupid.
  • Like your joints? TAP OUT! Listen, grapplers, taking damage to your elbow joints, shoulders, knees (critical), or ankles because you got caught in a bad position is stupid. Unless you want permanent damage to your elbow capsules or shoulder surgery, tap out and live to fight another day. While there are intelligent ways to slowly learn how far you can take a joint lock, that is NOT during a high-speed grappling match.
  • You can not condition your brain amigos. Strikers, I get it, you like to get punched. Well, no, actually I do not get that. But I know you are warriors and you like a battle! But be cautious. Your brain getting knocked upside your skull does NOT toughen your brain up. You might be doing irreversible damage to that head by taking too many knocks to it. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence on this in current NFL players suffering brain damage. Once again, be intelligent. I know we all need to know how it feels to get punched. And to defend a punch. But use your head here (no pun intended) and limit those hard impacts to your skull.

“There is no such thing as overtraining, just under-recovery” This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Think about it for a second. If the ONLY thing that mattered was RECOVERY, then we could infinitely train for hours on end and still recover assuming our recovery methods were highly successful. So in that case, let’s start doing 100 sets of 5 reps on heavy bench 5 days a week! The point is, there is NO RECOVERY METHOD KNOWN TO US that would facilitate that much muscular tissue damage. Overtraining is real and is NOT a failure to recover (although under-recovery is real also).

Symptoms of these first stages of overtraining include:

  • Increased vulnerability to back, knee, ankle, and foot injuries.
  • Abnormal hormonal output. Including changes to menstrual cycle in women.
  • Reduced sexual desire.
  • Mental stress, depression, and anxiety.

The point is that there are very intelligent ways to monitor our bodies during hard training and recovery bouts. I would love to say that you can listen to how you feel, but we currently have much more advanced ways to monitor recovery states, including HRV (heart rate variability) and the new Morpheus system designed by a leading MMA/fitness coach. Note: I have a Morpheus, but have not tested it thoroughly.

At a minimum, track your resting heart rate at waking time each day and look for increases (or decreases). An old school bodybuilder trainer used to have me track this and watch for an increased heart rate over time indicating potential overstress. Additionally, consider tracking the following in your workout logs (rate on a scale from 1-10 1 being bad, 10 being good):

  • Morning resting heart rate (take this the same time and place daily)
  • Emotional state (10 would be feeling great!)
  • Soreness (10 would be very sore)
  • Recovery (10 would mean you feel like crushing a work out)

If you have that data, you can look at trends over time and patterns that might show you that you are overtraining, or that maybe you can push even harder.

Lastly, in terms of your recovery, make sure you are tracking your actual numbers as well as performance. If you are trying to get stronger, you should be. If you are not…then DUH! Think about it. If you are trying to improve something, then you should be measurable improving. If not, you need to address your A. stimulus, and/or B. recovery.

In closing, I want to make a point incredibly clear. I am not advocating taking it easy in this article. Instead, I am trying to guide you to A. find your real passion, and then B. pursue it aggressively and intelligently. I respect and appreciate the internet motivators out there, but we all need to realize the ultimate driver of our result is us. There is way too much information at our fingertips to allow ourselves to be injured, or stagnant due to overtraining or under-recovery. You are not training to “Just Do It” instead you are training to “improve and accomplish.”

Until Then – Train Hard!

Mike S.


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