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Life Lessons From Beyond Brawn

I have been looking back over some of my old posts. My attitude has changed greatly about some things I wrote as little as a year ago. In other cases it has stayed the same or been reinforced. One of the series I knew I would write from the almost-beginning of the blog was the strength books series.

Yesterday I read my review of Beyond Brawn again. I like it, but not as much as I like the book. Stuart McRoberts wrote a book for hardgainers, bodybuilders, and anyone who has trouble keeping their motivation to get to the gym up, but there are lessons in the book that apply to just about everything.

Whether we are training our bodies or minds, there are some principles from Beyond Brawn that I try to keep in mind in other areas:

1. Treat your goals (and the ability to pursue them) as privileges

Over and over, the author states that lifting is a privilege. Training hard is a privilege. To be able-bodied to the point where you can pursue your goals. That to be young enough to aspire is to be rich. Not everyone can achieve every goal they set, but everyone has a goal they can pursue. And whatever that goal is, the progress it represents is just another word for happiness.

I would say the same about the ability to solve problems, think clearly, and mastery of the emotions.

2. Set reasonable timelines

If anyone wants 30 lbs in a week, they’re not going to get it from building muscle. They may get it from a shipping crate of Twinkies, but that’s about it.

Whatever drives you, whether it is demons, regrets, ambitions, or the love of competition, do not set deadlines that you can’t possibly meet. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big, as long as steps towards the goal are possible and measurable.

When the dream gets too big, it may cease to be a goal and fade out from lack of perceivable, measurable progress.

3. Enjoy all of your strength training, celebrate all of your victories

Every victory is worth celebrating. Every small step forward should be enjoyable. There are people who pride themselves on being able to grimly keep their nose on the grindstone forever in the pursuit of a task. I am not one of them. I do not want to pursue tasks that I cannot enjoy.

There are tasks I do not enjoy that I am obligated to fulfill currently. I do it because it is what I need to do now. But that will change eventually. That is what I do not want to lose sight of. I do the things I do not enjoy as long as I need to, and no longer.

I enjoy all of my physical training. If I stopped enjoying it, I would stop doing it. But if you have been bitten by the fitness bug, you know that once you get going, losing the enjoyment is nearly impossible, unless you push so hard that you are overtrained.

My overall impression of Beyond Brawn remains one of a man who has respect for life and looks forward to challenges. Oh, and the best part? There are very few pictures in the book. It’s all about the info and the experience of reading it, not the photos of the fitness models.

Who has read it?


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Eric | Eden Journal August 10, 2010, 5:47 am

    This is solid advice. I haven’t read it, but that’s mostly because physical activity would go against the video gamer / IT guy physique I’ve developed. Treating your goals as privledges is great advice. I’ve not heard this before, and I really like that idea. That changes the whole attitude of tackling any goal and turns a “have to do” into a “want to do.”

  • Craig Brown August 10, 2010, 9:21 am

    I read this when I first started lifting back in my 30’s. I liked it for the reasons you mention, and because it led me to 20 rep breathing squats.

    You wrote: “If anyone wants 30 lbs in a week, they’re not going to get it from building muscle. They may get it from a shipping crate of Twinkies, but that’s about it.”

    I was listening to a Jim Wendler interview a couple months back where he makes a great joke that he and Dave Tate are working on a book called “24 months to a better body”… and how that is the truth no one wants to hear. McRobert is honest about it, as was Brooks Kubik in Dinosaur Training and of course many others. It’s the hardest part for most people to accept.

    People want to get nit-picky about “time under tension” when what works is “time under the bar” (or with the kettlebell in hand) over the long haul…

    If you keep it the work ‘hard work’, feed yourself appropriately, rest yourself appropriately, you get stronger. It’s how the animal was made to function and adapt.



  • Boris Bachmann August 10, 2010, 2:33 pm

    I’ve read it, but maybe I need to read it again – it’s been a long time, been a long time, been a long… Anywho, you’ve convinced me.

  • Ben Owens August 10, 2010, 8:13 pm

    I love this book. Even though I may no longer train in exactly the way the book advocates, it did break me out of my dumbell kickback and hammer curl fixation. I will be forever in the authors debt for that.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 11, 2010, 9:43 am

      And you are also in my debt, since I turned you on to that book. I accept your donation of $1,000, due tomorrow.

  • Tim Walker August 11, 2010, 10:22 am

    I’ve got Beyond Brawn on my nightstand. I’ve been dipping into it bit by bit, but having read this post, I’m going to pick up the pace.

    As McRobert says in the book, it’s the sort of thing you have to read over and over, anyway, as you incorporate the lessons into your training regime.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 12, 2010, 8:50 am

      Tim, I’m reading it about once a year now. I probably always will.

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