How To Eat An Elephant

If you have never heard of Scott Mendelson, then gather ’round children. He is a man that stirs up controversy wherever he goes, usually because his brain-to-mouth filter is switched to “off”. Say what you will about the man, but there is one special thing about him: his 1,031 pound bench press. To quote Tim Ferris “To put 1,031 pounds in perspective, imagine loading a standard gym barbell with 45 pound plates until no more can fit. That is a measly 885 pounds. Scott has to use 100-pound plates, and the tempered steel literally bends around his hands. He wears a mouth guard so he doesn’t shatter his teeth with jaw tension, and his vision gets pulled horizontally when he pauses at his chest”.

Now you can cry out things like “he wears a bench shirt!” or “he is on steroids!,” but without a bench shirt, he can still bench 731. I would be happy with a 731lb deadlift. Scott is an unusual individual, but there is something to learn from people like him. He didn’t walk into a gym and load up a barbell with half a ton on it. No, he had to learn how to eat the elephant: one bite at a time.

I think that the internet is great for a lot of things, my website being one of those great things. Another one of its advantages is also one of its drawbacks: videos of beasts moving obscene amounts of weight or possessing unbelievable conditioning. It can serve as a motivator, but I feel that too often it serves to take our eyes off the elephant we are gnawing on. It would be nice to make 30 or 40lb jumps on our lifts or knock 2 minutes off a WOD and become like the beasts in the videos. The reality is that the work must be put in, week after week, just to get those incremental 5-10lb or 10 second jumps.

And that’s what makes strength & conditioning so great. Think back to when you started lifting or flailing around on the pullup bar. Which victor tasted sweeter: picking up a barbell for the first time and making 30lb jumps to find your weight? Or, having lifted for a few months, finally adding 5-10lbs to the squat or press that you had stalled on for 3 weeks? I know which victory tasted sweeter to me.

If you have ever studied sin from a theological point of view, you will see that there is a redemption for every problematic. Weightlifting is no different. For every instance of intimidation to be overcome, there has to be a strategic equivalence of bravery in the face of intimidation. This is what separates the do-ers from the wish-ers. You have to be able to grit your teeth, suck it up, and put in the work it takes to rise the top. You can’t look at the goal of a 600lb deadlift and get overwhelmed, you have to break it up in chewable bites and chip away at it each week.

This mentality can be applied to weightifting, your diet, your marriage, or anything in life. So often we get lost looking at the big picture that we let our intimidation get the best of us and we become a deer in the headlights. Don’t lose sight of the work you have to put in, in order for you to reach your goal. Eat your elephant one bite at a time, and when you have finally reached your goal, you will look up and say “Is that it? I’m still hungry”.

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