Mandarin Chinese when spoken has four different tones. That means the same word can have four different meanings based on how it’s pronounced. In order to not come off as a total idiot it’s crucial that you develop a sensitivity for the nuance.

We Americans are not so sophisticated. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation. There are times when the blunt directness of English, especially the American version, is quite effective. Personally, I prefer it.

Having grown up in a house where verbal abuse was veiled in polite language I find it particularly refreshing to know exactly where I stand and not have to unravel the sugary strands of decorum in order to find the stinging insult beneath. If that makes me simple, so be it.

That being said, I find nuance, the understanding of subtle shifts, the differentiation between similar shades, to be very important. In fact it’s a vital part of my work and one I find we Americans are not always up to.

Yesterday I republished on Facebook an awesome blog post about fitness memes, also referred to as ‘fitspirations.’ These are apparently well intentioned photographs of what we are to assume are ideal bodies in dramatic or athletic poses coupled with some sort of inspirational “You can do it!” type phrase. You can, and should, read that post here.

What’s interesting is the variety of comments that followed this post. The vast majority were highly positive, especially amongst women, who I think are most negatively affected by these types of memes. Guys are too, but more in a exploiting your baser nature kind of way. Then came the “I really like this but you said fuck and I can’t repost it. Please don’t say fuck anymore, okay?” type comments. What really surprised me though was the number of “Hey, I puke when I work out, that’s the only way you’ll get better” posts. Which is what I want to address today.

We seem to be a nation of extremes. Either don’t train at all or train ‘til you puke. By the way, neither one works all that well, especially in the long term.

And herein lies the benefit of nuance.

“Hey coach! What weight should I use?”

“I want you to go heavy.”

“So 50? 75? 500?”

To get good at training you have to do it for a while and for a while I mean years. As I’ve said before I’m actually quite late to this game. I started working as a personal trainer about eight years ago. I started lifting heavy five years ago. Yeah, you read that right.

Unfortunately, amongst many of my peers in the industry those five years makes me an advanced lifter, maybe even something of an expert. I don’t see it as such, but that’s the nature of what we do right now.

For the record, “heavy” means “difficult but not impossible for the prescribed number of reps.” You have to define that further for yourself based on how you feel right now in this present moment within your training session. See? Nuance.

As a nation we’re becoming more and more obsessed with “hard” or “extreme” or even “insane” workouts. We’ve lost all touch with “effective.”

And I can see why. Effective requires nuance, personal discretion and personal responsibility. Nobody gives you a fist bump saying, “Dude, that was one effective workout.” No, we say “Omygod! That was fucking awful! I thought I was going to die!…When’s the next WOD?”

See, I think you should work hard. I think you pursue intensity. I think you should lift heavy.

I also think you should train like an adult. The only way you can extend your limits is if you understand them. Pushing yourself past your limits on a regular basis is a recipe for injury. Don’t believe me? Just wait. You will.


Don’t mistake my words for telling you to take it easy. Too little is just as bad as not enough. You guys read Goldilocks, right? Ninety percent of the time you want “Just right” and it’s up to you to decide for yourself what that is. If you’re new to training it’s not going to be the same as what’s right for someone who’s trained for thirty years. Ten percent of the time, take it all out. Go ahead, knock your socks off and then recover. Allow yourself to heal, because that’s what’s required after going all out. And then get back to “just right.”

Nuance. You’re a grown up, you can handle that.

To our perfect imperfection,


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