Power of Patience

Power of Patience

By Ross Enamait

Merriam Webster defines patient as steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. An athlete who is patient will see a challenge through from start to finish, despite the struggles encountered on his journey. Patience is more than a virtue, it is a powerful weapon. 

hourglassFamous novelist Leo Tolstoy (perhaps best known for War and Peace) summarized the importance of patience with the following: 

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” 

And while his words were not directed towards exercise, you’ll have a hard time finding better advice. Without patience and time, don’t expect to accomplish anything. Even a hard working athlete who is impatient will struggle with long term goals. Hard work during each single session isn’t enough if these sessions do not accumulate into something significant. I’ve seen plenty of hard working athletes who are hindered by impatience. They work hard each day, but are never patient enough to see out a long term goal. Their lack of patience negates both hard work and intelligent program design. Even the most sophisticated training program will do little if the athlete isn’t patient enough to progress through one step at a time. 

Have you ever gone apple picking? Think of yourself picking fresh fruit from a large tree. You see the fruit, you pick it, and you eat it. You never see the seed that started the tree. You only see the end result. 

If you plant an apple seed today, don’t expect to eat fresh apples next week. You must be patient if you wish to produce worthwhile results. This simple concept also applies to the world of fitness and sport. Don’t expect to accomplish anything significant in a few days or weeks. Be prepared for a long road filled with potholes, detours, and dead ends. 

Many great athletes are falsely assumed to be naturally gifted. You see the end result and cannot fathom how the athlete progressed to such an amazing level. What many fail to realize however is that the athlete may be nothing more than patient and diligent. 

Unfortunately, patience doesn’t sell well, so it’s rare that you’ll hear it mentioned. Much of the fitness industry focuses solely on revenue. If the truth doesn’t sell, the truth isn’t mentioned. People want quick fixes in today’s world of instant gratification. Quick sells well. Slow and steady does not. The fitness industry knows what the consumer wants (fast results), and is more than willing to satisfy this request. If something takes time to accomplish, you can bet that it won’t be pimped out on a late night infomercial. People want results yesterday, not tomorrow. 

I can understand the obsession with instant gratification. If we can do something faster, why not do it? In theory, the idea has merit, but in reality it simply isn’t true. Technology can be automated, but the human body cannot. Positive change requires time. 

Impatience is perhaps the number one reason why athletes fall short of their potential. The athlete sets a goal, works on it for a few weeks, doesn’t see the progress that he was hoping for, so drops the idea and moves on to another. This cycle continues over and over again. After several months of bouncing around, the athlete is no better off than when he started. He’s done nothing but jump from challenge to challenge without any results. 

Another common scenario comes from the athlete who tackles several new goals at once. He too may be diligent, but he isn’t patient enough to apply a slow and steady strategy. He wants everything now and isn’t interesting in waiting. If you’ve spent any time on a fitness message board, I’m sure you’ve seen a newbie come along with a list of goals such as: 

“I want to do a one-arm chin-up, dunk a basketball, deadlift three times my bodyweight, run a mile in 5 minutes, walk on my hands, and do 100 consecutive pushups.” 

The athlete then sets out to create a single training plan that will allow him to accomplish each of these goals. After several months, the results are always the same. Nothing. He will have gotten nowhere fast, with little if any progress on any of the defined goals. 

Perhaps the best advice for someone who has walked in these shoes comes from Samuel Smiles: 

“The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.” 

I cannot overemphasize the importance of this simple statement. If you wish to tackle several challenging goals, start working on one at a time. If you set out to do everything at once, you’ll accomplish nothing. Instead, start working on one primary goal. It can serve as a supplement to your primary training plan. 

For example, suppose you set out to perform a standing rollout with an abdominal wheel. Begin working with the required progressions as an addition to your regular core (or strength) routine. Working towards this goal is a simple addition. There is no need to change your entire plan to accommodate a single goal. With a consistent effort, you will eventually conquer the exercise. Mark the goal from your list and prepare for a new challenge. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish with this slow and steady approach to training.


S2 Tip

If you plant an apple seed today, don’t expect to eat fresh apples next week. You must be patient if you wish to produce worthwhile results.


Success Story

Congratulations to Becky Hammon on being the first full time assistant coach in the NBA! In a league that is dominated by men, being a trailblazer was never part of Becky’s master plan. The Spurs and Greg Popovich thought differently however, and saw Becky as the perfect fit. She draws respect from not only the Spurs organization, but also from the players themselves. The Spurs saw this in Becky, and soon enough, so will the rest of the world.


In Another’s Words

Sometimes things aren’t clear right away. That’s where you need to be patient and persevere and see where things lead.

– Mary Pierce (Former Pro Tennis Player)