Nick Mitchell: 'Are you a lifter or a librarian?'
There are two types of people in this world - lifters and librarians
George Butler, the man who directed the seminal movie on bodybuilding “Pumping Iron”, put it best when describing a prime Schwarzenegger in his natural habitat of the gym.
He said that there was a “joy and fierceness” to Arnold that could never be reproduced in other settings or be forced out no matter how many acting lessons or reinventions the future Governator went through.
That’s a story that has lived with me for many years.
It epitomises what weight training should be all about. There should be fire and brimstone tempered with a sense of fun and fulfilment. It’s this feeling that has given me my lifelong love of the gym and helped to create the UP business that soon will span four different continents (more news on that to come soon!).
My own background is very serious, very masculine, “hardcore” gyms and when I opened the first UP gym in 2009 I wanted to recreate the joy and fierceness of that setting in a more cerebral and inclusive environment.
A key component to the early success of that first City of London gym was that it turned around the stale, boring and unexciting atmosphere of the Personal Training studio and injected life and passion onto the gym floor.
I can vividly recall clients who had come over to the gym with a trainer who had previously been working at Virgin Active telling him “Nick pushes his clients so hard, I would be scared to train with him”.
If I had taken the standard fitness industry response to that and prioritised chasing the dollars as my number one focus, it would have made me tone down the way that I always pushed every client out of their comfort zone (please remember that a comfort zone, as well as being a warm and fuzzy place where nothing ever grows, is also very specific to the individual – it’s never about a one-size-fits-all beasting session).
Instead, it made me push harder and crystalized my belief that my way was the right way.
I would see all these people sign up with us as new clients and very often they’d been paying trainers, sometimes for years, with barely any results to show for it. On the other hand, my clients and those of the trainers I was bringing up within UP, were achieving more in 12 weeks with us than most achieved in 12 months or more working with so-called regular trainers.
It’s nowhere near as simple as just “training hard”, but as well as the physiological adaptations caused by pushing yourself to a place that you’ve never been (which can be as prosaic as one more rep or one more kilo on the bar) there is something visceral about a tough workout that sets your mind up for making all the lifestyle and diet changes needed to achieve the UP watchword of “maximum results in minimum time”.
All of which brings me to the subject of today’s message.
On my travels I see so many well-meaning trainees (and professional personal trainers) who have never had the grounding in Arnold’s “joy and fierceness”.
They are paralysed by their own good intentions, lost in the complexities and endless permutations of sets, reps, torque and force production.
By all means plan out your workouts as meticulously and intelligently as possible, but once you're on the gym floor never forget that you're a lifter and not a librarian.
Workouts are living, dynamic things that need life breathing into them - you make your best progress and have the most fun when you attack your sessions with a burning, yet controlled, rage.
If you feel stifled by the gym that you’re in, you know what you’ve got to do.