Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World


“Great set. Now add 5 pounds.”

by Phil Ringman | August 22, 2023

rusty and phil

 The dictionary definition of “reward” is: “A thing given in recognition of one's service, effort, or achievement.”

I retired 2 years ago after 38 years as a financial advisor with a national financial firm. The reward system there, as in most employer-employee relationships, was pretty simple: if you did well, you got stuff. Mainly you got a bigger paycheck.

But rewards sometimes took other forms, including gift cards, a couple of trips, 40-yard line tickets to a Dallas Cowboys game, watching the Texas Rangers from the corporate box, which included unlimited food, and a few other goodies over the years. (Even though most awards were counted as taxable income and included on my W-2s, it was still nice to be recognized for achieving a goal.)

Most of the world seems to work this way – achieve something and be rewarded in some fashion by your boss, manager, company, etc., for achieving that something. Except when strength training with a coach, where the “reward” is essentially the opposite of what most people consider a reward. The reward from my coach, and presumably any strength coach worth his salt, is, in essence, “Great set. Now add 5 pounds.”

I started lifting 10 years ago at age 59 after 45+ years of running, hanging up my running shoes for good about 5 years later due to issues with my foot. I followed the Starting Strength program on my own for several years at Wichita Falls Athletic Club, but finally figured out that I needed help with form and programming. So a couple years ago I hired WFAC coach Rusty Holcomb, and have since hit new PRs on all my lifts.

I fully attribute the PRs to Rusty, to which he will say, “But you lifted the weight.” True, I lifted the weight. But I wouldn't have been able to lift the weight without the improvement in form and changes in programming that have come under Rusty's guidance.

I thought Rusty had seen the light recently when he told me to add 2 1/2 pounds to a lift when I fully expected him to tell me to add 5 pounds. I assumed for a moment that was my “reward” – adding only 2 1/2 instead of 5. I was wrong. I finished that set and he told me to add 2 1/2 more pounds for the next set.

Obviously the point of strength training is to get stronger, which means adding more weight to the bar. That's why I hired a coach. And yes, getting stronger and setting PRs is a reward in itself. But sometimes, instead of adding 5 pounds and doing it again, I'd rather just have a doughnut. But after I eat my doughnut, I'm going to continue to show up and continue to do hard things.

And get a coach if you can. Even though the “reward” from the coach for a PR or a well-done set is going to be some variation of “Great, now work harder.”   


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