Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Maybe You Are a Special Snowflake

by John F Musser, SSC | September 21, 2017

special snowflake

You made the decision to be strong. Perhaps your original goal was weight loss, or some vague idea of needing exercise, maybe you simply wanted to look and feel better.  Eventually, those goals led you to understand you were weak, and you needed to be strong.

There are multiple paths to one realizing the depth of their weakness. Perhaps you discovered your four-year-old had gotten too big for you to lift over your back yard fence, or maybe you noticed it was taking several more trips from the car to the house for the same amount of groceries. Your adult children noticed how wobbly you were and suggested a walker instead of your cane. Maybe you went to pick up your girlfriend, in the pool, and both of you realized you couldn’t.

So you decided to “get into shape,” that particularly ill-defined goal of so many. You joined a gym, of course, and took advantage of the discounted functional movement screening (FMS), got measured and weighed and calibrated, and if you were really lucky, somebody swabbed some spit out of your mouth and told you what supplements you needed. Also, your hip was out, so some sessions with the in-house chiropractor were certainly warranted.

The three, free-with-sign-up to the Executive Package (EXECPAK™) Personal Training sessions went pretty well. The personal trainer (a different person than the sales manager who convinced you the EXECPAK™ was the way to go) and the nutrition advisor (who positively knew you needed more magnesium) – different than the smoothie maker (your favorite) – seemed pretty competent.  She had a shirt with “Trainer” written on it, she had a clipboard, and she didn’t fiddle with her phone too much while you warmed up on the elliptical.

She set the pins on the machines for you, adjusted the height of the seat, and wrote it all down on the clipboard. After the free sessions, you had a pretty good handle on how to sit on the machines and make them go, so you didn’t sign up for the extended personal sessions. That’s ok, because as a member of the EXECPAK™ you had access to all the group classes, and you sort of enjoyed them until some fat chick stepped on your foot during a particular intense dance routine with two pound weights in both hands, and you limped around for a few days. “Working out too hard” you would say when anyone asked.

Eventually you noticed that even though there were some initial changes in your body, you stopped making any progress, and everything pretty much stayed the same whether you went to the gym or not. The sales rep heard you mention this to the smoothie person and said, “You might be ready for our Full Service Functional Training Package (FSFTP™).  So you, accompanied by the same perfectly pleasant trainer, went into a section previously denied to you, even with your EXECPAK™ membership. This room was for people serious about their training, because apparently when you first joined the gym and reached in your pocket, they could tell you weren’t serious.

So now there was yelling and hitting stuff with a sledge hammer and swinging kettlebells (barefoot of course) and a lot of core work on a big ball and more yelling and running around in circles. You noticed some differences right away. Your right knee hurt almost all the time now, your shoulder sounded sort of crunchy, and your lower back certainly did burn from all the core work. In addition to the burn, you had some nerve-type pain shooting down your leg, so obviously you had to spend more time foam rolling.

Finally, you realized that all you got was sore. And it made it very easy for you to let soccer games and fixing dinner for the kids and going to birthday parties and working late interfere with your gym time. The money was still automatically taken out of your checking account, and the Finance Manager (first time you met this guy) was happy to direct any questions to the loan company now managing your account.

So far so good – you are just like everyone else. But then something went a little sideways. You probably remember the event. Perhaps you saw someone doing squats during one of your infrequent trips to the gym and very helpfully advised them to not go so deep or lean over so much. Or maybe you noticed that some girl who used to be really fat was now not fat at all and deadlifting serious weight, and you told her to make sure she didn’t hurt her back. Or you were at a wedding and somebody’s wife explained she had been strength training and you suddenly realized that not only did she look great, she may be the strongest person there and she seemed to be disgusted by the middle-aged men in skinny jeans. Maybe you met a young lady recovering from a horrific ankle injury and a guy recovering from a fall from a roof, and they told you how they came back to be better and stronger. Or perhaps it was as simple as a former runner looking at you like you were an idiot when you asked her if she was concerned about being too strong.

One of these people very patiently explained to you what they were doing. They told you about Starting Strength, they explained how adaptation works, and they went into some detail about how simple the process was. Now, once again, something went a bit sideways. You didn’t just nod your head and say, “Well, with my back that would never work for me,” or “I don’t want to get big and bulky.”

This time, you did something different – you listened.

You went to the website, you bought the book, and you searched the forums. You read the book and you learned how to Squat, Press, Bench and Deadlift, and you sort of learned how to Power Clean. You did the program. Every damn training day you added a little weight to the bar, and not too long ago you thought doing an unweighted squat was hard, and now you are squatting a couple hundred pounds and that’s pretty hard too, and that’s just fine.

And where so many others quit or half-assed the program you continued to do the work.  If you were weak and skinny you got bigger and stronger. If you were fat and weak, you got stronger and lost inches and weight. Yeah, I’ve heard it too – you’re not supposed to be able to lose weight and get stronger at the same time. Well, guess what? As a good friend of mine recently said, “Of course you can lose weight and get stronger at the same time, if your balls are big enough.”

And, no matter what your “gender,” you have discovered that you indeed have a giant set of balls. You get back under that fucking bar three times a week. You get your shit together and you focus hard and you squat the weight. 

Now you resent weak people, and you blame most of their problems on being weak. When someone cuts you off in traffic, now it’s because they are weak and behind the wheel of a car is the only place they can try to exert some type of control over their personal little hell. When someone at work whines about something, you know why, it’s because they are weak.

You have completed the novice progression and you know more about strength training than the vast majority of anybody in any gym that’s not a Starting Strength Gym. You know more about strength and conditioning than high school coaches, Division I, and pro ball coaches. You know more about the importance of strength and how to get strong than the guys training the cops.

So, a snowflake is delicate. You are definitely no longer delicate, so you aren’t a snowflake. However, because you made so many tough choices and did so many difficult things and took so much personal responsibility in realizing your goals, you are special. 

The Starting Strength method works for everyone, every time – we know this. However, you did it. You finished the novice progression, you put weight on the bar every single work out, and you got stronger and better despite all the lies you have heard your whole life and all the obstacles the world put in your way. You are unique, you are an anomaly.

If you haven’t done these things, and you are still weak, you don’t have to be.  Perhaps your balls are bigger than you think. Try them out.

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