Are You Hard?

Chinese weightlifter misses a lift. Getty images

 Are you Hard?

It’s popular in fitness media and social media today to talk about HardCore workouts. 

To be hard! What does it mean? Does it mean you have to go all “Beast Mode” in all your workouts? 

More than anything, it is a value statement.

You want or need to be hard?

On the outside or on the inside? Or all over?

If so, is there any room for softness?

This is the fallacy of labeling your workouts as “hard”.

What is hard to one may be but nary a light sweat to another.

What hardens your muscles when you are 20 may have hardened your arteries by the time you are 50. 

Or, you might be so hard from all the heavy and intense training that you can no longer touch your toes, or sit in a chair without your low back seizing up. 

My advice is always to keep in mind the long-term view. It’s great to set short term goals, necessary even for growth and development at various stages. However, goals change and if your program is only in it to win it now, you might feel empty-handed when the game goes into overtime, or worse yet, when the game is over but life goes on. Be strong in your focus and strong in your body,  however balance that hard strength with the softness of flexibility and recuperation, so that you may sustain your strength and fitness over the long-term. 

All movement has some philosophy and kettlebell training certainly embraces this reality.

For example, take the kettlebell Snatch. While performing continuous repetitions of Snatch, you are in the moment, at one phase of the moving grinding while in the next phase effortlessly floating into position. You are not just using the hard-style “grip it and rip it” approach, in which you go with maximal effort throughout until you can’t do another rep.

Rather, you learn to use just the right amount of energy to move the kettlebell up and overhead, while maintaining a level of gracefully control. So that you may sustain this pattern for a longer period of time and not burn out so quickly. As a result, you’ll develop a high degree of conditioning because you will be able to control your breathing and make your energy last for a longer duration of training. 

The key in your movements, any movement is to find the balance between hard, snappy movements and more relaxed, flowing movements. Keep the body too soft, too relaxed and you’ll crumble under the load. Yet maintain too much tension, keeping the body too hard throughout the movement and it will be over before it even begins. So you learn to control your breath and energy rather than wasting it all on just a few reps. This principle of controlled movement, or pacing yourself, can apply to many things. Thus the philosophy contained within the movements. The nature of movement is motion and the nature of motion is change.

Embrace the change.  Avoid adapting a rigid, iron-clad quality to how you move and how you think, unless you believe that things will never change, will always be the same. In reality, we all change, the body changes. We age, we can get injured, we sometimes will feel weak or tired. Over time maybe you won’t be able to recover as quickly, or you will be sore for longer after tough workouts. Time has a way of assuring us all that change is constant.

A kettlebell is hard, iron ore, steel. Yet a skilled kettlebell lifter will operate with the soft hands of a surgeon for rep after precise rep. 

Repetition swings, snatches, and jerk are hard, they are painstakingly hard. Yet you are doing whatever you can to make it easier so you can keep going. 

Tension is power! Mastering the art of relaxing while moving with force provides sustainable power. 

Be careful latching on to labels about how hard your kettlebell workout is. 

Would you want a hard body if it came with a soft mind?

What is going to break first, the hard rock or the soft ocean?

Just as a book ought not be judged (solely) by its cover, the hard kettlebell training has soft elements within it. 

Forge the hard body, while finding the softness of the breath which sustains all your movements. Hard and soft, it is a balance. 

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