Juma Ikangaa became a sentimental favorite among fans at the Boston marathon after taking second place 3 years in a row, from 1988 to 1990. In spite of this he is better remembered for the quote “the will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”
The will to prepare. It has become almost a cliche. How many time have you heard a football coach say that championships are won in August?
The will to work hard in the off season, to put forth great effort when no one is looking, when competition is still far off. Yes, it is necessary to have this in order to be the best you can be. But is it really as special as we have come to view it? Is is really deserving of praise? Is it really what sets the great athletes, the winners, apart from those who fade in the heat of competition?
I say, NO. I say that it is not special at all, nor is it sufficient to make you the best that you can be.
Gold’s gyms all over the country are full of teenage boys doing forced reps and drop sets and super sets and whatever other painful routine Joe Weider told them to do not to go to the Olympics, not to win Nationals, but simply to get their pecs a bit more “defined” in a misguided attempt to get laid. They may be misguided, but a lot of them are working pretty damn hard, and for relatively little reward.
Have you seen an aerobics room at a commercial gym lately? I defy you to find me one that does not have 20 or 30 women engaged in some form of self torture. Hours spent daily on masochistic machines like elliptical’s and treadmills, and for what? Once again, not for a gold medal, but simply to fit into a pair of jeans a couple of sizes smaller. It may be misguided, but the amount of work and misery invested for small reward or even no reward is mind boggling.
And then there is CrossFit. Most CrossFitters are not going to the CrossFit games or appearing in magazines or getting sponsored by supplement companies. They are normal folks, with normal lives, normal jobs, kids, and mortgages. And yet there they are, in “boxes” all over the country, pushing themselves through workouts that end in complete exhaustion. Puking, or collapsing on the floor, and for what? Simply to be more fit.
So is the “will to prepare” really going to set you apart from the pack if you are a competitive athlete? I don’t think so. Not when hundreds of thousands of people are at Golds gym or a CrossFit box “preparing” and working their butts off even though they are NOT competitive athletes, are NOT trying to win Nationals or go to the Olympics. Even though they will never make a dime for their efforts, or be on the cover of a magazine, even though the world will never know their name let alone congratulate them or recognize their efforts.
What then, sets apart the competitive athlete who is indeed willing to do anything, pay any price, for victory? Well, it is nothing so easy as simply getting to the gym and putting in your time year round, in season and out of season, when people are watching and even when no one is watching. It is nothing so glamorous as the superhuman efforts you put in while training. Anyone can do that, and almost everyone does that.
No, it is none of that. It is something much harder. You have to prepare to prepare.
That is the hard part. That is the thing most are unwilling to do. What is preparing to prepare? A part of it is simple. Turning off the TV or computer at 10pm 7 days a week to get regular sleep. Taking the extra effort to prepare healthy food instead of stopping for fast food. Saying no to your friends who want to go to the bar, or to a party.
Then there are some things which are not so simple. What do you have to do to live where the best coach is, where the best teammates are? Does this require sacrifices in your job, and your lifestyle? What job fits best with your training schedule? It probably won’t be the highest paying one, or the one with the best future prospects. You might not be able to afford the nicest car, or the newest cell phone.
Does that seem a little extreme? Consider this. Somewhere out there is a guy working a crappy part time job, chosen because it does not interfere with training. He is talking on a 4 year old cell phone and driving a 10 year old car because earning the money for newer, more expensive things would require working more hours and that would interfere with his training. He is going to bed at 10pm every night, hasn’t been to a bar in several years and he trained on Christmas day, and on his birthday. He is busy preparing his meals ahead of time instead of watching “Two and a half men” or some other asinine TV program.
He is doing everything he can OUTSIDE the training hall, to allow himself to prepare harder and more thoroughly INSIDE the training hall. And he is going to be very, very hard for you to beat unless you do the same.