You Won't Find Athletic Success Without 'The Grind'


If you're reading this article, I'm guessing you're pretty serious about your sports participation. I'm also assuming that, despite being serious about your sport, you do it because it's big-time fun. Improving, the competition, hanging with your friends, travel, achieving your goals, and, yes, even winning, all make sports fun and exciting.

At the same time, no matter how much you love your sport and no matter how much fun it is in general, you have to admit that there are many specific aspects of being an athlete that are definitely not fun, especially the physical conditioning. I'm thinking of those cold early morning runs, those workouts in in the rain or in the blazing heat of summer, those multiple sets of weights and those incredibly intense intervals in the gym.

And you can't underestimate that the physical conditioning you do and the fitness gains you make are essential for success when your season comes. And, let's be realistic, physical training is hard and usually not the favorite part of competitive preparation for athletes (you'd rather be actually performing your sport!). It is almost always physically tiring, sometimes repetitive and boring, and more often than not really painful. In other words, some time during your conditioning, you are likely to arrive at a point when it is no longer fun.

I call this point "the Grind." The Grind is what often separates athletes who achieve their goals from those who don't. The typical reaction to the Grind is to either ease up or give up because it's just too darned hard. But truly motivated athletes realize that the Grind is also the point at which it really starts to count because it those last few reps, laps, or miles where the real physical gains are made. Great athletes reach the Grind and, instead of easing up, they keep on going and, in fact, push harder because they know that maintaining their effort, intensity, and focus during the last parts of workouts might make the difference between success and disappointment in the coming season.

Many sport psychologists will say that you have to love the Grind because if you don't love it, you won't want to do it. But I say that love simply isn't in the cards for almost all athletes because there's not much to love when you are exhausted, hurting, or bored out of your mind. So, you don't have to love the Grind to push through it. How you respond to the Grind actually lies along a continuum. As I just mentioned, loving the Grind is rare. At the other end of the continuum is "I hate the Grind." If you feel this way, you are likely going to lose your motivation and give up, so hate isn't an option either.

I suggest that you neither love nor hate the Grind, just accept it as part of the deal in striving toward your athletic goals. The Grind may not be very enjoyable, but what feels even worse is failing to achieve your goals for the season because you didn't work hard enough. And what really feels good is seeing your hard work pay off with success during the season. In other words, as I wrote in another previous article, you can pay now or pay later.

So, next time you're working out and it is REALLY NOT FUN, recognize the Grind, remind yourself how important it is, and push on through it. This season, when you've had some great performances, you can then thank yourself for hanging tough when it really mattered.