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It’s been a while since I’ve posted an article from Darren at CFNZ, and that’s a crime because his content is so good! I had to get this post up on our blog because it’s a great piece that echoes much of the ethos at the CFJ facilities and it deals with what coaches and affiliate owners around the world work with.

That Second Marshmallow

By Darren Ellis, CFNZ


I’ve talked before about an experiment that took place in the sixties involving willpower, where a scientist used his four year old son and his classmates as subjects.

Each subject was seated in a room with a desk and a marshmallow.  The researcher’s instructions to the child were “I’m going to leave the room for ten minutes.  You’re free to eat the marshmallow.  But if when I come back into the room and the marshmallow is still here, I will give you a second marshmallow.”

Only about 15% of the children were able to resist eating the marshmallow.

Years later, the scientist asked his son how his classmates were doing.  Turns out the children who had been able to resist eating the marshmallow were doing better in both in school and in life – better grades, better colleges and higher paying jobs.

A lot of functional fitness gyms use the randomness of their programming, and the ‘exer-tainment’ style of their workouts ( extremely high volume and/or load, overly competitive environments, loud music, plenty of cheerleading but not much actual coaching) as a way to allow their members to eat that first marshmallow.

And eat another.

And another.

Always trying to make it taste as good as the first….

But what we’ve observed, after 10 years in this business, is that ultimately, despite the gym’s best efforts,  members start hating the taste of marshmallows, no matter how delicious you try to make them… they’re done.

The endorphins they had from long and tough workouts, the masochistic pain of muscle soreness for days after, of ripped hands, of box jump scrapes and rope burn on the legs that are so often thought of as a good thing – these first marshmallow kind of things, is replaced.  Now we feel unsatisfied, unfulfilled and still sore!

But what of the real signs of acheivement?  Overhead mobility, gymnastic ability, functional strength.  How are they coming along after the initial surge in progress?

If we want to stick with training for the rest of our lives – and hopefully you’ve thought about that, you DO want to, you HAVE to, if you’re going to live a satisfying life – then eventually we will need to shift our focus from pain, discomfort, difficulty, intensity, and volume, to mobility, efficiency, sustainability and virtuosity; or you’ll eventually start to fall out of love it.

This MIGHT take years for some people, but it will happen.

Now don’t get me wrong, some discomfort and even pain are unavoidable symptoms of training, but better, more consistent results come from smart programming and adequate recovery.  Training ‘hard’ with no thought to recovery and movement quality, is the quickest way to injury, stagnation, and wasting inordinate amounts of time and money.  If we replace hard with short, intense and quality.  If we replace aching muscles with mobile joints then injury can be replaced with success, stagnation with excitement, money and time wasting with fun new activities and exploration of fitness in life.

Unfortunately, it’s in our human nature to somehow like these hard ones ones the most!!!   It’s crazy, but the most effective programs for getting people the best results in the safest way possible, tend to be less ‘fun’……

Social media doesn’t help much either (but when has it?), filling our feeds with top athletes pushing themselves to breaking point, posting images and video of the most insane physical feats.  It was a breath of fresh air to see Games champ Mat Fraser recently post a day of training that, while reflecting an athlete who had the luxury of an entire day to devote to training, showcased mindful practice, sensible volume and a focus on the basics.

One of our challenges as a gym that is  here to change lives, and leave a mark on the world, is how to find the sweet spot between enjoyable and effective.  We program workouts that are going to keep people around for the long haul so they can reap the benefits the rest of their lives.

That means, some days, it will be like that first marshmallow you aren’t allowed to eat.   We’re asking you to occasionally swap the ‘cool’ snatches and butterfly pullups and insanely long Hero workouts, for movements and workouts that promote mobility, balance, health.  We’re asking you to sacrifice a day or two of ‘exer-tainment’ for a lifetime of health and fitness.

As a business, do you think we’d prefer to bring in 200 members to the gym, get them hooked on hard workouts, push them hard, promote the competitive aspect and give shout outs and respect to those who can suffer the most……

….then, after 2 years, have a bunch of burned out people leave while we try to find another couple hundred?

Makes no sense right?

From both a biz perspective AND the job satisfaction for our staff, it makes far more sense to keep the people around who are coachable, want to learn, and are focused on long term, sustainable progress. It’s a win win situation for everyone.

We promise to let you have ‘marshmallows’ sometimes.

But also know that we’re not going to give you ‘diabetes’, despite how much some of you ask for it…… it’s not in your best interests….. or ours.

Original article: That Second Marshmallow

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