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Productive Variety: Why I Tear Cards

This is a guest post by Joh Hanagarne. Josh Hanagarne is the World’s Strongest Librarian and a newly minted RKC. If you are interested in kettlebells, coping with Tourette’s Syndrome, buying pants when you’re very tall, guitars, strength, or you need an example of a truly unfocused blog, he’s your man. Please go say hi.

Productive Variety: Why I Tear Cards

We’ve all heard that in order to achieve your training goals, you have to stay focused. You think in terms of years rather than days, weeks, or even training cycles. The dedication is there, the will is there…often the obsession is there, and yet—it is still fun to try other things. It can be tempting to jump around to different tools and different programs.

The problem with that is that too much of this “fun” variety approach is that it will never get you anywhere.

I’m not saying I don’t get bored. I do. I have very specific goals and I still get bored and want to do all the fun things I tell myself everyone else is working on.

How can I get some variety and not lose sight of the goal?

At a Dan John workshop recently, he said one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever heard. It was also one of the simplest things I’ve ever heard, as is common among profound truths.

Dan said that the only goal that matters to your progress is this:

    The goal is to keep the goal the goal

In other words, don’t get distracted. Don’t do things that don’t help you achieve your goals.

This is the key to adding variety to your training and avoiding boredom: when you’re choosing your variety work, just make sure that it complements your larger goals.

Why I Tear Cards

If you’ve ever torn a deck of cards in half (or tried to), you probably remember the first time efforts you made. Pretty damn discouraging, but fun at the same time. I could not believe the workout I got from wrestling that first stupid deck through the course of an entire day at work.

When I was done, my hands were fried and freaked out, my pecs hurt from squeezing, my glutes were worn out from clinching and squeezing…you get the picture.

It worked my entire body and it was fun. I didn’t feel bad and think, “Oh, I could have used that energy for my kettlebell training.” I didn’t feel that way because to be honest, I had been hitting the kettlebells so hard that I needed something new. My goals had been in jeopardy because I was getting bored, even though my results had been fantastic and I was right where I said I wanted to be, progress-wise.

By adding tearing to the mix, my kettlebell training got right back on track and my progress was better than ever. Why? It gave me something to look forward to during some tedious (but always productive!) kettlebell work.

And when you try some tearing, it’s hard to ignore the carryover to your other skills. Tearing helps me link the chain of my body, and link it to my mind as well. A lot of little things have to go right in order to tear well. It takes focus and concentration and strength—as one improves, so do the others.

It’s fun

Most importantly to me: it’s fun. Tearing cards makes you stronger and it’s fun—every single time. I love to deadlift, but I don’t enjoy it every time. I love the 10 minute kettlebell snatch test, but it is the opposite of fun.

Tearing is a fun feat and it’s easy to measure your progress. You can either do it or you can’t. You can add a card or you can’t.

It fills in a lot of the gaps and keeps me on track with everything else I’m trying to accomplish.

Did I mention that it’s fun?

Josh Hanagarne is the World’s Strongest Librarian and a newly minted RKC. If you are interested in kettlebells, coping with Tourette’s Syndrome, buying pants when you’re very tall, guitars, strength, or you need an example of a truly unfocused blog, he’s your man. Please go say hi.

Learn Exactly How to Tear Cards with Your Bare Hands:


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