| | Move The Dirt

Author / Cheyne Zeller

5 - 7 minutes read

“Training is like moving big ass pile of dirt. Some days you use a shovel, some days you use a spoon, but as long as you move some dirt everyday you’re headed in the right direction.”

-John Welbourn

“At least, I’m honest.” It would be melodramatic to list that phrase as the bane of my existence, but it would be accurate to say it deserves an honorable mention on a list of pet peeves, featuring such classics as someone chewing loudly or clipping their nails in public. 

The real frustration with that phrase is that it shows a lack of concern, self-awareness, and conviction. 

It is this vocalization that I have heard countless times from clients, training partners and gym-goers, using it to appeal to virtue in the hopes of reinforcing vice. It is the call of cowardice to explain away the lack of effort taken toward a goal. I have been told this line, without fail, to describe failure – the irony is not lost. It is used to excuse behavior outside of the gym to permit the lack of effort within it. It usually concludes an account of behavior that misaligns with that persons’ goals: home workouts not done, poor sleep habits, nutritional laxness, lack of hydration, etc. The offender deems that just showing up for a designated class or training time is the accomplishment itself. 

True, showing up consistently is a driver of results, but it must be done with intent. That  is the difference between training with purpose, practicality and prudency, as opposed to performing the much more prevalent “ran-dumb” exercise program. The frustration for every coach and trainer is that we do not see our clients in a combative manner; it is not them versus us, this is a “we” problem – and “we,” have all been there.

To find the glaring problems with lack of commitment look no further than the typical romantic comedy. Amidst the hijinks and angst of the proposed solutions within the conflicts of the plot points, there will be plenty of clichés and platitudes for behavior rationale. The movie, 500 days of Summer, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt is no exception. In the movie, it’s namesake character, when asked what happened to cause her previous relationships to fail, responds by saying the intentionally quippy line, “What always happens, life.” 

Although obviously penned preceding a high-five and fist bump in a writers’ room, the line does hold true – life is always happening. Yet it is our job as coaches and athletes to account for life and continue our pursuit of training; it is not life’s responsibility for us to set PR’s. 

Yes, the answer is to show up every day but the asterisk is to show up prepared. All too often people set themselves up for failure to alleviate the accountability associated with the failure itself. The temptation to run from the responsibility of working toward an outcome is not to move the dirt, but to bury your head in it. To hope for the best while not steering toward an outcome is to be blindly set adrift – to leave up to chance what could have been left up to you. 

If the job of a mirror is to show the person what is actually there, is it any surprise that the main feature of today’s social media apps are filters? The filtering out of objectivity is what clearly defines the difference between those who achieve their goals and those who merely wish for them. The work that must be done does not care about your lighting or photoshop, and does not hit the “like” button after every session. 

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“It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog.” 

The dirt that must be moved is not just the plates on the barbell, it is also the fight against the low expectations of participation trophies and celebrations for “showing up”. The dirt that must be moved is the refusal to buy-in to the premise that you are victim of circumstance. 

There is a pile of dirt and whether you are armed with a spoon or a shovel, you are still tasked to move it. The effort to move the dirt is weighed and measured, not the amount. Attendance is not enough, we have all been on the bottom of leaderboards before and will be again at some point, but it is the will to do the work regardless – to move the dirt over time, that binds us. There is a job to be done, and the refusal to give up will not go unnoticed. 

The best way to combat the faint-heartedness of others is to lead from the front. To consistently pick up a spoon or shovel is to motivate others to do the same. Find a community held together by a commonality of a headstrong trait. A tribe of those who do not simply acquiesce to obstacles are the people destined to overcome them. A network of coaches, athletes and stakeholders who know that the “honesty” is in the work. Move the dirt. 


PODCAST: PA Radio Episode 475 – John Unpacks Why Actions Speak Louder Than Words

PODCAST: PA Radio Episode 472 – Enhancing Athleticism w/ Virtual Shoveling 

BLOG: The Coach’s Playbook for Building your Network by Tim Cummings

EDU: Power Athlete Methodology

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Cheyne Zeller

Starting his training career assisting in the Biomechanics lab at San Francisco State, Cheyne’s focus on movement, posture, and position have been the foundation of his coaching. His clientele ranges from injury rehabilitation patients to professional athletes, and he has been able to consistently tailor strength and conditioning programs toward specialized needs. As a personal trainer in commercial gyms from California to New York, his hands-on experience gives a unique perspective as to what will and what won’t work in the real world. Since graduating the Block One Coach curriculum in June 2018, Cheyne has utilized the Power Athlete Methodology for developing and fostering athleticism in his clients. Cheyne credits the Block One Coach curriculum for the improvement he has seen in his clients’ body composition, strength, endurance, fitness and overall aesthetics.


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