40 Days of Life
I recently finished Dan John’s 40 day workout. The workout was said to be an easy, easy way to build strength. Dan said the program was so simple, you wouldn’t be able to trust that it would work. At the time, it sounded like a fun challenge and a fresh change of pace, so I decided to give it a try. Basically, the premise of the workout is that you pick 4 to 5 exercises that you want to focus on and you do them; roughly everyday for 40 days. Oh, and you only use 40 to 80% of your one rep max and you keep your reps at, or below 10 for each exercise! Yes, I know. It already sounds way too easy to work. Guess what? It worked. I got stronger; a lot stronger, with almost zero effort. The program is simply amazing. Not only did I grow stronger, I grew wiser as well. Let me explain, I gained wisdom because I learned several life lessons while following this fantastic, 40 day program.
I know it seems crazy. I’m talking about learning life changing lessons from a simple strength training program. But its true. For example, I leaned about having integrity. Everyday, I had my doubts about this program. But, everyday, I showed up and I did what I was supposed to do. Why? Because I made a commitment to do so. It would have been easy to say, “this is crazy, I’m going to do something else.” But I didn’t. I wanted to finish what I started. I wanted to do what I said I would do. If I can not commit to a simple 40 day workout and stick to the commitments that I make to myself, how can I expect to have integrity with anyone else? This idea, this integrity, has spilled over into my personal life and I am now more aware of my commitments. I want to be the guy who does what he says he will. I want to be the guy that his wife and kids can depend on. I want to have integrity.
I also learned about humility. I knew too much for Dan’s 40 day program to work. I’ve been training for almost 22 years. There is NO WAY dead lifting 135 lbs for 10 reps is going to help me dead lift 350 lbs. 40% of my max? Really? Yes, really. I was wrong. Lifting 40% of your max can increase your max. So, I learned a little something about humility. I don’t have all the answers, maybe I don’t have any. Maybe I should keep an open mind and realize that there are lots of people out there that have a world of possibilities to offer. Maybe I shouldn’t make opinions about ideas or concepts until I at least try them. Maybe I should think less of myself and more of others. Maybe I should strive to have humility.
A huge lesson that stood out to me from Dan John’s program is the lesson of faith. Faith is the hope for things uncertain and unseen. Believing I could get stronger even when I was unsure in the method, was an act of faith. Dan said the program would work. He said I would struggle with the idea that the program would work. But Dan said, so I did. That is faith. I know having faith in something so small as a strength training program seems trivial. But how could I have faith in something huge, like Love or God, if I can’t even have faith in something simple like a strength training program. Faith, like strength, needs to be exercised too. Faith in little things can yield faith in larger things. A man walks a mile one step at a time, all the while believing each step will take him closer to where he wants to go even when he can’t see past the horizon. We could all use a little faith. Without it, we are just staring at the horizon.
I learned some other lessons too. Perhaps not as “out there” as integrity, humility, and faith, but diamonds none the less. For instance, training to win. One of the cool things about Dan’s 40 day workout is that you are training to win. In other words, you are not training to failure. By keeping the workouts easy and always making your lifts, you are teaching your body how to win, how to succeed. So when you do lift heavy, you make your lift. I think that is an awesome lesson that should be carried much farther than simply strength training. I know we can’t always avoid failure, but we can always strive for success. We can always choose to be our best. I have to believe if I always give my best, then those around me will get my best. That is training to win and nothing bad can come from that.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons I learned following Dan’s program is this: If it is important, do it everyday. Dan John credits this saying to Dan Gable, but Dan John is the man who brought it to my attention. And I have to say, it is simply brilliant. In Dan’s 40 day workout, you are supposed to focus on 5 things you really want to improve upon; 5 important things, and you do them everyday. Then, like magic, they improve! There is a huge lesson here that goes far beyond the weight room. If it is important, do it everyday. Tell your wife you love her everyday. Hug your kids everyday. Say your prayers everyday. You get the point. I think this is so brilliant. With this one concept, a person could change the world. If it is important, do it everyday....
There it is, life lessons from Dan John’s 40 day workout. To sum it all up, you pick four to five important things like Integrity, Humility, Faith, and giving your best, and then you consistently work at them every single day. Oh wait, I think I’ve got that confused. That must be Dan’s 40 day life changing program. Come to think of it, after 40 days and 40 nights, the rains stopped and the world was forever changed...
Thank you, Dan!