Willpower Doesn’t Work.

Trying to make a big physical change is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get to hitting your first pull-up or to drop ten pounds…the work is much more than you’d like it to be. I don’t want to tell you not to try, but chances are you’re going to be just as successful as you were last time. If you’re like most people, that’s bad news.

Each year, millions of people worldwide declare their desire to make a change as we move into January. They make an attempt at the change, but they make it backward, dooming themselves to failure. What do I mean by backward? I mean they try to change their physical makeup without changing their mindset or behaviors.

James Clear has a great description of how we set it up backward in his ebook Change Your Habits. He shows that most of the goals we set are appearance or performance based goals, which are fine, as long as you change your identity first. Check out the graphic below.

Excellence is a result of habit. Think of Ted Williams as a kid trying to get anyone and everyone in his neighborhood to pitch baseballs to him. Think of Ted Williams hitting so many balls he broke his bat, and then continuing to practice with rolled-up newspapers late into each summer night. By the time he was old enough to play professional baseball, he’d hit more balls than any veteran in the league.

We see the result, and we think that getting motivated is the key, that if we put in a few weeks of “Rocky-like” workouts we’ll somehow be able to shortcut our way to magical results. Look at it this way: think of how many people you know and understand that each one of them has something they’d like to improve about their body. Now, think of how many of the hundreds of people you know are successful in doing so. Depressing isn’t it? It’s because they chase the result instead of the process.

Last month was the big chance to win the Powerball jackpot of $1.3 billion. I knew many people who bought tickets hoping that they’d be the lucky winner, even though they were 30 times more likely to be elected president of the U.S. than to win the money. The result is sexy, the process is not.

So what is the process? Start with how you view yourself. Most of us have a voice inside our heads that rationalizes bad behavior and tells us that we are somehow different enough from everyone else that we get to play by different rules…that “x” is harder for us than for other people, and therefore we get a break and it’s OK that we don’t succeed.

“It’s harder for me to work out because I have kids.”

“I have an injury, so I have to take it easy.”

“I don’t have the same kind of willpower that you do.”

If you can’t break free of the view that you’re a snacker, or a beer drinker, or a smoker, or someone who doesn’t exercise, you’re going to have a hard time doing those things. On the flip side, once you decide you are one of those things, the process becomes easy.

Willpower doesn’t work. Motivation doesn’t work. Changing the little things does.

Handicapping the 2016 Elemental Winter Bouldering Competiton

Wyoming Bouldering SeriesIndoor bouldering competitions have been a staple of Wyoming winters for more than fifteen years. The mostly informal Wyoming Bouldering Series takes place each winter and features at least one competition in several different towns. The Lander competition is the smallest venue in the state, but frequently sees the most intense competition.

For many years in the past, the men’s comp ended up being a head-to-head fight between local legend and all-around talent BJ Tilden and Casper’s plastic climbing-only specialist, Colby Frontiero. In the past couple of years, though, the tides have changed. The aging Tilden has been dogged by injury and a hectic work schedule and hasn’t been competing well. Frontiero has moved away from climbing to pursue making a living and developing his aerobic fitness.

Needless to say, the torch looks like it’s been passed. Young, strong Chris Marley is poised to be one of the best boulderers in the country. Zack Rudy is a solid high performer. Young Kian Stewart improves his bouldering by 1-2 grades per month. Add to that the growing talent pool that stands behind the grill at the Lander Bar, and we’ve got a wide-open field.

Image result for bj tildenBJ Tilden 3:2 Last year, I wouldn’t have even given him 20:1. This year, though, he’s returned with a vengeance and has had the good sense to avoid skiing this winter. He’s fresh off a send of Necessary Evil (14c) and has racked up hard boulder problems all January.


Zack Rudy 2:1 He’s been quietly amassing power all year, training in the early hours of the morning and late at night. For more than six months last year, he faked an injury to take the spotlight off his training. Watch out.



Chris Marley 1:1 One thing is for sure, Chris is getting stronger. He’s the odds-on favorite, assuming he doesn’t have to work.



Colby Frontiero 4:1 It’s been a tough year, but Colby is still hanging with it. He recently flashed Exodus (12d) in the Killer Cave, which is not indicative of his power…but did he build the endurance the smart way or did he do too much ARC training this year? If the comp featured big moves and compression problems, I’d put him in the top three. Unfortunately, the comp is all about scrunchy, crimpy, low traverses.

Danny Baker 75:1 Where has he gone? Once a promising young climber, now just another victim of a capitalist economy. But seriously…where has he gone?



Tony Stark 2:1 His day has come. Top three, and maybe better than that. The only thing that will affect his kicking ass is his work schedule.





Vance White 15:1 Another climber who I wouldn’t have put in the top twenty last year, this man is on a huge comeback. Bouldering isn’t his strong suit, but he has won these things in the past.



Tom Rangitsch 12:1 He’s 45 or something, but climbing better each year. A two-month secret Spanish training camp might work in his favor.




Justin Loyka 12:1 He’s strong as hell, but he lacks the killer instinct of the hard boulderer. A couple more years, and he’ll be top five.




Caleb Romsa 3:1 The WBS series leader, Caleb has performed well in each comp and is capable of winning. Other climbers will have to work very hard, and Caleb have an off competition, to unseat him this year.



Ben Sears 15:1 Can establishing dozens of new routes get you trained up for a bouldering comp?




Jesse Brown 1.25 million:1 Where have you gone Jesse Brown?




Brian Fabel 45:1 Too many lunch meetings? Too focused on winning the Advanced division? If he takes the brakes off, he’s going places.



David Lloyd 5:1 David keeps moving up the rankings, consistently climbing well. This might be his best competition yet.




Ace Ashurst 3:1 He’s been getting better every comp. It’s only a matter of time before he wins one of these things.


Taylor Herron 10:1 The young strongman is still developing his power, but the time is coming. All he has to do is remember to completely fill out his scorecard…




On the women’s side, things are harder to predict. The competition has been inconsistent the past couple of years, but there are some really exciting new faces to watch out for.

Ashley Lloyd 3:2 Come on…Who’s going to beat her?




Sierra Lloyd 1:1 …except maybe her?



Emmy Voigt 3:1 She’s got what it takes to win, and she’s been doing it for 15 years. The big question: will she make the drive to Lander?


Ana Junker 8:1 Route climbing has its advantages and disadvantages. Just how well has she trained power this winter?




Mandy Fabel 10:1 Let’s see that old college try one more time, Mandy.




Don’t Cheat

“What we practice in here becomes a habit, and if my habit is to always do less, that’s how I’m going to behave in the field.” – Mark Twight

Your days are filled with choices. Each day, you get to decide how you’re going to eat, if you’re going to train, and what you’re going to do when you train. Each meal, each workout, and each rep also presents you with a choice: you can go through the motions, or you can be present for each and every moment. The difference between success and failure comes at the point when things get hard. When the weight is no longer comfortable, what do you do? When your cravings lead you away from your diet plan, what choice do you make? How often do you do something you’re not proud of?

One of the great gifts of my life is to constantly be surrounded by people making progress. How does a sixty-some year-old woman hit lifetime deadlift personal records? Choice. How does a life-long overweight man see his abs for the first time since puberty? Choice.

The gym is a magical place – it can act as a foundation for everything else you do in your day. For the time you’re training, you can have a pure experience of success: you come in, execute your session as planned, focus on doing everything right, and walk out the door with a win. By winning here, you can keep the momentum going. You trained right, so you eat right. You make the right choice when the 8pm hunger comes on. You sleep as much as you’d planned. And sooner than you think, the thing you wanted starts to become reality.

But what happens if you cheat? Studies show that the vast majority of exercisers over-report how much they train and under-report how much they eat. Other studies show that those people don’t make progress near as often as they think they should. How do you make sure you execute with perfect discipline? Is there a method for going big before you go home? First things first:

1. Have a plan. You should have a detailed plan for reaching whatever goal it is you’re pursuing. Don’t have time to plan? Skip your next workout and get a calendar out. You should be looking 4-8 weeks down the road at all times. Your plan should include goals, such as “lose 1 pound by November 6” or “climb 20 or more problems each climbing day this month.” Your workouts should be detailed enough that you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for copping out. Oh, and put your favorite exercises at the end.

2. Don’t get too “motivated.” Start with simple rules and goals. Starting a fad diet or vowing to train every day require too much change for most people. If you kill it the first month, turn up the heat a little next month. Remember that your chances of successfully completing goals and inversely proportional to the number of goals you set.

3. Don’t you even think of cheating. If you set your goals right, completing them will be hard, but not impossible. Do every workout you planned. Do every rep. Follow the food list. When bed time comes, you should be proud of your efforts, not vowing to start again tomorrow.

Today is the easiest it’s ever going to be.