Since December, I’ve been working through Pat Davidson’s 16-week “MASS” program. The workouts change significantly every four weeks, and I’ve been writing monthly recaps of my experience. Now, I have 12 weeks — a total of 48 workouts — behind me and one month to the finish. And, I’m at a loss for what to say.
The short version:
“It’s still hard. I still like it. I haven’t missed a workout. I don’t have any intention of stopping.”
Kind of the worst “review,” right? There’s nothing particularly exciting or sexy to say right now. Which, to some extent, is the point of this write-up. I’m still doing the program — and doing something consistently. Putting your head down to do the work and then coming back the next day to do the work again for weeks, months, or years on end just isn’t all that interesting. But, it’s also how we get better — whatever our individual definitions of “better” might be.
Yes, sometimes the workouts this past month were fun; the weights felt light and my body felt loose. Other days the same weight felt infinitely heavier and I felt weaker than when I started. Some days I couldn’t wait to load up the barbell; others, I simply didn’t want to do it . . . and did it anyway. I know that energies, moods, and enthusiasm ebb and flow, so I trusted the program and the process. I kept showing up. I kept doing the work.
At the end of both Blocks 1 and 2, I felt a little bit high — happy and energized and worn out and eager to spread the “MASS” gospel. I was also a little sad at the end of each of the first two blocks. I never felt quite ready to trade out the old workouts for new ones and daydreamed about getting to cycle back to the beginning and start again.
Block 3 felt distinctly different. This phase, which Davidson describes in the e-book as a volume block focused on strength and hypertrophy, felt much more like a “work” phase. Do the work, live your life, and repeat. The program was far from boring, but there was a drudgery to this block that I hadn’t yet experienced in the program. On the last day, I felt ready to move on.
“You gotta eat crap,” Davidson writes. “Lots and lots of crap. Nobody has ever gotten strong staring at barbells. Pick em up. . . . That’s all that really matters.”
In his signature style, Davidson points out a critical lesson that anyone who has followed any longer-term program — be it to get as strong as possible or to prepare for your first 5K — has learned: You have to put in the work.
It’ll be great some days and you show up. It’ll suck sometimes and you still show up. You don’t show up because you “have to.” You show up because that’s what you do. Showing up is nonnegotiable. The physical rewards will come and they’ll be nice. But showing up and doing the work is The Thing we’re here for right now.
Fitness is, in many ways, a luxury. I try hard not to take these opportunities to play with and test my body for granted. In this light, consistently showing up for myself and putting in the work of the program — “eating crap,” as Davidson so succinctly puts it — becomes a repeated act of appreciation and self-respect. These rewards of inner strength carry me as far as, or even further than, the outer strength I’m developing.