This article was first published on 14 March 2004
Ben Callcott once said â€œAmbition can be found at the source of all progress.â€ Youâ€™ve never heard of him, I realise that, but if you have ever skipped a workout, take a moment to analyse that statement. If you lift weight, you are striving for progress and you need to be clear about your ambition. What is it that you are working on here? No ambition is less worthy than any other and knowing exactly what you want from your training is the only way that you will get it.
For anyone that hasnâ€™t yet guessed, Iâ€™m Ben Callcott and this is the story of how I discovered the importance of an obscure goal that had been driving me for years.
Every second afternoon about 5:30 or so, I stop whatever Iâ€™m doing and make my way to the gym. Not so unusual, I admit, except for the fact that the nearest commercial gym is roughly 400 kilometres away in Townsville. My gym is in a shed on the cattle station where I live.
No, I didnâ€™t just wake up one morning and decide to set about improving my physique in the bush. I had trained for 11 years while living and working in Townsville. The original purpose of moving to town was to forge myself a career in finance, which did happen, but I stumbled on a passion in the process. I joined a gym on arrival and quickly learned that bodybuilders, in general, enjoy sharing their knowledge. I asked many questions of relative strangers and was never disappointed. With their assistance and a lot of hard work, I managed to maintain steady progress and had just cracked the 100 kilogram barrier when an injury to a family member prompted me to move back into the bush permanently at the beginning of 2002.
I spent a full year trying to maintain my hard won size but still lost about 15 kilograms of it. It was almost impossible to find the will to train after a day of mustering or feeding droughted stock. I had never realised just how integral my goals had been to my motivation. My ambition had been to win natural bodybuilding titles and I had trained single-mindedly for over seven years on the strength of that one aim. My last competition had been in 1994 and having come home without a trophy I resolved to add the necessary size and return. At the end of 2001, I had gained about 20 kilograms of muscle and was almost ready. All hope of a competitive future appeared to evaporate when I moved back into the bush and my training suffered as a result.
I soon found that I was unable to desert the â€œlife of ironâ€ (thanks Ian) that I had become accustomed to in town. In March 2003 I discovered that an independent natural competition was to be held in Townsville in October and the fire was rekindled. I had about six months to regain some size and prepare to compete. It wasnâ€™t ideal but that thought did not even enter my head. I had been thrown a lifeline and I intended to make the most of it My preparation, though unconventional, went well and I was happy with my condition on the day. There were only two competitors in the medium/tall division and I won but I had already begun to look to the future. Suddenly heavy squats and deadlifts are a joy again. I am lifting back to within a few kilograms of my previous best and the mass is coming back slowly. My ambition is clearer than ever and I intend to compete in Brisbane in 2004.
If there is something from my experience that you can adapt to your own training it is this: Find your ambition and scratch it into your brain so that it appears before your eyes even when they are closed. Do this and progress will never again be a problem.