Desire to Train: Physicality and Life’s Work

The desire for a perfect compass that always points to true north is shared by many travelers, but often times the path we travel is instead led by contours of rock and soil that make passage not just possible, but enjoyable.

Strength and conditioning, as with seemingly all other aspects of modern life, has advanced technically and analytically with time. There are constant innovations in equipment for both completing exercises and measuring the output of athletes. Strength and conditioning coaches can look at their athlete’s heart rate monitors, test an individual’s maximum oxygen intake, and even measure the speed with which an athlete moves a weight in a given lift. More and more professionals are tracking sleep, dietary choices, and recovery to maximize results.  Individuals who study the science and practice of strength and conditioning are constantly looking for new ways to deliver, measure and assess the best programs for their athletes.

Despite these advances, many grey areas still exist in the world of strength and conditioning. The data is still far from exact. Therefore, many rely on experience in the practice. One such method is “Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).” In this method,  an athlete is given an exercise with a prescribed number of sets and repetitions; they are also given an RPE score on a scale of 1 to 10. For example, if an athlete is told to do a set of squats with an RPE of 8, the athlete should feel like at the end of their set they could have done a couple more repetitions. If the prescription was for a set of 5 repetitions with an RPE of 10, then the athlete should feel like there were no more possible repetitions left when completed. This method allows an athlete to autoregulate their day’s training based on how they feel that day. Some days an athlete feels well rested and is able to hit a heavy weight with an RPE of 6; on days where the athlete feels sluggish, they will use the same weight for an RPE of 8.

A related “soft” measure that strength and conditioning coaches may collect from an athlete is a “Desire to Train” score. At the beginning of each day, an athlete will simply log their desire to be in the weight room or at the track on a scale of 1to 5. This may be a subjective score that is prone to individual variation (some people just like training more than others), but it provides a valuable insight into how hard an athlete should push or lay off. A low desire to train may indicate the end of a long hard training cycle where a period of rest is needed. It may indicate that an athlete has not slept or eaten enough to fuel their training. It could mean that life outside of sport has been stressful and their energy has been spent on mental rather than physical exertion. These are all good things for a strength and conditioning coach to know. Collecting a Desire to Train score can tell a coach and athlete when it is time to back off, rest, or reformulate a training plan. 

While most of us do not have anything riding on our physical performance, I would like to highlight the importance of this lesson to our everyday lives. 

What is your Desire to Complete Life’s Work score when you get up each morning to take on a new day?

Just as physical training takes energy and effort, so does life’s work. There will be days when you feel like you’re ready to attack the world and take on all comers, do it. There may be days where just showing up and going through the motions is what you have in the tank, that’s fine too. But examine the data. What was present when you felt like taking on the world? What were the circumstances that led you to just go through the motions? It may be due to factors such as a good night’s sleep or something out of your control such as a death in the family, those are still factors worth noting. Advanced strength and conditioning programs undulate and vary. There are high days and low days. Life works in the same fashion.

The highs and lows of daily variation aside, there is another important lesson to glean from the Desire to Train metric: burnout and change in focus. If an athlete is consistently reporting a very low Desire to Train, a strength and conditioning coach needs to look at whether the individual has overtrained and a significant rest or deload period is required in order to restore the athlete’s central nervous system. Likewise in life, a consistent period of days where your desire to meet the demands of Life’s Work may mean that it is time for a vacation or a few days off. 

What is more, a consistent low Desire to Train may mean a larger question needs to be asked of an athlete: do you want to keep doing this? Athletic careers don’t last forever and when the spiritual fire is out, why continue on? This is a hard conversation to have. Many athletes identify themselves with their sport and their training. If they stop, who will they be? What will they do? Again, the parallels to Life’s Work are strong. If you wake up consistently not wanting to go to your job, should that be the place you spend the majority of your time? If the idea of continuing on in your current line of work seems daunting, do you want to keep doing this work? 

Not all paths are endless. Sometimes you reach a trail’s end. This requires asking some deep questions. What is it you truly want to do? Who are you really if you are not your job or career? What will wake you up with a desire to commence Life’s Work each day? Your previous data can be a guide. When was the last day you were fired up to do life’s work? What was present? When did you start just going through the motions? What was lost?  

Many athletes continue on in training because it is what they have done, but not always what they continue to want to do. Similarly, many people continue on their paths because it is the one they have been walking. Just as an athlete can take up something else with their physical activity, you can take up a new challenge for your Life’s Work. Either way, you should have a high “Desire to Train” score to do the work.

A Mindset of Service with Justin Wright

My guest for this episode is Justin Wright: performance coach and athlete. Justin and I talk about his journey from dedicated high school wrestler to CrossFit Games team athlete. In addition, we talk about the dark period of Justin’s life where his athletic career took a precipitous fall do to his own mindstate and mental approach. As a result, Justin invested in his own mental game and now seeks to spread that knowledge with others on a mission of service.




Shownotes available at

Mark Devine

Unbeatable Mind

Unbeatable Mind Academy

Leader’s Eat Last

Pumping Iron (available on Netflix)

Love Them

I currently work as the Head Coach and General Manager of a CrossFit gym. It is a great opportunity to lead a community, serve others, and practice one of my life’s passions. To be successful in the fitness industry, you must provide a competent technical service that gives people results. While many point to the gimmicks or fads as evidence to the contrary, such products and services simply don’t last. Results are king. The fitness industry is, however, most certainly a service industry. That means that a results oriented program is key, and it must be accompanied by customer service that makes people feel welcome and cared for. As someone said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

I have heard a number of top level strength and conditioning coaches, Eric Cressey and Mike Boyle to name a couple, who say that they would rather hire a coach who connected with people first, but lacked some technical knowledge; as opposed to exercise science wonk who is unable to connect personally with their clients. The thought being that you can teach up the technical knowledge, but engendering personal connection skills can be a more difficult task. I have even heard the recommendation for aspiring coaches and trainers to take an improv or stand up comedy class in order to learn how to lighten up the client’s moods in what is often an uncomfortable environment.

My gym has about one hundred fifty members. I know every member by name. I try to know what they do for work, a bit about their family life, where they grew up, and maybe some of their interests outside of the gym. Though the guidance of “Not everyone is going to like you” seems to be prudent life advice, I do make it my task to try and get every one of those members to like me. Not in a need for personal validation, but out of business necessity in a relationship driven service industry. If the members don’t like the head coach, it’s unlikely they’re going to like the gym enough to keep paying their monthly membership dues.

It is easy with people you like.  No problem, these people are like your friends and the fact that you get paid to help them in the gym feels like scam. But then, of course, there are some people who you just don’t like from the jump. They rub you the wrong way for whatever reason a person can rub you the wrong way. I’m not even going to put it on them. If “not everyone you meet is going to like you,” is a statistical truth, so is “you’re not going to like everyone you meet.” What then do you do with the people you don’t like?

You love them.

“You don’t have to like someone to love them.” I’ve seen this sentiment put a few different ways and attributed to a few different sources, but I first heard it from a man speaking at the podium of an twelve step recovery meeting. Twelve step fellowships are an amalgam of disparate people who otherwise would not be associating with one another. It is only a life or death scenario that has brought them together to find some common ground. As you can imagine, some extreme personalities can inhabit those halls and clashes can ensue. Despite this fact, twelve step meetings and groups function fairly harmoniously. There is a common bond and a genuine love for anyone going through the same struggle that will generally override conflicts of personality or the fact that you just simply wouldn’t hang out with this person in any other circumstance. I think of it often like an ornery family member: you may have an uncle, aunt, grandparent, or sibling who really is kind of a jerk or lacks a sense of humor, but you want to have them around at holidays all the same because they’re family and you love them. 

I may not like every member of my gym, but I certainly love them. I don’t like that some of them never listen to instruction, are always late, or act like they know it all already, but I love that they are showing up to better themselves, have decided to embark on a difficult undertaking, and have acknowledged, if only tacitly, that they can’t do it alone. Is it hard to love people based solely on abstract principles? At times, yes. However, I’ve also found that when you get to know someone’s family life, work struggles, and where they find joy outside of the daily scrum of life, you can’t help but appreciate them for being a person who is forging their own path as best they can in life. Maybe I don’t like the way they go about everything in life, but I can love that they are doing the best they can with the life they have to live.

Please note: everything in the last two sentences applies outside of the gym or any industry.  

Living Your Passion with Jessa Lemoine

My guest this week is Jessa Lemoine. Jessa is an athlete, coach and teacher. Each of these identities has shaped her. After growing up as a competitive gymnast, Jessa’s world was turned upside down when she was forced to abruptly stop gymnastics due to injury. Jessa went on to compete in track and field at the University of Georgia and then transitioned to life as a competitive CrossFit athlete, competing in the CrossFit Games as an individual and as a member of a team. After leaving her competitive life behind, Jessa focused on coaching and helping others to better themselves. Now, Jessa is continuing her journey as a Physical Education teacher in the Boston Public Schools system. We talk about each of these transitions and living through passion. Available on iTunes and Stitcher. More show notes available at 

Listen here:





University of Georgia Track and Field

Crossfit Games

GRID League

The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo, Ph D