Carry Your Cow

Let me tell you about Milo of Croton.

Milo was a Greek legend, primarily due to his incredible feats of strength and Olympic dominance. He lived during the 6th century and was known for being a great warrior, the greatest athlete of his day, and the strongest man in the world. Legend has it that Milo's strength was attributed to one very peculiar thing he would do in his youth.

A calf was born in Milo's village, Milo, not having a modern-day gym to utilize, decided to hoist the calf onto his shoulders and carry it around town to get stronger. Granted, this probably wasn't a terribly difficult task at first, but Milo kept on doing this every day for 4 years. During the course of those four years, two things happened. First, the calf got bigger. I know, an absolutely mind-blowing feat of nature you didn't see coming. But, because the calf continued to grow, and Milo continued to carry it as it grew, Milo's strength began to greatly increase.

By the time the calf was fully grown into a cow/bull (depending on which version you read), Milo was the biggest, strongest, and most athletic human in the known world.

There are many other Milo legend stories that give credit to his unworldly strength, but most everyone attributes his greatest strength gains to the daily carrying of his cow.

This idea of starting with something small, and slowly increasing the resistance/difficulty birthed into exercise science, the concept of progressive overload. In order to get stronger, you need consistency, and you need to increase your overall workload over time.

This is an extremely important concept when it comes to health and fitness because it helps us understand why people plateau, how to increase strength without constantly doing max-level lifts, and a better understanding of how amazing our bodies are at adapting to new stimuli.

It also allows us to see that we don't need to change up our workouts every couple of weeks or do crazy workouts we see on TikTok and Instagram. We just need to progress the basic exercises we've been doing. If you did a goblet squat twice last week, with a 40lb dumbbell, and each time you did 3 sets of 10 reps, that means you had a total volume of 60 reps at 40lbs. So you could do the exact same thing the following week but do it with a 45lb dumbbell, or keep the same weight and do 65 total reps throughout the week. You just need to make sure you're progressing, even if it seems small.

Because, like Milo, that's how strength is built, and results are achieved, with small incremental progressions done consistently. The great thing about this concept is, one, it gives us plenty of options to see progress in our fitness journey, and two, it can be applied to more than just the gym.

One of my favorite things about the gym and working out is that there are so many parallels to life in general. There are several aspects in life in which I am not where I want to be, and it's really easy to beat myself up over it because I'm only looking at where I am, and where I believe I should be.

But that isn't how life works, we have to stop focusing so much on the end goal and focus on the small steps we can take today to move forward. That doesn't mean you shouldn't keep the end goal in mind, but all it does is overwhelm us when we put too much emphasis on it. Instead, try to have a one-step-at-a-time approach.

There's this cheesy Christian movie series I used to watch as a kid all the time with my brother called McGee and Me. In one of the films, the main character Nick is forced to go on a rock climbing trip with two of his closest friends and their dads for a bonding experience. Nick however discovers he has a real fear of heights and when faced with the prospect of scaling "The Giant", a formidable mountain face, decides to quit on his journey and give in to his fear and inability to reach the ultimate goal.

However, his instructor doesn't let him give up and in the montage of Nick learning how to overcome his fear, there's a song played (which will forever live rent-free in my head) called "Step by Step" by James Covell, and I think it gives us some of the best instruction when it comes to achieving, overcoming, and progressing in our lives.

"Step by step, one step at a time

step by step, never looking behind

there's nowhere to go but up and over the hill

just step by step."

(click here to listen)

It may be cheesy, but that doesn't mean it isn't applicable. Whether in your workouts, relationships, work, faith, sport, etc. Focus on progress by taking one step at a time, and consistently moving forward. I preach all the time to my clients, "progress over perfection", and it's what I encourage you to focus on this week.

If you only went to the gym once last week, who cares?! Go twice this week.

Struggling to communicate with your significant other? Send an extra text out of the blue just letting them know you're thinking of them.

Regularly having poor eating habits? Try replacing a couple of weekly meals with a lean protein shake (this one tastes like a chocolate milkshake)

Learning to love yourself but don't know where to start? Write yourself seven affirmations on sticky notes to place on your bathroom mirror and take one with you every morning this week.

Remember, you're human, perfection isn't going to happen, and you will experience setbacks along the way. But if you consistently focus on small steps and progressions, one day you're going to take stock of how far you've come and realize you discovered the strength to carry your cow.

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