Ever heard of Milo of Croton? He is a very interesting character who lived in 6th Century BC Greece.

Milo was a six-time Olympic champion. He won the boys’ wrestling title and progressed to win five men’s wrestling titles between 536 and 520 BCE. He also won seven crowns at the Pythian Gamesat Delphi, ten at the Isthmian Games, and nine at the Nemean Games. Milo was a five-time Periodonikēs, a title bestowed on the winner of all four festivals in the same cycle. In short Milo was a bad motherf**ker.

If you think his training and competition was legit you should hear about his nutrition – it is said his daily diet consisted of 9kg of meat, 9kg of bread, and 10 litres of wine. Wonder if he tracked all of that?

He was also particularly fond (legend has it) of eating raw bull’s meat and drinking bull’s blood in front of his adversaries. He is said to have once carried a Bull on his shoulders before roasting and eating it in one serving.

This part of the story is what I want to focus on, how did a man manage to carry a full grown bull on his shoulders?

Well legend has it he carried the calf every day from when he was a child to adulthood. As the Bull gradually grew bigger, Milo too grew bigger and stronger.

Now whether this story is 100% true or not – it is often used to illustrate perhaps the most important idea in lifting weights – PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD.

‘Progressive Overload is a method of strength training that advocates for the gradual increase of the stress placed upon the musculoskeletal and nervous system. The principle of progressive overload suggests that the continual increase in the total workload during training sessions will stimulate muscle growth and strength gain. This improvement in overall performance will, in turn, allow the athlete to keep increasing the intensity of his/hers training sessions.’

This ideal is central to making improvements in the gym, each session trying to make very small, incremental improvements on previous performance. This could be the addition of more weight, more reps, more sets, more difficult exercises, improved technique and a range of other variables.

This concept is something we should all be focusing on with our training, especially in lockdown. Even if we can’t add weight due to equipment shortages, we should constantly be looking for ways to progress our exercise. But I would like to go a little further…

Try applying the concept of ‘progressive overload’ to other elements of your life.

Lockdown can seem quite crushing at times, and the appeal of binge watching Netflix and doing nothing is strong. However making small steps to big goals can be incredibly liberating and can really help make your days feel more productive.

Want a tidier house? Start by making your bed in the morning, or washing up straight after dinner.

Want to get the kids doing some more schoolwork? Start with 10 min’s per day, and then add another 10 later and so on.

Want to learn something new? Dedicate 20 mins per day to start with, and then bring it to 25 mins.

Want to get to 10,000 steps per day? Start by trying to get 10,000 steps twice per week.

By embracing the idea of ‘progressive overload’ we can start making small changes and gradually adding to good habits to really start building momentum to very positive shifts and big goals. 

Remember nobody walked into the gym and lifted 501kg on day 1! However consistency, dedication and progressive overload worked its magic.

So whether you want to improve your performance, start getting active, or just make some steps towards learning something new, we can all learn from Milo’s example. (although I’d probably leave out eating the raw meat and blood)

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