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Go Beyond the Workout Plateau…BURN THE SHIPS

With workouts, and life, we reach a certain level of achievement and that is where we remain at times, in the “comfort zone”, if you will. Leaping higher to a new level of performance requires a certain mindset. By that I mean you have to make a commitment to yourself. Make a decision and then execute. If you want to execute, you first have to make the absolute commitment. And what about focus? You cannot break out unless you have a laser focus on what it is you have made the absolute commitment to. This requires you to have a mindset out of the old adage, BURN THE SHIPS!

So, by now you are probably wondering what this has to do with your workout. The answer is EVERYTHING. Breaking out from a workout plateau is at least 95% psychological. It takes the development of a 100% commitment MINDSET. 

The other 5% comes from what you have in your fitness tool box. Infrared cross-training is one tool that can help to inspire higher levels of motivation and commitment to training with variety of workout types to keep things interesting and to cross-strengthen muscle groups in support of whatever athletic endeavor you might have as a base such as hiking, skiing, surfing, etc. 

Recently, I was invited to participate in a podcast episode with the guys from Signal Fire Media in Wilmington, NC. Big thanks to our franchise owners, Danny Richani and Craig Cadogan, and their GM, Anthony Sciscento, for setting up the interview. When I got to the Signal Fire studio I immediately noticed the “Burn the Ships” flag hanging up as seen in the photo with podcast hosts Rob Rens next to me and Matt Mylott next to him. They are great guys who are two of our nations finest Marine Corp veterans. I would call it a very motivating and plateau busting podcast show, for sure! Check it out when you can. “Every day, we set out to demolish the villain of self-doubt” is stated on the homepage of their website, which I encourage you to visit at (1)

BURN THE SHIPS comes from the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez. When Cortez landed on the shores of the Yucatan to conquer Mexico from the Aztecs for the glory of Spain, he encountered resistance from his men at first. Faced with trepidation from his troops, he began uttering the words, “Burn the Ships” repeatedly. Legend has it that he uttered these words, “If we are going home, we are going home in their ships”. When they burned the ships their level of commitment to the mission was elevated to the extreme, and the rest can be read in the history books.

Most people don't want to do the work! It is NOT the workout by itself that is going to get you over the hump. The workout is merely the activity, but to perform the activity better you have to want to, and that is an activity of the brain, not the biceps. 

It's the MINDSET! 

Cross-training can help to strengthen your muscles but you can cross-train until you are blue in the face and you can do a different workout every day of your life until you are dead but if you don't make the commitment to break the current pattern mentally, then you will never get to the next level.  And, that is what a plateau is, a failure to go higher. It takes a higher level of commitment. 

When I was in high school and in college I was always in better shape than the rest of the team after about a month into fall practice. This was because I made a commitment to run my sprints all out, as fast as I could possibly run on every sprint. Because I approached it in that way, pretty soon I was in shape, barely winded and standing after a sprint while half of the team was bent over panting at the end of each sprint. The next level is a MINDSET, period. Sometimes I get fired up about a topic and I tell it like it is because I have been there myself. 

You want to climb a mountain? Go freaking do it. You will never do it though if you have a mindset of mediocrity! It takes an all in, Burn the Ships mentality to break a plateau. Plateau breaking is a mental game, Folks!!

Burn the ships that are holding you back from achievement of your fitness goals! Feed your mind daily with positive motivational content. Stop looking back and focus on what you are doing today to blow past the plateau and create the future level of fitness that you want.

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Stephen P. Smith, MA
CEO and Creator of HOTWORX, Author, Former National Collegiate Bodybuilding Champion and Arena Football Player, Certified Professional Trainer


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