#1. WHEN YOU’RE A CLEANER . . .
. . . You keep pushing yourself harder when everyone else has had enough.
When you work with highly successful, high-profile people, there’s a saying you live by or you won’t be in that world for long: those who talk don’t know, and those who know don’t talk.
I don’t talk.
My clients have enough exposure in their lives; they have to know that what we do in their private training belongs to them. If I don’t have their complete trust, nothing gets done.
For that reason, little has ever been revealed about how I train my players, what goes on in the gym and everywhere else we work, and how we get the results that make the best even better.
But if you’re willing to take this journey into the world of intense competition and achievement, I’m willing to talk about what I’ve learned from working with the greats for more than two decades, how I work with my athletes and how I’ve come to know what I know, what they’ve taught me and what I teach them.
I want you to be able to take all of this and use it as a framework for yourself to achieve whatever you desire. You don’t have to worry about training like a professional athlete—that’s a full-time job, and anyone who says you can “train like a pro” by reading a book is just trying to sell you a book. The book might be a good start, but let’s be honest: you train like a pro by committing to work at the highest level of intensity, every moment, in everything you do, constantly working on your body, your skills, your preparation, leaving no detail to chance. It’s not something you can do for thirty minutes in the morning, then head to work or school or wherever your other obligations take you.
But you can take an elite athlete’s mentality and use it to succeed at whatever you do. Absolutely everything in this book can be applied equally to athletics or business or school or anything else you do in the world.
Because no matter what you want for yourself, whether your ambitions take you to the gym or the office or anywhere else you want to be, your ultimate power source will come from the neck up, not the neck down.
In sports, we spend so much time on the physical component—training, working, pushing the human body to be faster and stronger and more resilient than most people ever thought possible. And then eventually, we get around to paying some peripheral attention to mental conditioning.
That’s completely backward. Excellence isn’t only about hitting the gym and working up a sweat; that’s the smallest part of what you have to do. Physical ability can only take you so far.
The fact is, you can’t train your body—or excel at anything—before you train your mind. You can’t commit to excellence until your mind is ready to take you there. Teach the mind to train the body.
Physical dominance can make you great. Mental dominance is what ultimately makes you unstoppable.
You will never have a more powerful training tool than this: get your mind strong, so your body can follow. The true measure of an individual is determined by what you can’t measure—the intangibles. Anyone can measure weight, height, physical strength, speed . . . but you can’t measure commitment, persistence, or the instinctive power of the muscle in your chest, your heart. That’s where your true works begins: understanding what you want to achieve and knowing what you’re willing to endure to get it.
I want guys who want to work as hard as I do. I’m going to be relentless in my own pursuit of excellence, and I expect you to do the same. It’s my name on the work we do together, and it’s your name on the jersey. That better mean as much to you as it does to me.
And if you have to ask whether you can handle it, you can’t.
When I train my athletes, it’s a dictatorship with three rules: show up, work hard, and listen. If you can do those three things, I can help you. If you can’t, we have no use for each other. I will bust my ass for you every way possible, but I expect you to do the same for yourself. I’m not going to work harder than you do for your benefit. Show me you want it, and I’ll give it to you.
But we have to do this my way. No disrespect to your team trainer or dad or massage therapist, but if they knew how to handle the details of your situation, or if you knew how to do it yourself, you wouldn’t be here. What we’re going to do together is maybe 20 percent physical, and the rest is mental. You already have the talent; my job is to show you what you can do with all that talent so you can bust out of that cage holding you back. You may not like what I tell you, but if you stay with it, you’ll see the rewards. Without a doubt, I’ve had plenty of players who aren’t worth $2 million getting paid ten times that because they’re in my program, they stick with it, and that means something to the teams. If you’re working with me, they know you’re serious.
If you’re a professional, that means you’re managing your career and we’re going to approach it that way. Your body is a business you have to take care of, or the business goes away, and if you forget that, believe me, I will remind you. I’m not here to draft on your fame or your success. I expect us both to commit to hard work and dedication, and hopefully the result will be a professional relationship we can both be proud of. I see so many trainers who want to be friends with the players, trying to keep them happy for fear they’ll lose a big-name client, going easy when the players say, “Enough.” Believe me when I say this: I don’t need to be your friend. You already have plenty of friends to tell you how great you are. What you and I do together is professional, not personal. If we end up being friends, that’s great, but it’s more important to me that we take care of your career and your future.
Some players like to be involved in planning what our work will entail; others are content to let me handle the details. Kobe wants to be part of figuring out what we have to do together; Michael was the same. Kobe will come to me and say something like, “Listen, when I jump off with my left leg I’m getting a pain in my knee.” So I’ll go back and retrace his steps: When did you start feeling it, what part of the game? Then I’ll go to the video and replay everything he did, looking for something that might have affected that knee. Or was it something we did together working out? And I’ll go through all the exercises to see if we might have aggravated something. I can say to him, “Remember in the Utah game, during this play, when this and that happened . . . ?” And he’ll know what I’m talking about, we’ll review the situation, until I can eventually say to him with some certainty, “I think your knee problem might have started there, and now we need to do this and that to fix it.” Total collaboration.
So I’m happy to listen to your input and ideas, but once you’re working with me, you agree to let me do what I do. No options. Most people have too many options, and they rarely choose the tougher one. Do you want to work out for ninety minutes or thirty minutes? Most people take the thirty minutes. Here, try this, but if it’s too hard, we can make it easier. And they automatically make it easier. So I’m not giving you options. Nothing for you to think about. Let me do all the thinking for both of us. I’m making your life easy by doing all the homework and giving you the answers to the test. Just show up, work hard, and listen. That’s your part of the deal. Do the work.
Do. The. Work. Every day, you have to do something you don’t want to do. Every day. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable, push past the apathy and laziness and fear. Otherwise, the next day you’re going to have two things you don’t want to do, then three and four and five, and pretty soon, you can’t even get back to the first thing. And then all you can do is beat yourself up for the mess you’ve created, and now you’ve got a mental barrier to go along with the physical barriers.
For my guys, I’m the thing they don’t want to do. For you, maybe it’s something at the office or at home or at the gym. Either way, you have to do those things or you can’t improve, you can’t be the best, and you sure as hell can’t call yourself relentless.
Cleaners do the hardest things first, just to show there’s no task too big. They might not be happy about it, they don’t ever love it, but they’re always thinking about the destination, not the bumpy road that takes them there. They do whatever they have to because they know it’s necessary, and you usually don’t have to tell them twice. More likely, while everyone else is slumped over in complete exhaustion, they’ll want to do it all again, and then they’ll say the second time was the best.
Of course, most highly successful people aren’t accustomed to being told what to do. Yes, I know the team staff doesn’t make you do this, that’s the problem; they can’t throw your ass out when you don’t show up or you refuse to do the work. I can. The hot tubs, the cold tubs, the therapies, the late nights . . . once we’re working together, it’s not up to you. Cooperation is mandatory. If you big-time someone on my staff and refuse to get in that cold tub, he’ll tell me so I can tell you, “Get in the fucking tub.” And unless something dramatic has happened to you in the last twenty-four hours that I don’t know about and you can change my mind, you’re going to get in the tub.
Yes, I know it’s uncomfortable. I’m not telling you to love it. I’m telling you to crave the result so intensely that the work is irrelevant. If it makes you feel better, I don’t make things comfortable for myself either. I could take these great athletes, maintain their level of fitness, keep them healthy, and everyone would be content. But the challenge for me is taking someone great and making him even better. Michael, Kobe, Dwyane, my Hall of Famers—Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen—and so many others . . . they come to me because they’re not satisfied staying where they are, they’re committed to enduring the pain and discomfort of improving on near-perfection, and they know I’ll push them until they exceed their goals. If you start with someone average, someone with limited expectations, everything is an improvement. Anyone can do that job. But when you work with someone who’s already the best in his field, the opportunity for improvement is a lot less obvious. I’m looking for every detail, every slight variable, to see what we can work on, anything to get the slightest edge. In the early days, I trained only Michael; later we added some Bulls teammates. Michael used to say, “I don’t pay you to train me, I pay you not to train anyone else.” He didn’t want anyone else to get that edge.
And while that sounds flattering, here’s the truth: no trainer or coach or expert can make you good or great or unstoppable if you’re not going to do the work, if you’re waiting for someone to make it happen for you. It’s on you. And that’s why I’m telling you all of this, not because I want you to know what I do for my guys, but because I want you to know what you have to do for yourself.
Bottom line if you want success of any kind: you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Every time you think you can’t, you have to do it anyway. That last mile, the last set, the last five minutes on the clock. You have to play the last game of the season with the same intensity as you played the first. When your body is screaming and depleted and telling you, “No way, asshole,” you work harder and tell yourself, “Do it. Now.”
You control your body, it does not control you. You shut out the fear and emotion and physical stress and you do the thing you dread. You don’t go through the motions and watch the clock until it’s over. You invest in what you started, pushing yourself again and again beyond where you’ve already been.
This is not a Hollywood movie or a shoe commercial with a thumping sound track and special effects. No drama. No fantasy endings. If you want a feel-good story about a trainer bringing a guy from ruin to riches with a warm, fuzzy ending, go watch a Rocky movie. This is real life. If you pass out in the middle of one of my workouts, I’m not standing over you to coax you back onto your feet with compassion and support. I’m going to make sure you’re breathing, and then I’m leaving you right there. When you finally come around and you’ve cleaned up your puke, come find me and we can get back to work.
We always get back to work.
I’m always thinking up new ways to see how I can push someone, shock the body and rock the mental stamina. If you do what you always do, over and over, you’re always going to get the same result. My goal is to make it so challenging in the gym that everything that happens outside the gym seems easy. The work is about testing yourself and preparing all your options, so when you’re performing, there’s nothing to think about. Do the work before you need it, so you know what you’re capable of doing when everyone else hits that panic button and looks at you. Anything you do with me will be so much harder than you’ll ever experience in a game situation, you won’t have to think about what’s happening. You’ll just know, and your body will follow.
You tell me your limit, and I’ll show you how much more you can do. The question is, what is that limit? When Kobe suffered a broken nose and a concussion in the All-Star Game, he was insistent on playing in the Lakers’ next game. Why? He had to know how his body would respond to the trauma, and what he was capable of doing under those circumstances. Few people know what they’re truly able to accomplish, and even fewer want to find out.
Can I push you beyond your limit and not break you? How far can you go, and are you willing to go there? You have to be with me 100 percent, not thinking about what you’re doing tonight or the bills you have to pay. Complete focus for complete results.
When I get focused with a client, I’m watching everything: facial expressions, heart rate, how he’s sweating, which leg is shaking, everything down to the smallest detail. Then I take all that information, process everything, and decide: Am I willing to push this a little bit further? Because if I do, his progress is going to double in half the time. But he has to be willing to deal with what I’m asking of him.
A lot of my work has involved bringing athletes back from serious injuries and surgeries, and I always tell a player that when I return him to the game, he won’t be the same as he was, he’ll be better. He has to be better. Because if he comes back just as he was when he got hurt, he’s probably going to get hurt again. So I make him do more than he’s ever done and push him harder than he’s ever worked, so he can be stronger and more powerful than he was before.
But that fear component is a powerful obstacle, and often when we first get started, these guys are just scared to move. For the first time in their lives, they can’t rely on their physical abilities or control their own motion, and now they’re afraid of their own bodies. It’s one of the biggest obstacles to recovery; they no longer want to move. And when you’re an athlete who doesn’t want to move, you lose your hunger and focus, especially when there’s a guaranteed contract with your name on it. Remember when you were a kid and an injury might have meant losing your spot on the team, so you fought like hell to come back to action? You’d throw some dirt on it and get back in the game. Not the case at the pro level. But only the individual knows whether he’s ready. I don’t care what an X-ray or MRI says; if he’s not mentally ready, he’s not ready.
So we go back to the fundamentals. We’re going to walk, we’re going to move your shoulder, we’re going to take everything one step at a time. Small moves to rebuild your confidence. The small moves eventually add up to big changes. Every two or three days, we’re going a little farther out on the limb, trying a little more, making progress.
But I’m not going to make it comfortable. Why should I? Comfortable makes you good. We’re going for unstoppable, and there’s a price to pay for that. I’m not going to hurt you, but if you don’t trust me to take you where you have to go, we can’t get this done. I’m never going to put you in a situation you’re not ready for, but I’m going to put you in that situation quicker than most people would. Because if I allow you to get there at your own pace, we’re never going to get there.
People are always asking me about the secrets and tricks I use to get results. Sorry if this disappoints you: There are no secrets. There are no tricks. If anything, it’s the opposite: Whether you’re a pro athlete or a guy running a business or driving a truck or going to school, it’s simple. Ask yourself where you are now, and where you want to be instead. Ask yourself what you’re willing to do to get there. Then make a plan to get there. Act on it.
There are no shortcuts. I don’t want to hear about workouts you can do in five minutes a day, or twenty minutes a week; that’s total bullshit. Those workouts “work” for people who have never moved off the couch, and now they’re moving for five minutes so they’re burning a few calories here and there. Look, if you’re three hundred pounds and you’ve never done anything, and I get you working out twice a week for a month, maybe you’ll drop a dozen pounds. If you usually consume two bags of chips and a liter of soda every night, and then you drop down to only one bag of chips and a can of soda every night, your body might respond to the calorie reduction and drop a little weight. But I wouldn’t call that “fitness,” and I detest the so-called programs that lie to people and offer ridiculous promises based on nonsense. Don’t tell me about a workout that’s “easy” and done in the “comfort of your home.” Any workouts involving the words easy and comfort aren’t workouts. They’re insults. You can work out at home, but if whatever you’re doing makes you feel “comfort,” something is very wrong.
This is your life. How can you not invest in that? I’m not just talking to the athletes here, but to anyone who places value on success. Picture a highly successful guy who has accomplished so much, but he’s a hundred pounds overweight because he’s driven by a food addiction he can’t control, and he’s content being an unhealthy multimillionaire. He’s got all the financial success in the world, people admire and respect him for it, and he has no problem finding so-called friends to help him spend his money. But he’s too fat to have decent sex or do other physical activity, he’s going to drop dead twenty years early, and all his hard work will end up as someone else’s inheritance. How’s that financial success working then?
People refuse to work out or control their diets because it’s not comfortable for them. But how comfortable can it be to drag around all that extra weight and all the physical problems that go along with it? Back pain, joint issues, shortness of breath, diabetes, heart problems . . . I’d estimate 85 percent of all physical discomfort comes from being overweight. Explain to me: If you can choose between being uncomfortable because you’re overweight and sick, or uncomfortable because you’re sweating at the gym three times a week, why do so many people choose the discomfort that leads to complete physical failure?
I get a lot of calls from guys who need to manage their weight. They’ve seen every nutritionist and dietician on earth, and they’re still walking in with bags of fast food. But if you let me do what I have to do, we can get that weight off in a few weeks. We took a hundred pounds off Eddy Curry so he could sign with the Miami Heat in 2012, and we can help you with those thirty pounds you need to lose before training camp.
But you have to be willing to do the work. Last year I got a call from a baseball agent whose client was a pitcher needing to drop forty pounds before spring training. One day before he was supposed to start the program I set up for him, he decided he’d rather take the weight off on his own. I asked him, Are you sure? It’s not that easy to drop forty pounds, especially when you put the weight on over a lot of years due to bad eating and poor workout habits. No, he was sure, that was his decision. Good luck, I told the agent, he’ll be out of the game in eight months.
I was wrong on that one, he was gone in four.
If you come to me to drop weight, you better have your last meal before we get started. I’ve got five weeks to get you in shape; we’re starting the minute you walk in the door, and if you don’t cheat, if you don’t swipe a few fries off your buddy’s plate or sneak a few beers at your cousin’s wedding, you’ll drop twenty pounds in the first three weeks. I’ll give you the meals, I’ll give you a list of everything you can eat and everything you can’t. I’ll send someone to cook for you. I’ll sit down with your wife or mom and explain how much sugar is in the two gallons of orange juice you’re putting down every day. But you have to follow the rules.
Believe me, if you really want to know what someone is made of, watch them go through sugar detox. This isn’t a “low carb” diet or Atkins knockoff; we’re talking zero sugars. And since most people have no idea how much sugar is hiding in most foods, I give them a written guideline of what they can and can’t eat, with a warning that says, You’ll know the program is working when you get a headache right behind one eye and you want to throw up. Within the first two days, they twitch, get hot and cold sweats, terrible gas, crazy thirst, and then they get shakes that only heroin and cocaine addicts can understand. I’m taking every ounce of sugar out of your body for ten days. After two horrible days, it starts getting better. And if you cheat, I’ll know. I make all my trainers go through it so they know what it feels like.
A guy will come into the gym during his detox and I’ll ask how he feels. Fine, he says, just fine. Hmm.
Next day I ask him again: How ya feeling? Feeling great, no problem, he says.
I give it one more day. Feeling okay? Following the diet? Yep, all good.
Okay, you’re a fucking liar. You want to screw this up, do it somewhere else. I know it’s not easy, but you can’t stay in your comfort zone and expect results. Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. We can’t help people committed to failure.
I love the guys who want results so much they’ll fight me to do more than they’re supposed to. I’ll tell them if they’re not ready, but I’d rather see a guy trying to sneak in some extra work than blow off a workout because he has to go shoot a magazine cover or promote a shoe. The work they do with me makes all the other stuff possible. Not the other way around.
After Dwyane’s knee surgery in 2007, he was in the weight room working on a drill that I make every player do after rehabbing from ankle, knee, or hip surgery before he gets the green light to play: stand on a forty-eight-inch padded cylinder, then jump down to the floor and up onto another forty-eight-inch cylinder. Not easy, physically or mentally. It shows me whether his body can withstand the stress, but equally important, whether his head is ready to trust his body, or if he’s fearful about his ability to perform. Because the key isn’t the physical challenge of jumping up, it’s overcoming the fear of jumping down.
So Dwyane was going through this drill, with numerous other players working out nearby. A few days later, my trainers started telling me all the other guys were secretly trying it too, sneaking into the weight room when no one was in there, bounding up and down these cylinders just to see if they could do what Dwyane did. And most of these guys hated jumping drills, but they had to know how they measured up. With Cleaners, there’s no off-switch. They’re always on.
One of my biggest challenges is keeping the ball away from a guy who isn’t supposed to be playing yet. When I get these great players recovering from injuries or surgeries, I set up a detailed plan for their rehab and return, and the last thing they’re going to be allowed to do is walk onto the court. But try telling that to a guy who has never spent five minutes without a ball in his hand.
Perfect example: the great Charles Barkley, probably the most athletically gifted individual I’ve ever seen, and a Cleaner in every way. Charles was working with me after knee surgery, and he was not happy when I said he and his postsurgical torn patella had to stay off the court as long as he was in an immobilizer.
He looked at me with that death stare and demanded a ball. Then he stood under the basket and dunked ten times off the healthy foot. Dunked. Ten times. One foot. The boot never touched the ground.
Those are the guys I want, the badasses who will take chances and push themselves. I can tell everything about a guy within the first three days of working with him. On the first day, he’ll show up ready to go, and I’ll make him work like he never worked before. The second day, when he wakes up feeling aches in body parts he didn’t even know he had, it’s going to be tempting to blow off our workout. But it’s only day two and he’s only sore in his upper body because that’s what we worked on, so he’ll usually show up for more. But by day three, after we’ve worked both the upper and the lower body and his muscles are screaming from the lactic acid, I’ll know everything I need to know, because he’s going to be completely miserable from the first two days. Forty-eight hours, that’s the test. If he keeps showing up despite the pain and exhaustion, we’re good to go. If he tells me he can’t make it . . . he’s in the wrong place. There are plenty of trainers out there who will work that way. Not me. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, or find another place to fail.
Revue de presse
"I consider Tim Grover to be second to none in his knowledge of sports training, and he was an invaluable part of my training program. He is a take-charge person, with a deliberate but energetic and enthusiastic technique." (Michael Jordan)
"Tim Grover’s insight into leadership and excellence has taken the greats to the top, and his book will do the same for you. Relentless is about breaking the rules that hold you back and trusting your instincts to take you where you want to be."
(Mike "Coach K" Krzyzewski, Duke University and USA Men’s Olympic Basketball head coach, and bestselling author of Leading with the Heart)
“This book will do for you what Tim has done for me--take you to the next level, and show you how to be the best at whatever you do. I have unbelievable trust and faith in him.”
"In all the years that I coached, inspired and trained world class athletes there was no better resource to collaborate with than Tim Grover." (Pat Riley, 8-time NBA champion and NBA Hall-of-Fame coach)
"If you compete at anything--sports or business or life--you need this book. No one knows more than Tim Grover about competitive intensity, killer instinct and crushing the other guy. He is the best at what he does: Creating champions." (Charles Barkley)
“Grover finally marches the public behind the curtain of decades of work with the likes of Jordan and Kobe Bryant, a riveting read that balances the illumination of the work of those stars and how it can apply to everyone else. . . Magnificent.” (Adrian Wojnarowski Yahoo! Sports)
Straight up. Relentless...is one of the best books I've ever read. (Jim Rome)
“An opus on successful thinking.” (Sun Sentinel)
"A must-read... Grover calls upon his decades of experience working with the world's most eliteathletes to dissect what it takes not just to succeed, but to be the absolutebest." (Stack.com)