Milo of Croton is one of the most celebrated athletic legends in all of history. From reading about him, one would think he was a combination of Mike Tyson, Rulon Gardner, and Hulk Hogan all wrapped into one bad ass dude. There are many myths and legends surrounding this Greek hero, but what we know is he was an olympian, a champion wrestler, and a war general. For this post, we are concerned with Milo’s famous exercise regimen starting as a young boy. But first let’s indulge in some of the legend of this great man. (Who knows what is truth, exaggeration, or complete farce here, but they are pretty awesome stories regardless.)
First of all, this guy’s diet was unreal. He was reported to eat 20lbs of meat, 20lbs of bread, and 18 pints of wine every day. Some accounts proclaim he would eat raw meat in front of his wrestling opponents and then drink the bulls blood for increased vigor. Perhaps this technique will be used by Rich before the first event of the OC Throwdown.
Croton went to war against the Sybarites in 510 BC. Milo lead a charge with thousands of his kinsmen while wearing his Olympic crowns, a lion-skin sash and carrying a club.
The famous mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras was once saved by Milo when a pillar fell in his direction; Milo held the pillar up while Pythagoras and others could escape from the crumbling building.
Milo could hold a pomegranate in his hand and avoid smashing it while other’s tried to squeeze his hand around the fruit or pry his fingers from it.
The reason we CrossFitters should be interested in Milo is the lesson learned from Milo and the calf. When Milo was just a small boy, his father would make him pick up and carry a calf on a daily basis. As Milo grew, so did the calf into a bull. Because Milo could successfully lift the bull every day, and even though the bull grew larger than Milo, he was still strong enough to lift it.
This story reminds me of the concept of kaizen. Kaizen is the idea of small incremental improvement on a daily basis. If Milo would have lifted the same object every day he would have never gotten to the state of strength he was well known for. The take away message for myself and for the gym is that we are not trying to achieve elite fitness tomorrow or the next day, or even the next month. Our goal should be to improve slightly every single day and be consistent with it. This can apply in any area of one’s life. Milo did not lift the bull once a week, it was every day. There was no magic bullet, no quick fixes, nor any miracle drugs to get him there; just hard work and consistency. There is something to be done for your health every day, whether it’s taking fish oil, or eating a large green salad, or working on mobility.
On a similar note, be happy with a 5lb PR or a 10 second improvement on a benchmark workout. If you are in it for the long haul, then these small successes will eventually become huge milestones in the grand scheme of things. Maybe most of us won’t wear sweet lion skins when charging into battle, or eat ridiculous poundages of beef (some of us may drink that much wine!) but we can all set our sights on improving just a little each day. In the meantime, I think what we will all get is vibrant health, a sound quality of life, and a deep appreciation for what our bodies are capable of.
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