The following is a 3 part series dealing with assessing or reassessing your gym values and goals and how to then apply your training to those goals. In a more basic sense, I want you to find your reasons WHY you come to the gym and then help you figure out HOW to apply your training to those reasons.
This is part two: Finding your “whys”
Evaluating the reasons you exercise sounds easy, yet it’s anything but. Since I was a teenager I fluctuated in and out of being fit and being unfit with regularity. Looking back, the reason is obvious, I was never truly committed. I wasn’t committed because the reasons I trained weren’t deep enough to inspire me to stick with it. In high school it was to get in shape for lacrosse season and after high school it was typically to lose weight. However, right after lacrosse season ended or right after I met my target weight I slowly drifted out of the gym and back onto the couch.
In the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig there’s a passage where the main character talks about going to climb a mountain in India with a holy man and his followers. He ultimately fails while the religious pilgrims manage to make it to the top. He surmises that his reason for failure was that he was climbing the mountain just for the sake of climbing it and lacked motivation. For the pilgrims on the other hand, each step was taken with fervor and devotion. They were climbing for something higher than themselves. Finding your “whys” can help you be the pilgrim, not the man who failed.
Here are some tips to help you:
Start with a basic reason and dig deeper
General reasons like, to lose weight or to get stronger are great starting points, but they don’t go deep enough. A reason like this is a great starting block you can use to make connections to other aspects of your life. I’ll give some examples.
Let’s say you’re overweight and want to shed a few kilos, that’s awesome. Keep digging and figure out some specifics on why you want to lose weight. Is it because you have a history of heart disease in your family and want to live longer? Are you finding it difficult to walk up the stairs to your flat after work without losing your breath? Do you want to appear more appealing to members of the opposite sex? There’s plenty of reasons, find one or more that suit you.
What about getting stronger? There’s plenty of reasons to inspire you. You can carry your groceries home without putting them down ten times, stronger muscles mean you can be more active in your social life and, of course, chicks (and dudes!) dig muscles!
Whatever your base reason for working out is, try to find a deeper connection to your life
How does working out make you feel?
How do you feel when you finish a training session? I’m not talking about being tired, sore or out of breath. Are you happy? Frustrated? Angry? Indifferent?
The time we spend in the gym, for many of us, is some of the only “me” time we have all day. It’s an hour or two where we don’t have to answer to a boss, worry about our significant other or think about what needs to get done around the house. The time we have to ourselves should make us feel good.
I mentioned in the last post how I love working out because it helps clear my head. It also puts me in a better mood and reduces my stress. This is in stark contrast to the feelings I had after training sessions just one year ago. I was often angry and frustrated because I missed a PR or failed a set or did the workout slower than I thought I could. Training wasn’t fun, it was a struggle.
Think about how you feel when you finish a session. If you have a positive feeling, then let that be one of your motivators for showing up every day. If you are like I used to be, frustrated and angry, it may be time to rethink your approach to fitness.
Consider how it affects your life outside the gym
Aside from a confidence boost or improved strength and conditioning numbers, what positive effects does training have on your life? I’ll give some personal examples:
As a coach it has the added benefit of helping me get better at my job by gaining experience and knowledge about the effectiveness of different exercise programs. However, there are also several other benefits.
After I train I feel more motivated and I’m often more productive. It also inspires me to make more healthy decisions that day in my personal life. If I have a good work out in the morning, I’m much more likely to eat a grilled chicken salad for lunch and meet my girlfriend for a walk after work than I am to go down a cheeseburger and then meet up with the guys for beers.
There’s plenty of ways that training can positively influence your day-to-day life. I’ve had clients tell me they no longer get a stiff back at their desk, that they’re able to be more active with their kids or that they’ve taken up a new active hobby because of the time they spent at the gym.
How does it affect your relationships?
I mentioned in the previous paragraph that I’ve had clients mention that their improved fitness has helped them become more active with their children, strengthening their family bond. What effects, if any, does training have on your relationships?
Personally, it’s something that helps me relate to and communicate with my immediate family. My brother owns a gym, and much of my immediate and extended family are active in fitness.
In part one I talked about all the friends I’ve met at the gym. I’ve formed some great, long-lasting relationship. Being healthy and happier has also made me an easier person to get along with. Lastly, identifying the people in my life who support my fitness lifestyle helped me eliminate detrimental relationships.
Hopefully, these tips will help you put together a nice list of goals you can use to inspire you to make fitness a lifelong passion. Writing them out and posting them on your door, fridge or on your desk at work is a good strategy to help you find the motivation to drag yourself in on days when you feel like being lazy.
Also, the next time someone asks, “Why do you work out?” You can say, “Because I want to live a longer, healthier life, be active with my children and forge supportive and lasting relationships while doing an activity I really enjoy.” Isn’t that a lot more meaningful than, “to lose weight.”???