Assessing Values and Goals, Part I: Why I Train

Ryan ODonnellUncategorizedLeave a Comment

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The following is a 3 part series dealing with assessing  values and goals. I want to help you find your reasons WHY you come to the gym and then help you figure out HOW to train appropriately.

This is part one: Why I train.

 “Why do you work out?”

I’m sure you’ve faced this question. My friends who don’t regularly regularly exercise often ask me why I spend so much time working out.

This isn’t an easy question to answer. Personally, it took me a long time to finally figure it out. The cliché answers are mostly the same, “to lose weight,” “to look better” or “to be in better shape.”  These answers are fine as a starting point. However, I feel that a deeper connection to exercise is needed before you can truly begin to experience all the positive effects that fitness can bring to your life. Furthermore, the deeper your connection the more motivated you to train. Which makes it more likely fitness becomes a lifelong passion.

Over the last year, I’ve realized what’s really important to me. This realization carried over into my training, helping me realize I was working out for the wrong reasons. The training I did was not in line with improving the important things in my personal life. This in turn led me to rethink my training,  ultimately bringing about some massive changes in both the way I train and my attitude towards it.

The main point of this post is to talk about the realizations I made and why I spend so much time at the gym, the positive effects it has on my life and point out what were the wrong reasons I trained for in the past.

What were the “wrong reasons?”

The question I used to ask myself before every training session was, “How will what I’m doing today lead to me improving _______?” I was obsessed with adding kilos to my max lifts, reps to my max sets, and taking time off of my benchmark WODs. In my article about the mistakes I made early in my fitness career I identified three:

  • Over focusing on results
  • Over-training
  • Over programming

I was trying to do too much because all I cared about were better numbers. I never thought about how my work in the gym affected my life outside of it.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but slowly I began to make the connection between training and my life outside the box. After suffering shoulder and back injuries over an 18-month period, I was able to stop obsessing over the numbers. Then, I could identify the most important things in my life and relate them to my training. With this newfound motivation— and not a care in the world about when my next PR will come—, working out has never been more enjoyable and rewarding.


Here are the reasons I train:

To be healthy and pain free

When I was working out twice a day (overtraining), I thought I was super fit. I did pretty well in competitions and I won “fittest in the gym” for the 2016 open. However, I was constantly in pain. I visited the physiotherapist multiple times for my shoulder and my back. Then worked around the injury for a time and jumped right back in. I could deal with pain if it meant a new PR. For lack of a better term, I was an idiot.

Here’s one thing I want everyone to understand: someone who is in pain is NOT more fit than someone who is not. The guy next to you deadlifting 40 kilos more and with a Diane time that’s faster by 3 minutes that has to take the next two days off because his back and shoulders are wrecked is not fit. If you can climb out of bed pain free the next day then you’re the fit one. You “won” that workout.

The quality of my life is way more dependent on being able to go about my duties as a coach, a boyfriend, an uncle and a friend without pain than it is on my max lifts or benchmark WOD times. I don’t NEED to be better at anything, I just need to be healthy, and so do you. Which leads into my next reason…

For my family and for my girlfriend

I have a responsibility to the people I love to be active and involved in their lives for as long as possible. I didn’t realize until relatively recently that me being healthy and feeling physically well affects the people I care about. I enjoy watching the people I love make steps to better their own lives. Therefore, I imagine they feel the same about me.

Furthermore, seeing my parents interact with my nieces and nephews has made me think about how much I want to be able to be active with my potential kids and grand-kids. Recently moving in with my girlfriend and having honest discussions about our future has solidified this.

I know some older people who are either too unfit or wrecked themselves physically and can no longer take as active a role in their family life as they would like. I don’t want to be one of them.

Because I love everything about it

Fitness has become my passion. When not coaching or working out, I’m reading about fitness, listening to podcasts, watching videos, or conversing with like-minded people.

I don’t want to say I’m most happy when I’m working out (my girlfriend probably wouldn’t appreciate that), but I will say it’s when I’m the most clear-headed. I have no stress, I have no bills, no errands to run, nothing. It’s just me and my workout. It’s amazing.

I love the atmosphere and the community. It’s nearly impossible for me to be in a bad mood at the gym, coaching or working out. Everyone is in high spirits, laughing, joking, working hard and encouraging each other. Plus, almost all my friends are at the gym. I get to go in every day and see so many people who have a great impact on my life. It’s inspiring.

For me

I had to be a little bit selfish. However, this may be the most important reason for anyone. If you don’t have the desire to help yourself move, look and feel better then you’re not going to show up at the gym.

The gym provides me with so many personal benefits. They come in physical form:, I look better than I used to, I’m stronger, I feel healthier, and I’m pain-free. They also come in a non-physical form: I feel a great sense of accomplishment at the gym every time I finish a session and, as I mentioned earlier, it helps me clear my head and puts me in a better mood.

So before you start down the easy path to fitness—which can include over-training, over-programming, and eventually injury—take a deep look at what your true goals are for exercising. Then do them.

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