I think its fair enough to say that the majority of people think the biggest outcome of going to the gym regularly is getting stronger, bigger and more muscular. This is a pretty good assumption really as I’m yet to hear of anyone bench pressing, cycling or running to make a kick as cup of tea! At the end of the day (And the year), people join a gym or start exercising to become a version of themselves that more closely resembles the type of person they want to be.
- Some of my work colleagues are keen cyclists and are constantly going out for spins. Admittedly this can be for fun also, but when competition time comes around the hope is that all that practice will lead to a faster completion time.
- Facebook and twitter friends are posting online how they just came back from their spin, aerobics or kettle-bell class and have lost X pounds so far.
- Right now I’m going to the gym to get heavier, stronger and bigger as are countless friends of mine.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say people don’t get stronger, faster, leaner and fitter when they do exercise effectively, of course they do! Goal’s can be reached and targets can be surpassed. However, there is another part of everyone which is subjected to much more pressure and stress then our bodies are, regardless of the type of training or the end aim. Really, the number one thing being trained, stressed and developed during this time is our mental strength.
Now, before I lose some of you who think this is going to end up being your stereotypical, dramatic and over the top depiction of how I turned my life around, changed my job, my salary and complete outlook on life just by loosing 10 lbs and benching a couple of Kg, I promise it wont. Bear with me and let me explain….
Right now were in Mid December. In two or three week’s gym’s and exercise clubs all over the country are going to be flooded with new recruits with “New year’s Resolutions”. Typically, these people have let life catch up on them a bit and just want to lose some weight. Christmas didn’t help of course and the only thing holding together those pants they were looking forward to wearing was wishful thinking and never fully inhaling. Now, skipping forward three month’s this story is usually very much over. The progress came at first for sure, but then something happened that set you back and you missed a training session here and there and before you know it, it’s been three weeks since you’ve even looked in the gym bag. Gone much to far to start again now and so, the overall cycle continues.
Of course then you have the rare stories of those people who did do it. Those ‘Exercises addicted’ people who doped 5 dress sizes in time for summer and seem to have it all under control. So what’s the difference between these two people? What did they have that the other people didn’t?
These people had to deal with the same onslaught of information that new exercisers are subjected to, the same piss poor personal training (generally) and the same pitfall’s and hurdles that those who failed encountered. The only difference is that they didn’t give up. They went to the gym as often as they were supposed to, and if they didn’t, they went as often as they could. If they missed an exercise or caved and ate that slice of cake, they started where they left off and “wiped the slate clean“. They may not have done all that they could, they may have slowed their progress down, but doing anything other than getting back on that horse and starting fresh is going to make it even worse.
Getting off my high horse for a second I know that some of you are already saying that this is far easier said then done. It’s one thing to say what you need to do and a completely different thing to do it! I’ve been there. The overwhelming guilt and shame when you realise it’s all gone so off course can turn anyone away from even trying anymore. Why even bother starting again when inevitability were all going to fail again?
It is at this point of the process that your mental strength is built upon like in no other aspect of life. No one likes failing. No one likes setting out to do something, putting time, effort and energy into it only to fall short even well before the end. Failing sucks. But failing is exactly what is needed to build mental strength.
Let’s look at another example with our overweight, new year’s resolution-er. It’s a Friday evening, its late, dark and raining outside. They were supposed to leave for the gym two hours ago and its going to be another half an hour before they’re there yet. They’re hungry, tired, grumpy and just looking forward to the weekend. A conscious decision is made to skip the gym in order to go home and cook the healthy meal they were prescribed to eat that night. A load is taken off their shoulders as they now have something less to worry about.
After work they head home and see that the other half has gotten pizza. There was a deal on in the take away and ended up getting far far too much food. It’s still warm. It smells good. It’s right there, ready and doesn’t need to be cooked. They tuck in. They had a hard week, they’ve been “so good with my meals and workouts” this week. They “deserve this”.
Right now, I bet most of you are considering this a failure already. In may way’s it is. It’s a failure from their diet and a failure from their training. However, it’s what happens next that will deem them to be a failure in my eyes. They finish off their meal, watch some TV and relax. Fully wound down they head off to bed. Before dozing off, the overwhelming guilt of what had just happened starts to dawn on them. It’s what they think next that deems them a failure in my eyes or not.
Option 1) “Everything is gone. All that hard work, all that effort, all that sweat. What was it for. I cannot BELIEVE I ate that much Pizza. It wasn’t even that nice. And those chips. God I hate those chips. So greasy. I guess that’s it. I suppose I did really try this time”
Option 2) “ I cannot BELIEVE I ate that much Pizza. It wasn’t even that nice. And those chips. God I hate those chips. So greasy. I really should have gone to the gym and I really should have eaten that healthy meal instead. Oh well, no real harm done. I’ll get back up on that horse tomorrow and cook a nice healthy breakfast”
DING DING DING WE HAVE A WINNER
This isn’t the end of the story though. This WILL happen again. Something will come up that means some part or aspect of your training or diet falls apart. It may just be one missed meal or it may be two weeks of mistakes and lack of commitment. Really, it doesn’t even matter. What really creates success is forgetting these mistakes and not letting them drag you down. At the start its hard. You’ve failed, you’ve let yourself down and some even find it embarrassing.
However, if you do forget it, get back on the horse and continue on, the next time it happens you can say to yourself “Hey, you know what, this has happened before. I’ve failed yet again, but the last time I kept on trying and made even more progress”. Before long you have the mental strength of a marine and when set backs come around, and they WILL come around, you know it’s not a failure until it causes you to give up!
The only way to achieve a goal is to work towards it. So if, or even WHEN, these mistakes and issues arise, remember that you’re only human. You will make mistakes and no one is perfect. Achieving a goal is tough. It takes work and dedication. Don’t make it even harder on yourself by beating yourself up at every step along the road.
Doing what you usually do never changed anything before, so why would it now? Change what you do, and the change will come to you!
As always, we end on a video. Here’s an old, but great one on someone who ‘failed’ countless times, but succeeded every single time!