As is pretty much common knowledge at this stage, the importance of health, training and nutrition has grown hugley in today’s society. In my head, social media is probably the sole driver behind this. People are being bombarded with their friends and connections progress pictures, results from Power/Olympic lifting competitions or even just the great sense of community spirit that is generated within cross fit boxes across the country. This can be seen day after day, week after week, across a number of social media platforms.
Not only this, but it seems like every few weeks the next big thing comes along. Some of them are just small changes to nutrition and others come in the forms of new ways for people to train. There is a huge amount of emphasis on the things that you should be doing in the gym, the things you shouldn’t be putting into your mouth and the stimulus that you shouldn’t be using to achieve optimum health.
But what does it mean to have Optimum Health?
Is it being able to Overhead Press, Bench, Squat and Deadlift 1, 1.5, 2 and 2.5 times your body weight respectively?
Is it being able to do body weight holds like front levers, planches and hand stands?
Is it being lean and having a clean set of blood work?
Are these the only things that determine whether you are healthy and have the capacity to operate to your maximum?
What about the emotional and mental issues that people have?
It’s easy to measure physical shortcomings. A high body fat percentage, low strength capacity, blood-work showing problems with your nutrition. All these things point towards a definite problem, a problem which will have a definite set of actions for you to take. Put in some gods honest hard work for a given time and you will be better for it.
Deep emotional issues however are far more complex than that. Not only can they cause the most pain and anguish in our lives but can also be much more difficult to diagnose or solve. As humans we are very social animals. We have evolved to live in packs, strive to develop deep connections with those around us and long to feel wanted, loved and important. When something happens to disrupt that, be that self-inflicted or by someone else, we suffer an emotional setback. Our own self-worth is called into question and when this happens time after time, that positive self-image we all long to have can become damaged to the point where it is difficult to repair.
These setbacks on their own can often be small and minor things. Stress from work, some personal shortcomings or mistakes made from others can all have an effect but one that we could overcome. Give it time and generally it will be ok. However, when these things come at us too fast to deal with, we start to head down a very dangerous road.
It doesn’t help that these issues are also driven by the actions of others we care about, something that doesn’t apply to weight training. The inevitability of failure in the weight room isn’t a problem because when we come back the next day there are no repercussions. You can fail a lift, not push as hard as you should or not even turn up for six weeks, that barbell doesn’t give a single fuck. Just come in and get going again. Failure on an emotional level can not only damage our personal self-image but can also hurt those we care about which does even more damage as our need to feel important is now called into question, too. This affects the confidence we have in ourselves and our ability to overcome future problems that we may face.
Social media is a huge part of how people share their physical progress and has become a huge double-edged sword. For those of us whose physical desires are not being hindered by mental turmoil, it’s nothing but a good thing. Being able to see what people in a similar position to you were able to achieve after a few months of work can light that fire under you, showing you that despite not knowing where to start, it can be done. You can achieve your goals if you just set your mind to it.
These posts can paint a whole different picture for those of us affected by emotional issues regarding our weight or strength levels. All we see are people telling us that we are lazy, that all we need is to get out and do it. That if we don’t we just don’t want it bad enough and that we are failing as a person. Of course, we do try. We start out on a new diet, join a gym or go out for walks or runs. We do our damnedest to get started on the path, but fail. We get up and go again, only to fall short of the mark time and time again and all we are doing is taking our self-confidence down a few pegs and destroying our self-worth.
This destruction of our self-image is completely understandable, too. Social media is only good for seeing the times people succeed. The new PB’s, the fat loss, the amazing hike or the win in a championship. We never hear the stories of the failing at a deadlift, the stories of those falling off the diet bandwagon or the periods people go through where they question the reasons behind what they are doing. Those failures are never shared, painting the picture that they never happen. Yet, it seems that all we can do is fail. Every time we try, we fall short and it sends us further and further into the depths of the problem.
In the last number of years the public perception of strength training and nutrition has vastly changed. The number of kitted out gyms, healthy restaurants and sports that are popping up all over the country has soared. The public’s perception of physical health has never been higher and that is great to see and hopefully will help mitigate some of the physical health issues for the generations to come.
However, until “training” one’s mental and emotional beings undergoes as big of a change as the physical has, We Will NEVER Achieve The Optimum Health We So Desire.