By Dave Thomas
I need to lose five more pounds.
I need to get stronger.
I need just ten more pounds on my jerk to reach this club.
Why is it we never stand back and I say, I have lost thirteen pounds. I have nearly doubled my strength. I have increased my stamina and endurance.
It’s easy to project the “need to’s” in the gym rather than reflect on your “have dones”.
Just like anything in life, really. As humans, most of us tend to focus on what we have not yet done rather than the remarkable things we have accomplished. I’m not going to stand here and try to turn your real life into a fairy tale, but what I can give you are five reasons your needs in the gym are far outweighed by your accomplishments if Lady Justice were handling the scorecards.
You Are of Able Body
Let’s start with the essentials and do our best not to gloss over them, since it is so damn easy to take your working body for granted. Prior to our opening Performance360, I worked out of World’s Gym where I saw people training in wheelchairs, on prosthetic legs and with the use of only one arm and I promise you, nothing humbles or motivates you more than seeing someone wheel into the gym and get down to business.
Would you hit the gym regularly if you did not have legs?
It’s an honest question.
You might have nicks, dings and soreness, or maybe even an injury, but at the end of the day you have a body with four working appendages, a fully functioning brain and the continued desire to make your body a capable instrument. Next time you think about disliking what you see in the mirror or are dissatisfied with your fat loss or body composition goals, picture that body missing an arm, leg or the ability to walk.
Appreciate what you have and continue to use it to its fullest capacities. If you’re doing just that, then you’re off to the right start.
This Clearly Means Something to You
Whether you are above or below that average American body is completely irrelevant. The fact that you have either beaten that average or are working towards beating that average is what counts here. Because both mean you care when the vast majority do not. Don’t get so caught up in where you are on the current curve of body composition. Focus more on how you feel, your level of energy, your improved blood work, decreased stress and overall body of happiness work. Body goals happen, but they don’t happen first in the long line of improvements. The reason for that is they are purely superficial, like the hood of a car they are merely the outer reflection of the internal working parts. Your body always improves from the inside out.
You might have a rusted hood but the fact that you are working on your engine and parts rather than just letting them sit idle under a rotted tarp in the garage makes you a success. The shiny hood will happen.
The majority of Americans don’t care about their health. You are the intelligent and motivated minority. Wear it proudly.
Strength is Only Quasi Measurable
Is the tangible stuff awesome? Of course. But you should never define your success by a number, total or score. And if you do define yourself by that stuff, honestly, you might be at the wrong gym.
One of the most satisfying feelings is to write down a PR on the board. For those that don’t get that I would say to them that it has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of weight you can lift but everything to do with the reflection of your own hard work. 100 pounds feels just as great as 500. In my humble opinion, it’s the purest form of success.
We go work for eight hours a day and work for a boss that may or may not appreciate us. You can kill your presentation, hit your quarterly quota or suggest a new system that revolutionizes the way your company does things.
At the end of the day, whether or not you reap any benefits of that success is ultimately up to other people.
Not in the gym. Not underneath a barbell.
That’s not meant to be some overly deep thought or to make it seem like the gym needs to be the most important part of your life. Your family and friends should be. But that does not change the awesome fact that physical accomplishments in a gym setting are yours and a blatant reflection on not a single other person than the commitment and efforts you put in. It’s the only place in the world where you get out exactly what you put in, and when measurable successes hit, the actual measurement is only a fraction of why it feels so great.
You Are More Informed
Information is everything. Learning about nutrition puts you ahead of 95% of Americans who don’t know the first thing about food science and dietary guidelines. Maybe you are as lean as you want to be, maybe you are not. But chances are you are on the better path to those goals than when you started and that, is pretty great.
And forget leanness for a second. If you have serious pounds to lose, start with the fact that you have derailed the risk of diabetes with your new approach. The fact that your blood work is probably better and you are extending your life each day you choose to be active.
I remember the day where I thought simply switching from white bread and pasta to whole wheat would solve all of life’s riddles. Where I had to buy a $5.50 pint of Muscle Milk from my gym after every workout. Where I thought if I ate a single piece of food I wanted then I was a failure towards my goals. Now I know that neither of these are necessarily “truths” about food, training and enjoying life.
It’s amazing how much you can learn in the right environment, and how much that environment can improve your perspective simply by offering information.
Your World is More Possible
Hopefully by now, we understand that the reason we go to the gym is not really to be awesome in the gym. Sure, it’s awesome to be awesome but chances are if you’ve been on a committed plan of fitness for a decent amount of time you find yourself doing more things, trying new activities, playing more sports and taking adventures you never had prior.
That’s either a complete coincidence or part of a broader, more improved version of yourself that has the inner confidence to take on new challenges. When you see yourself successful at physical development and movements you didn’t think you were able to perform, that spills over to the rest of your life.
And we’re not talking climbing Everest or going base jumping with Leland Van Lew. But maybe you just have more confidence to meet new people. Maybe you entered a local sports league. Or, maybe, you just plain leave the house more and experience the world outside your cube and sofa.
Regardless, any type of upward adjustment in your life outside of work, the life that actually matters, is a good thing.
Stay on your goals. But never lose sight about where you came from and what you’ve achieved so far.
It’s all about enjoying the journey.
Dave Thomas is co-owner of Performance360 in Mission Beach, San Diego.