With the new year fast approaching, it’s about time for your local gyms to start filling up. They’re going to see an influx of newbies coming to burn off their Christmas dinners, get a jump on their summer body, or to work on that “new year, new me” resolution.
While all of these are very good reasons to hit the gym, there are some pretty disheartening observations I’ve made, in regards to this particular crowd. The most poignant of these being that they’ve usually given up by the end of February. Many only talk about it, and give up before they even step foot in the gym. I’d like to try to explore some of the reasons this happens, and possibly offer some solid advice that may help you stick with it, and not be one of those folks who simply caught the holiday fitness bug.
I think the best place to start is with the obvious: it’s hard. There is no magic to fitness. There isn’t any mystical secret, guarded by fitness gurus, that will grant you powers of motivation and success. Sorry.
Unfortunately, our society has driven it into our skulls that if it ain’t easy, it ain’t worth it... at least that’s how it seems to me. I was raised with the more traditional mindset of “if you didn’t earn it, you don’t own it”. I think fitness is a great way to help begin cultivating that value in our society, again. I personally believe we desperately need that. I’ll save it for another article, perhaps, but I digress:
No, it isn’t going to be easy. Results aren’t going to happen overnight. Anyone trying to sell you any other idea, might as well be selling you snake juice. It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to be willing to sweat. You’ve got to be willing to put in time. Fitness is a lifestyle, and it requires lifestyle changes. It requires dedication.
How do we acquire dedication? There’s really no simple answer for that. You’ve got to motivate yourself. Motivation feeds dedication. Dedication yields results. Results motivate. Basically you create a positive, constructive cycle. The only way to do this is to get up and do it. You’ve got to decide to make changes. You’ve got to take that jump. You’ve got to power through those first couple of weeks of sore muscles and fatigue. Sometimes you’ve got to create your own motivation.
Your mind and body will fight you, for a short period. After you get into a routine and stay with it, all those things go away with surprising quickness. I’ve experienced and observed that the initial take off is the hardest part. Seriously, give it two weeks and it will get easier.
Now you know you need motivation and dedication. Motivation killers will be your biggest enemy when you’re still in your “newbie” stage. Many of these probably stop people before they ever reach that stage. These issues can be very difficult to overcome, but I think I can shed some light on how to do that.
Let’s start with what keeps people from ever taking that first step. It’s easy to say that laziness is the biggest de-motivator, and many people will in fact blame their own unwillingness to delve into fitness on their own laziness. It’s my sincere belief, however, that it goes deeper than that. LAZINESS is a lazy excuse.
Anytime I talk to people about why they don’t get into working out, I find that I nearly always detect a lack of confidence. Unfortunately, this one is tricky. I overcame my crippling lack of confidence by hitting that gym with all I had, and building it on my own.
Inspiring, right? Informative and practical? Yeah... I know. Not so much. I just feel like the success of my straightforward method sort of limited my insight on the subject. Luckily for us, our good friend and mentor, Coach Kris, wrote a truly inspired piece on this very subject: https://www.powerhousefamilyfitness.com/single-post/2018/11/25/ButI-Dont-Have-Confidence. If you struggle with confidence, I insist that you read this article. If you don’t, I still strongly suggest you read it. It’s a great read, and it might help you help someone else.
A lack of confidence is almost always due to insecurity. Insecurity has a symbiotic twin that we call “intimidation”. I think I may be able to tackle this one.
Insecurity and intimidation feed off of each other in a way that can paralyze someone who is on the fence about getting into physical fitness. I believe this is what checks most people long before they even enter a gym. To get insecurity under control, you have to cut off its supply of intimidation. You have to decide what is scaring you and why it’s scaring you.
Let me tell you that I definitely wasn’t the biggest dude in the gym when I started my journey. If I’m the biggest guy now, it’s most likely because I’m the only one there. I’d be lying to you if I said that walking up to a dumbbell rack next to some monster didn’t scare me back when I was a newbie. It’s a perfectly natural fear. You’re afraid they’ll make you look weak. Maybe you’ll look stupid. Maybe everyone there is laughing because he’s curling what you bench. Yeah... I totally get it.
It definitely doesn’t help that there is an insanely popular franchise that shamelessly propagates this fear in order to capitalize from it. Don’t buy into it. It’s only hurting you. Trust me... I shall explain.
Upon exiting Fairy-tale Fitness Land, into the real world, you learn that life isn’t all gumdrops and unicorns. There is no such thing as a “judgement free zone”. There are mean and judgmental people literally EVERYWHERE you go. If someone tells you different, and does so to sell you something, be very wary. They probably do more than their share of judging. Based on my experience, they aren’t likely to be doing much else.
Here’s the deal: You aren’t doing this for anyone but yourself. Anything that isn’t helping you is hurting you, and it can only do that if you allow it to. Unless “it” is a bear... they’ll hurt you. Bears don’t judge, though, and you’re probably not going to stumble across one in your local fitness club. People who judge you, make fun of you, base their opinions solely on appearance; these people have more wrong with themselves than what they are attempting to project on to you. You can take that to the bank.
As for the majority of the “lunks” out there, don’t be fooled by the anti-hype. Try something. Find that monster by the dumbbell rack. Walk straight up to him and say something like, “I’m having trouble isolating my biceps”, and watch what happens. A solid nine out of ten times, I’m willing to bet that guy is going to show you something useful.
Experienced lifters love passing on knowledge. Almost all of them feel compelled to help those who lack experience. Even those of us who try to avoid conversation during a workout will almost always take the time to lay a little wisdom on someone who asks for it. The physical fitness world can be a pretty tight community, and it is by no means exclusive. We are all in different stages of our journey, and we were all where you are, at some point.
There is a seriously vast resource of knowledge that is being sadly underutilized. Why? Because that knowledge often translates into big muscles. Big muscles tend give the wrong idea that the person rocking them is a complete tool. I’m sure that’s true from time to time, but those guys aren’t hard to pick out. If you happen run into one of them, don’t sweat it! He’s probably more insecure than you.
So, can we agree that at least that source of intimidation is unfounded? Once you start getting over your irrational fears, the more rational ones start to lose some of their hold on you. At that point, you can usually sweat them off!
A much more rational fear that tends to keep people out of the gym is fear of injury. Let’s not kid ourselves, there is an inherent risk to working out, particularly in strength training. There’s an inherent risk to walking to your mailbox, too...
Anytime you run, jump, lift heavy stuff, bend, twist, etc. you are putting stress on your body. Anytime you put stress in your body, the potential to injury yourself is present. Apart from the obvious, there are some very easy ways to minimize this potential risk.
Know your body. I highly recommend that anyone who wants to get involved in this level of physical activity consult a physician, personal trainer, or anyone certified to assess their present physical condition. Many gyms also offer physical assessments. It is imperative that you know what your physical limitations are. Of course you should plan on raising those limitations over time, but exceeding them before you’re ready can be very dangerous.
Know your equipment. There are so many machines out there. The plethora of equipment can be intimidating all by itself. Again, consult a trainer or experienced lifter about the proper usage of the equipment. If those resources aren’t available, Google it. At the very least, see if there are any instructions on the machine, itself. Don’t use anything if you aren’t comfortable in your knowledge of its usage. These machines have a lot of parts that move a lot of weight. This isn’t a playground, my friend.
Listen to your body. Your workouts should not be easy. They shouldn’t kill you, either. Don’t do anything that feels dangerous. Don’t continue to lift if you feel pain. Don’t lift past your experience. That is, don’t start doing sets to failure, drop sets, super-sets, forced reps, negative reps, etc. until you’ve developed the strength and technique necessary to preform them. Believe me, if you’re not ready, your body will tell you.
Don’t lift alone. Straightforward. Point blank. I like it. If you are inexperienced, lift with someone who is experienced. If you don’t have anyone to lift with, go to the gym when it is busier, staffed, or with a trainer. Dropping a loaded barbell across your chest is not fun.
I hate to be blunt, but don’t be dumb. Safety is a culture. It’s an environment as much as a practice. Ultimately, it is in your own hands. If it doesn’t seem safe, don’t do it. If your equipment isn’t safe, find a new gym. Be informed. Be aware. It’s all really pretty simple.
One thing I see that really kills motivation is a lack of results. This is often do to impatience, but more often it seems to stem from inexperience, haphazard training, lack of guidance, and irresponsible “guidance”.
Let’s get it out there right now, that this takes time. You can’t expect to make incredible alterations in the blink of an eye.
As for the more important reasons that progress isn’t happening; there are some remedies. Most of these issues can be solved with relative simplicity.
All of the things I listed go hand in hand. The best thing to do, again, is utilize a personal trainer. Be careful to find one that is legitimate, certified and/or has a verifiable background, and has a happy clientele.
Not everyone wants to pay for a personal trainer’s service, and that’s ok. This is still completely doable, if significantly less convenient. There are tons of great resources online, many free, that you can utilize. You may have to do some digging, but they are there. Others range from inexpensive to pretty pricey. http://www.teampowerhouseathletics.com is definitely a good place to start.
Again, be informed. If your workouts are awry, you won’t get the results you want. More importantly, bad training practices can be very dangerous.
Tangible and visible results are important. Why else would you put forth the effort? On top of that, there really is no better motivator than feeling and looking noticeably better than you did a month ago.
I think some useful ways that I’ve found to get over the hump, that often precedes the dive into fitness, would be a good thing to add, at this point. Tips and tricks never hurt.
As much as people preach “don’t compare yourself to others”, I think it can be useful to do just that... within reason. I use this as a way to visualize my goal. I do this by watching movies and videos that depict people who look the way I’m working to look. It motivates me. Keep in mind, this is a personal method. If it doesn’t seem like it will work for you, don’t do it.
Surround yourself with people who support your journey. Nothing will drain your motivation as fast as negativity. People should cheer you on, not just in fitness. This, like many other things, transposes easily into day to day life. Also, don’t get discouraged by those who don’t support you. Fat-shaming doesn’t go away. It becomes fit-shaming. A lot of people will envy your progress, and try to cut you down for it. You don’t need them or their opinions. If you can’t ignore it, or distance yourself from it, convert it to fuel and keep on trucking.
Document your progress. Take pictures. Write down measurements. Map it all out. It helps you stay motivated by allowing you to see changes you might not notice by looking in the mirror. It gives you an idea of what to expect as you continue to progress. It’s not a sign of cockiness, or of being conceited. It’s a useful tool. Besides, you should be proud of what you accomplish.
In closing, I believe I touched on some important topics, and I hope I offered some good insight and solid advice. The most important thing is to know that there is support. People will cheer for you. People will help you. The amount of positive people you are bound to encounter, vastly outweighs the number of people who will judge you, shame you, or otherwise bring you down.
Make that dive, people. Sweat through the tough times. Make it a lifestyle, not a yearly tradition. I’ll do my best to keep posting ways to help you succeed. I did this. So many of us have done this. You can do this!
POWERHOUSE BLOGGER, Terry Conder @terrywayne86