“[..]I learned something from all those years of training and competing. I learned something from all those sets and reps when I didn’t think I could lift another ounce of weight. What I learned is that we are always stronger than we know.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
I strongly believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything. Your approach toward one task is, in all probability, a reflection of your approach toward tasks in general. That’s why whatever I do, I always pay close attention to the lessons I learn in any area of my life in case I might be able to carry them over to another. Lifting weights is no exception.
Hitting the gym can be about more than the obvious health benefits. Since it is a very controlled environment (limited in space and the time you spend there), you can use it as a Petri dish for the rest of your life. If you pay attention, training can teach you important lessons about yourself. It also a great vehicle for learning life skills and principles which have benefits far beyond the weight room.
Commitment – I sometimes wonder about the number of “passive” gym members. You know, the people who sign up to a health club as their New Year’s resolution, go for three sessions until soon the automatic monthly bank withdrawal becomes the sole commitment to their fitness regime? Adherence to a weight lifting regimen is a great way to gauge the overall level of commitment you bring to the table. It’s also a great way to practice it.
Attitude – Pay close attention to your inner processes when at the gym. How is your self-talk? Are you encouraging yourself on the inside or constantly putting yourself down? Do you imagine success or failure? Are you complaining and whining or growing along with the challenge? Chances are good that you are following the same mind scripts in the gym that you also run in the rest of your life.
Dedication – Are you willing to push and challenge yourself? Are you ok with experiencing uncomfort and a certain pain level to get where you want? Sticking to the same three exercises and using the same weight because you are able to lift it 120 times by now will not lead to progress in the long run. If you extend your comfort zone at the gym, it will carry over to the rest of your life. I promise.
Temperance – Conversely, do you chronically take on too much and are thereby doing more damage than good? We all know those guys at the gym who feel they need to lift more than they can handle and end up throwing the weights with a lot of momentum instead of properly lifting them. Don’t be that person. Learn how far you can push without breaking yourself.
Focus – Ever seen people reading on an exercise bike while paddling away at turtle speed? Or done it yourself? (I have been totally guilty of that) You are doing neither doing justice to your training nor to whatever it is you are reading so stop it. Attention is a limited resource, don’t squander it. If you totally focus on one repetition at a time, working out can be a very zen experience.
Rest – Growth happens in the rest intervals and not at the gym. The same goes for pretty much everything you try to learn (and fitness is a skill). Learning to give yourself time to adapt in between peak intervals is as important in training (to avoid overtraining) as it is in all other areas of life.
Patience – When I first started working out, I wanted to see results fast. Being the child of the age of instant gratification, that’s not too surprising. When progress didn’t happen as fast as I wanted, I got frustrated and gave up. It was only later that I learned that if you keep at it, changes will happen over time. This lesson about the nature of progress is one of the most important ones in my life and training is a great teacher for it.
What have you learned from working out and training that has carried over to other areas of your life? What was the most surprising lesson?Photo Credit: flickr