Do it for the right reasons
You hear it, far away, like you’re under water. It’s the alarm on your phone. Your bed feels warm; it still feels like the middle of the night. With irritation, you roll onto your back and get accustomed to the dark pattern of the ceiling, your annoyance growing that there’s not even enough light from the window to see properly.
It’s the third week of January. New Year’s Day and that injection of optimism and purpose is already a million years ago.
That decision to go running three times a week for 2015 is becoming a drag. That fire in your belly is already burning low; a small breeze could blow it out completely.
That breeze arrives this morning when you look out the window and it’s drizzling steadily.
Screw it, you’re skipping this session. You don’t feel good about it, but you knew it was inevitable.
It’s at times like this that you ask yourself the question: why am I doing this?
Why am I training?
People start training for a lot of different reasons. But I would wager that for most, it’s because of a desire to look good.
This is why training fervour is at its highest at landmark events like New Year’s Day or your Birthday, or in preparation for the summer/weddings/holidays: you think of yourself in that dress, or on that beach and you enjoy fantasizing about how good you’re going to look.
This is completely natural and no matter what we like to say an important motivator in training and getting fit.
However politically correct we want to pretend to be, we live in a society very much governed by superficial things: there are studies out there that seem to show that people who are taller and more conventionally attractive earn more money than their shorter, more aesthetically-challenged colleagues.
It’s not right, but it makes sense from a biology point of view.
We’re hard-wired to find certain things and people more attractive than others: it’s part of the way we all judge each other the moment we meet.
This isn’t shallow, it’s a defense mechanism. We use our previous experiences to try to decide how to deal with someone we first meet, to reduce the chance of being vulnerable.
What is shallow and wrong is if we let this preconception prejudice our opinion of a person after spending time with them.
If you only consider and appreciate the superficial side of a person, your interest can only last so long; unless you are interested in getting to know them from a deeper perspective they won’t stay interesting for very long.
If your reason for training is only to look good, your interest won’t last that long.
Why? Because you’re only thinking of the result, not the journey.
Have you ever had that feeling of anticlimax once you reach a goal? When you studied hard for your degree, graduated and thought: what now?
When you finished that 10 km race you’d been training for for months, and you thought: what now?
When it comes to looking the way you want to look, or achieving the body you want it is not about reaching short-term milestones.
Why do diets always fail so miserably? Why can you never keep the results of a 3 month program of eating and training right?
Because the easy part of getting fit is the initial part. The hard part is keeping it.
Most people can endure a certain amount of short-term misery for a reward, like staying away from chips and doing 30 minutes of running every other day so they can arrive at their beach holiday looking trimmer than usual.
But you can’t keep that up for long. No-one can.
Furthermore, that’s just not a fun way to live life.
If training for you is just about looking good, I believe you’re setting yourself up to fail in the long run.
Why do I train?
Because number 1, I enjoy the challenge. My challenge happens to be with the bar and the weights: another person’s might be against the clock and the distance.
The only way to sustain a fitness lifestyle is to enjoy and embrace the challenge. Looking good, or having the body you want, is just a side bonus.
Even bodybuilders and physique models who are training for aesthetics couldn’t sustain it if they didn’t enjoy the challenge of pushing themselves everyday.
It’s the difference between being paid for a job you love and one you hate.
In a job you hate you can’t wait to get out of there everyday: you’re always dreaming of being able to leave. The only thing that keeps you going is the thought of your paycheck at the end of the month.
The paycheck is good, but if you keep grinding yourself down this like this you’re going to end up miserable and depressed, or ready to switch as soon as you possibly can.
Alternatively you work a job you love (I’m assured that there are people out there who genuinely love their jobs): everyday you enjoy what you’re doing, and enjoy the way it challenges and pushes you.
The paycheck at the end of the month is like a bonus: what’s more you actually have a bonus, because your manager is so impressed with how diligently you’ve been working.
But I think training is boring, how the hell do I start loving it!
I’m not going to stand here and say that everyone should find a way to love training, in the way I do.
It’s not for everyone, just like not everyone likes painting or some people hate sports.
But I think there’s a lot of people who are motivated to train that don’t grow to love it because they’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
As I keep emphasising, the key to sustainable and impressive training results is making it a lifestyle.
Take it slow. Don’t go all-out in your first week. Gradually change your habits, learn and practice.
If you’ve never done exercise in your life, start by making walking 20 minutes a day a habit. Then start walking for an hour. Then start jogging for 5 minutes at the start of your walks.
If you’ve never lifted a weight before start with the bar and learn how to do the big compound lifts properly. Add weight, sets and exercises gradually as you progress.
Do it to challenge yourself, not to impress others or just to have the flat stomach.
Before long movement and being active will be engrained in your lifestyle, and you ‘ll enjoy seeing your progression and pushing yourself to go further, lift more or run faster.
And then, you’ll realise you also look good. And keeping it will be effortless.
Related article: 8 things all fit people do
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