By Coach KB
As I get older (I’m 35 in case anyone was curious) I frequently find myself asking, “Why the hell am I doing this? Why the hell do I care? Why the hell can’t I be cool with just cruising through a workout with an easy weight and at a speed that does not leave me in a puddle on the floor at the end?” And sometimes, let’s be honest, “Why do I work out at all?”
And honestly, sometimes the answer is, “I don’t know.” A younger self might have answered just to prove that I can. That is a fine answer. There is something very satisfying about just completing something daunting… something that you know will be difficult. An even younger self might have answered to look good (whatever that means). But it is so much more than any of those things. If you dig down deep, behind every simple answer, there is something much truer, more visceral, and really at the heart of why we (should) do anything.
I look at each workout as a metaphor for something else greater in my life. The act of exercising itself does not make me a cool person. It might make me physically stronger, but I am not interested in that unless I put it to use in my life outside the gym. What I have found to be true in my life, over and over again, is that the mental strength I have gained by pushing myself in the gym bleeds into all areas of my life. This is the “the real stuff” I gain from challenging workouts. Grit. Tenacity. Fortitude. Mental toughness. Whatever you want to call it, I cultivate it in the gym.
There is something empowering about putting your whole self out there and finishing. When you hold back, you limit yourself; you sell yourself short. We can only do incredible things in our life if we practice pushing beyond our comfort zone. The gym is a safe place to try on what this feels like so you can push beyond your limits with confidence elsewhere in your life.
When you attempt something that you might fail you make yourself vulnerable. Vulnerability is a trait of anyone who risks something to make life better. Trust me, it can be mentally defeating to start with the bar at a certain weight only to realize that I am incapable of finishing the workout at that weight. I don’t like to know that I finished the last few rounds slower than the first few. But guess what? It doesn’t matter because it is just a stupid workout. What matters is that I went for it. I tried something that I wasn’t sure I was capable of. Sometimes I realize I am, in fact, not capable of it… yet. But sometimes I find that I am. And it. Feels. Awesome. Would it be easier to always stick with something I know I can finish? Yes, but when I push myself at the gym it has nothing to do with how fast I am or how much weight I can lift. It has everything to do with training for some unknown life-task in the future. I will never want to try anything new in life if all I practice is sticking to something that makes me feel good about myself right now.
Now, I am human. Sometimes I start a workout without any other metaphorical life goal in mind. Sometimes I work out simply because I need to get something done that day - simply because I know I need to even though I don’t want to. But that is exactly my point. Doing something you don’t want to do - because it would be more fun to go to happy hour or more comfortable to hit snooze on your alarm clock - is exactly the life-training we need to tackle our problems when we don’t want to or when it would be easier to ignore them.
I could go on about how exercise is a metaphor for life but I think you get the picture. More important right now is asking yourself how you approach your workouts. Why do you come to POINT? Are you someone who grabs a heavier medicine ball or needs to have it suggested to you that you might be capable of more than you are doing? Are you someone who goes hard all the way through the final countdown of 3-2-1 or do you stop working as soon as you hear us say 3? Are you gasping for air when the buzzer goes off or comfortably putting your equipment away? Whatever your answers, examine how they relate to your life now and how you want your life to be. At the very least we should all have a good answer to the question, “Why do you work out?”
I’ll leave you with a popular (and short) TED Talk on grit by Angela Lee Duckworth, along with a follow-up article from Forbes magazine outlining five characteristics of grit.