Working to become fit is about so much more than physical transformation! It also comes with sweeping effects on who you are as a person! Here Hunter, a personal trainer, exercise scientist, and passionate weightlifter, explores the life lessons weight training has taught him!
I have been weight training for what feels like a very long time — since my early teens, now that I think about it.
And what was once nothing more than a vain attempt to look better at the beach slowly transitioned into a serious hobby and now what I can only describe as a career. It really is funny to think that, had I not chosen to do some bicep curls, my entire life could be very different.
Interestingly, I would argue that I would not only look different (and work in a different field) but that I would be a completely different person. See, while it has shaped my body and my interests, the life lessons weight training has taught me impact me every single day.
1. Effort is Integral To Progress
This first one may sound a little obvious but that doesn’t make it any less important.
Before I stepped foot in a gym, I had a nasty habit of just scraping by. In short, I would do the bare minimum required of me in everything. This meant minimal study, a poor work ethic at my after-school job, and half-assed chores at home.
But here’s the thing — you can’t half-ass the gym.
Or let me rephrase that — you can, but you will not see any progress at all.
I quickly realized that the harder I chose to work, the more progress I would make. If I actually chose to apply myself with the intent to push right up to my limits then I would see the changes that I wanted to see.
And I truly believe that this holds true for everything. Hard work = results.
2. Consistency Trumps (Almost) Everything
Now, hard work is super important — but there is a bit of a caveat here.
Hard work is rendered completely useless if it is intermittent and unorganized.
The key is working hard with intent over a long duration of time. It means not skipping sessions and keeping focused on your goal for a long period of time. It means being patient and dedicated.
A single hard workout will get you sore but it will not cause any long-term changes to your body.
Four hard workouts per week for an entire month will cause some changes in your body. You will lose a bit of fat, build a bit of muscle, experience improved sleep, and see your energy levels start to increase.
But, again, these changes will be minimal.
But if you manage four hard workouts per week for an entire year? Well, that’s where the magic starts to happen.
And this holds true for everything. Anything you want takes time and consistent effort. If you want to learn something new, get a promotion, or simply look good naked, it all takes effort applied consistently over time.
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3. Your Ego is Not Your Friend
Let me tell you a bit of a story.
It was the summer of ’99 (or sometime around then…). I had been working out consistently for a couple of months, and I was feeling pretty good about myself (AKA, I had a huge head).
I was training with a friend at the gym and I got a little bit caught up on the bench press. We just kept stacking weight on, essentially trying to show each other how much weight we could lift without saying that’s what we were doing.
In case you couldn’t guess, it was a bit moronic.
Made even more so by the fact that I blew out my shoulder and had to take 6 weeks off completely…
Talk about, “one step forward and two steps back.”
While I could easily have put this down to a freak accident, I knew deep down that it wasn’t. I was fully aware that it happened because I had let my ego take over and I tried to show off. Something that I don’t intend to let happen again.
You don’t achieve success in anything by showing off. You achieve it by working hard and being humble.
4. Long-Term Rewards Beat Short-Term Gratification
Building on the above point, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. You can do something in the short-term because you enjoy it or simply because it feels good at the time.
It might, however, not be the best decision for you in the long-term.
Using a very simple example, when I first started lifting weights, I wanted to build a lean and muscular body. This meant a lean and muscular upper body and a lean and muscular lower body.
But I really didn’t like training my lower body.
So, I just trained my upper body because I enjoyed it more and it was generally easier. Over time I built quite a bit of muscle mass… but almost all of it was on my upper body.
Did someone say, “chicken legs”?
I essentially sacrificed my long-term success (total body strength) for something that felt good in the short term (lifting heavy for my upper body).
This is something that happens all the time in daily life.
Think of all the times you have needed to do a load of washing but ended up watching Netflix. Or the times you needed to study hard for an exam, but you got caught up drinking coffee with friends instead?
Sure, those decisions felt good at the time but they came at a cost.
Chase long-term success, not momentary pleasures.
5. Goals are Important
The last of the life lessons weight training taught me is the most important because it really ties everything else together.
See, if I didn’t have a long-term goal of getting more muscular, I would have never stepped foot in a gym in the first place.
I would have never learned that hard work produces results and I certainly would have never had the desire to train consistently to produce those results. It was also having this long-term goal that allowed me to realize that I had been sacrificing my own long-term success for short term gratification.
Goals give you focus. They allow you to establish whether what you have been doing has been successful or a complete and utter failure.
They also give you the motivation to do better and to work hard.
I guess you could say they give you reasons to get up and face the day with positivity and intent — which is integral to every aspect of your life.
Take Home Message
While I am the first to admit that a large part of lifting weights is about looking good naked, I like to think that it is about so much more than that, too. It’s about bettering yourself through hard work and consistency. It’s about keeping your ego at bay to chase down your long-term goal(s). The life lessons weight training can teach can help you grow in every aspect of your life.
Lifting weights is about self-improvement. And isn’t self-improvement what we’re all, ultimately, trying to do with our 80 or 90 years here?