I consider myself to be fairly young, seeing as I’m 32. Also I consider myself to be in decent shape, as I’ve been in the gym 3-5 days a week for going on 14 years now. Lastly, I also like to think I’ve accumulated a fair amount of knowledge about strength. It’s a funny thing sometimes, strength, as it can be applied to both physical strength as well as mental/emotional strength.
While mental strength may not help you cultivate physical strength, it is my opinion that the pursuit of physical strength can and will do just that for mental strength. It wasn’t until the second semester of my freshman year in undergrad that I became enamored with the idea of weight lifting. Forever, seared into my brain is the image of myself as I passed in front of a mirror shirtless in my freshman dorm room. I was a three sport high school athlete (not very good at any of them but it sure was fun!), and the first semester of college had not been very kind to my physique.
Now this wasn’t the typical freshman 15 weight gain, the change I experienced was in body composition, because the scale remained relatively the same. Either way I remember thinking I need to do something about this, and off to the rec center I went. I spent the next few years lifting and enjoying the camaraderie of my fellow gym goers, so much so that I changed my plans of being a radio DJ (whew that could’ve been bad), to focus on a degree in Exercise Science.
To me strength training and the gym is much more than a way to improve health and longevity, it is a metaphor for life. Many of the important life lessons I’ve learned have come in the gym. Here are a few of them.
1) Patience- Nothing will test your patience like trying to add 30 lbs to your deadlift over the course of a year. You see once you have been lifting beyond 3-5 years, the gains in strength come much slower. This is the time where your patience will be tested, and nothing but pure grit and hard work will get you to that next milestone. The same can be said for weight loss. While you may have those that toil with 12 week quick fix programs, those who show patience, will in the end be rewarded with the goal they seek.
This is dead on with life, because those who are the most successful, are the ones who are patient and continually work towards the goals they set for themselves.
2) Consistency- Piggybacking on the idea that gaining strength takes time and patience, that only bears out if you consistently work towards your goal. You might be patient, but patience paired with inconsistency will get you no where. If you plan to set a new squat PR, or lose 50 pounds you can’t just expect to work at it 2 days a week, you have to nail your workouts 4-5 days a week, or execute your nutrition plan 85% of the time.
Same goes for life. If you want to be the CEO of a fortune 500 company you don’t do that by calling in sick, or bailing early every Friday afternoon. In order to get promoted you should be consistent and deliver when others will not.
3) Determination- Set your goal and don’t quit until you achieve it. I’ve had the goal to squat 405 posted on the wall at work for a while now, and it’s going to take a while for me to get there, but I know I will in time. I’m determined that no matter what, even if it takes me the next 10 years to get there I will. Having this indeterminable will goes a long way. You will be tested and want to quit during your journey, it is at those times that you must remind yourself why you’ve started your journey.
Those who are determined don’t take no for an answer. When someone doubts you or says you can’t do that, use it to fuel the fire that already burns inside you.
These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. If you have any lessons that the iron has taught you leave them in the comments below.