Lifting weights is awesome. It’s something that everyone should be doing.
In the modern economy, we spend most of our time (like I am now), sitting infront of a computer, typing away and doing something conceptual.
Now, there is nothing wrong with that, and working the mind is great, and conceptual work pays better than manual labour.
But, it is important to keep the mind and the body in balance.
The modern world is saturated with a mind-body dichotomy, which is easily demonstrated with two stereotypes:
- The fat banker
- The idiot body builder
A fit body leads to a fit mind, and a fit mind keeps a fit body and it’s important to work on both.
I also think that there are some important life lessons we can learn from lifting weights.
Here are 9 life lessons you can learn from lifting weights:
You’re either getting stronger or you’re getting weaker
There is no such thing as coasting. Coasting is a myth. If you keep lifting, you get bigger and you get stronger. If you stop, you get weaker and smaller.
You business is either growing, or shrinking.
Your skills are either improving, or weakening.
This first hit home for me when I made a realisation about working out. I wanted to be stronger and have bigger muscles.
I used to think that, If I did a bit of regular work, I would reach the result I wanted, eventually.
This was an error.
The result is dependant on the weekly / daily amount of work I do.
X result requires Y daily work.
When I made that realisation, I started working out more often.
Now I goto the gym at least 4 times a week, and try to go 6 times.
Choose the result and find a method to get there
Let’s say that you want to have an all round toned and muscular physique, but you really like working out biceps.
So all you do is work out biceps.
You are not going to reach your goal.
If you want to have a certain physique or level of fitness, you have to design a training program around that desired result.
If you want a result from life, you have to design a habit or a system that builds that result.
So if you want a great physique, you have to train all your muscle groups. Not just the ones you enjoy training.
I’ve been guilty of this mistake myself. I wanted to release albums and write music, but got caught up in thinking I had to build a giant guitar school first, so that I could do that.
If I wanted to release and write albums… then, every day, I have to work on writing new songs (which I do).
You don’t do yoga so that you can eventually do weights.
You don’t learn to ride a bicycle so that you can eventually learn to drive.
You do what it is you want to be able to do, but at a lower level, so you can skill up to do it at a higher level.
Your schedule determines the level you reach
Here’s what different levels of working out will achieve:
- Working out once a week – you achieve almost nothing.
- Working out 3-4 times a week – you’ll make progress.
- Working out 4-7 times a week – sooner or later, you reach god mode.
And this is true for any life skill. You can become great at literally anything, just by working on it…. every day.
How much time you are willing to regularly to commit to something, determines the level you will reach with it.
Yet, what do most people choose to become great at? Spending time on facebook. Watching TV. Nothingness.
This is also evident in learning an instrument or more specifically for me, playing guitar. I play every day and I get better. If I played guitar once or twice a week, I would suck.
When I wanted to write an awesome heavy metal album, I worked on my guitar playing daily, and songwriting several times a week… for years.
And I know that by doing the same, but more, I’ll have a second album before too long.
Creativity is a habit you train, not a god given skill.
Your schedule will determine your skill level.
It is never about sacrifice – it’s about recognition of values
Sacrifice is a horrible word, that gets constantly abused. I could probably write a post on consequences on the mind and your happiness that the abuse of this word causes, but I won’t.
At least, not today.
If you goto the gym, workout hard, get really tired; is that a sacrifice?
If you wake up an hour earlier every day to get guitar practice time in, is that a sacrifice?
If you work on writing for your blog every day, is that a sacrifice?
If you choose not to eat chocolate and bread every day, is that a sacrifice?
It’s a recognition of values. It’s a recognition that there is something that you want to achieve, and work has to be done to achieve it, something has to change in order to achieve what it is you want.
Deciding one value has priority over another, is not a sacrifice. It’s vital for being a happy and successful human.
If you think of future goals in terms of sacrificing XYZ, then of course you will feel bad (and that is why the term is thrown around so much).
When I was at university preparing to record for my university band, there were nights that I would sit in my room and practice, rather than go out partying with my friends.
One night I did over 200 takes on a guitar solo, when I could have been drinking beers and making jokes.
It wasn’t a sacrifice, it was a recognition of the long term goals I wanted to achieve.
(Also, all 200 takes sucked so I had to do it again the next night).
Something is always better than nothing
There are going to be days that you don’t want to work out.
But doing something, even a little bit, is always better than doing nothing.
If you really, really don’t want to got the gym… go anyway.
Maybe try out some different exercises, change up your routine a little bit, do something to make it more interesting.
But do something.
It’s the same with playing guitar or making more money.
Sometimes I don’t want to practice guitar. Sometimes, sitting down and playing scales gets boring. Writing a new song can be frustrating.
So I’ll do something. Maybe throw on some backing tracks and just jam to them for 30 minutes – it beats doing nothing.
Or edit a bass line.
Doing something is always better than nothing, and it’s better to move forwards by a single step, than not at all.
Want to do a 5 minute something to get some extra money? Find something you have and list it on craigslist / gumtree / eBay.
Your life has to be congruent
Your lifestyle has to support the habit.
This is where most people fail big time.
If you want to work out, and goto the gym every day, you’re going to get results.
If you also eat kebabs and drink beers every night, then your lifestyle is going to destroy any gains that your new habit has made.
You can almost think of your life like a horse drawn cart. You are the cart. The horses are your lifestyle and habits.
If the horses are pulling in different directions, then the cart is not going to go anywhere.
If the horses are all pulling in unison, together, in the same direction; you’re going to get there faster than you think.
There are always multiple ways to get the result you want, but one will work better for you than others
“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
– Lao Tzu
Be wary of anyone telling you, that they have the exact solution for you.
The most likely scenario, is that you have to try a few different things out in order to find what really works for you.
Trying things out takes time, patience and perseverance.
These things take trial and error. No-one is going to understand you, your situation and your ambitions like you do.
And those things will change and evolve over time.
The workout program I used over time is an example of this.
I started off with some dumbbells and a pull up bar in the back garden. I had a bench that I made out of some bricks and a piece of wood. The pull up bar was suspended off a tree with some rope.
It was actually pretty good – but I only had a few dumbbells.
Then I did crossfit. It was really fun and I made some incredible strength gains very fast. But, I also picked up injuries. For me, the risk of getting injured was greater than the rewards, so I had to find something new.
Next, I tried a traditional body building work out program and diet. That got some results, but the dieting gave me mood swings, I constantly felt exhausted and the workouts were too repetitive.
Then I tried Body of A Spartan, and found something that clicked. Interesting workout programs, dieting I could stick with and it was safer than Crossfit.
It took literally years of trial and error.
But… everything worth having does.
For any goal, there are an enormous amount of ways you can achieve it.
Anyone saying that there is only one way, or they have the way, is going to sell you something and has no real interest in you achieving your goal.
There is no way to avoid the trial and error aspect of achieving whatever you want.
I can see this across my life, in my guitar playing, business, and relationships.
Screw up, learn from it, and move on.
Hard work is the best way to feel good
No-one has ever felt bad from working out.
You might feel sore.
You might feel tired.
But you don’t feel bad.
Working out feels good.
And working hard feels good.
More specifically, working hard towards something you want to achieve feels good.
Working hard at something you hate, creates resentment and despair.
Setting yourself a challenge and working at it, feels good.
You look back at what you did and you say, “I did that”.
Making my album was crazy challenging. I had to work hard, and really push myself to finish it.
And while it is a great heavy metal album, it hasn’t exactly been the worlds most successful album (yet).
But I look back on it with pride, and I can say “I made this”.
I can hold it in my hand and say, “this is mine”.
I’ve been working on a 30 day blogging challenge – to write a new post for this blog every day, for 30 days.
It hasn’t been easy.
My alarm goes off at 5.45am every morning, so that I can get up and write.
Yesterday’s post took 5-6 hours to write. I wanted to quit on it several times.
This morning I wrote half of 4 different posts, before settling into this one and writing it.
But tomorrow, I will be able to look at what I did and say, “I did that. I made it”.
And *that*, that feels good.
Progress requires overcoming resistance
We get stronger from lifting, because we overcome the resistance of the weight.
All progress in life, in all things, requires overcoming some form of resistance.
And the more we push ourselves to overcome that resistance, the more we get out of overcoming it.