Before we get started, let me tell you that I only used the word “exercise” in the title instead of “train” to draw you in. If you think of your physical activity as “exercise” and not “training” I would highly suggest you change that! Okay now on to the good stuff.
“I want you to kick my ass.”
The familiar blue light of Facebook messenger pops up on the bottom of my screen. “Who could this be?” I think when I hear the new message bell ring. I open the tab and see a name I did not expect: Carly Rose. I had only met Carly once, about a year prior. A friend of a friend who was looking for a gym. After showing her around and chatting with her about training, she decided that she couldn’t make it work with her current work schedule (plus we were a good chunk of commuting away for her).
A special we were running for a month of discounted training had caught her eye. “I want to come in for the month and I want you to kick my ass.” Something I’ve heard quite a few people say. Most people envision the process of “getting in shape” as one of discomfort and punishment. I questioned her about her goals, motivations, etc.. and again heard some pretty common responses: “I want to lose weight,” “I want a flatter stomach,” She started training the next week…
What Do You Really Want?
My good friend Ben Dearman (owner of the fantastic gym KDR Fitness in the Lebanon, NH area) once told me “Everyone just wants to have more sex.” Ben’s girlfriend Jamie (who is also an owner of KDR and a great coach) rolled her eyes as he waxed about no matter what anyone says they’re training for, they just want to have more (or better) sex. It’s a theory I’m not entirely sure I agree with, but there is no doubt that most people want to “look better naked.” Truthfully I see nothing wrong with wanting to “look better.” The question is, who’s standards are you holding yourself to? Are you trying to fit into your own mold or someone else’s?
I’ve had women ask me how to make their legs smaller. And I mean women who are already lean enough to have visible abs. I would like to point something out: The only way to make your already lean leg smaller is to stop using the muscles in your leg, something any trainer that actually gave a damn about your health would never suggest. I’ve stood there as women have pointed to tiny little sections of their inner thigh and describe at length how they desperately need to fix it. Truth: That breaks my heart.
So what ever happened to Carly? Well she celebrated her 1 year anniversary just last month. She also told me recently that she weighs more than she ever has in her entire life, and she’s also happier with how she looks than ever before. Did she get her ass kicked? Well, she decided to try her hand at Olympic Weightlifting, and that’s a pretty hard sport, but it’s never hard for the sake of being hard. Some weeks she probably feels like I’m trying to kill her. At other times her workouts are quick and easy. And those women who wanted smaller legs? Well, they would probably be offended by Carly’s quads (check her in the far left of the photo)
Last week Carly told me that her friends keep telling her to “not get too big.” As she put it, “Their biggest concern is that I don’t fit into the body standards that they think are ok.”
But Carly doesn’t care, she’s worked hard to reach her goals as a Weightlifter, and she loves her body for what it can do, not simply for how it looks. And funny enough, when you have a purpose built body, that starts to become your ideal. It’s a transition I’ve seen in quite a few women. As much as hearing women constantly criticize themselves for not fitting societies idea of “perfection,” nothing makes me happier when a woman says to me “my new goal is to squat 200lbs,” or “I want bigger biceps.”
Men Aren’t Exempt
I don’t have the opportunity to work with as many men as I do women, but men are not exempt from letting themselves be defined by someone else’s standards. Although most men never feel big enough, anorexia and other similar disorders are a serious problem in the male population. That’s a big reason my interest in aesthetic based “sports” like bodybuilding waned after my early twentys. I was tired of dieting down all the time, and feeling like crap all the time.
That was when I started to build more action based goals, and although I’ve been much leaner in my life, my blood pressure is the best it’s ever been, I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, and I’m more flexible than I was when I was a kid.
Learn to love yourself
Is your life going to be better if you have six pack abs? Are you going to be happier when your quad is 16″ instead of 18″? No. The only thing that’s going to make your life better is your attitude. If you choose to be miserable, you’ll be miserable. If you choose to be positive and happy, that’s exactly what you’ll be.
Now you don’t have to change all of your goals to wanting to have the physique of a competitive Weightlifter, but most of your goals should be performance based. Maybe you want to run a 10k, or complete an obstacle race or maybe you just want to be able to ride a bicycle without pain. Whatever your goals are, make sure they are your goals, and you are living to your standards, not someone elses. And above all else, love yourself and your body now. I promise it will be much kinder to you that way.
What do you think about this? Leave us a comment below and if you think this message will resonate with any of your friends, feel free to share it with them.