Over the past 14 years, I’ve had the opportunity to train hundreds of individuals, all with their own stories, histories and expectations.
And during that time I’ve developed a pretty keen ability to read people. More times than not I know within the first five minutes of meeting someone if that person truly going to “make it” when it comes to changing his or her lifestyle.
That’s not to say that it won’t happen at some point, but that person simply isn’t ready yet.
You see, people come to me in the hopes of being inspired and motivated, but the fact of the matter is the ball is always in their court. At best, I can create opportunities for success, guide people along and be their cheerleader.
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But ultimately, if you really want to change, it’s something that only you can do.
Don’t get me wrong: Having a trainer and a strong supporting cast does play a major role in the process, but it’s still a secondary one, and putting those pieces in place is only the start.
At the end of the day it’s you that has to find the motivation to get up and burn while the rest of the world continues to sleep.
It’s you that will have to spend less time with people who subconsciously want to keep you exactly where you are.
It’s you that will have to indulge less and start caring about what you put into your body.
And it’s you that must realize you deserve to feel and live better than you currently are and do what it takes to get there.
So the question is how do you do it? Or even better: What type of person do you need to become to do it?
Lately I have been thinking about those people I’ve had the pleasure of training over the last 14 years who were truly awakened, who embraced the process, who took back power and ownership of themselves, and who became the change. So without further ado, here’s what I have discovered.
Find an intrinsic purpose
It all begins here. Getting into shape just for the sake of being in shape will not create the solid foundation and driving force to keep you in the game for the long haul. Nor will body image goals like “getting skinnier” or “losing the beer gut.”
Body image goals are the equivalent of chasing a carrot on a stick. We constantly keep the lens focused on what we don’t like about our bodies even once we have reached our original weight or body fat goal, ultimately leaving you in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction. There’s nothing healthy about that.
Besides, results are measured far beyond “how we look.” I understand the nature of wanting to look better, but it’s the feelings we associate with it that we are after. Having more confidence, feeling empowered and increasing our self-esteem and overall happiness are what we are truly after. Once you start training with this kind of purpose, you quickly make a mental shift toward the feelings you are after.
Your purpose can be a wide variety of things: Being able to have the stamina to keep up and play with your kids. Being their role model. Participating in an event you’ve always wanted to, like a 5K, Spartan Race, backpacking trip, or even playing in a sport you enjoy. Getting out of a state of chronic pain. (I’ve known too many people dealing with back, shoulder and knee issues on a daily basis.)
Getting your body to the point where it complies with what you want to do instead of limiting what you can do is incredibly empowering. Find and establish what is going to drive you as soon as possible and let that be the life force to your workouts. Then fitness becomes a part of who you are as opposed to something that you “have to do.”
There’s nothing wrong with being competitive, and this is something I encourage you to fully embrace. I’m not saying that you have to beat everyone in the gym at everything. But at least be competitive with yourself.
Establish goals within the workout. How many reps you want to do? How much weight do you want to lift (safely)? How fast do you want to complete a circuit? Drive yourself. Challenge yourself. Push yourself.
You’re here to get better, right? Then train like it. Begin to get a sense of where your fitness comfort zone is and push yourself just outside of that when you train. The only exception would be on a recovery day or unloading week. But even then you want to stay focused on being disciplined. Once you discover where you fall in this fitness realm, then you can begin to size up everyone else if it suits your personality and drives you.
It is said that we are the average of the five people closest to us. This goes for training, too. Trying to hang with someone who’s just a little more skilled and fit can propel you to the next level. So again: Embrace being competitive; you’ll be amazed at how much more you accomplish.
Know your numbers
We use 12 fitness tests (such as push-ups, bench presses and a mile run) in our gym that measure strength, muscular endurance, speed and cardiovascular endurance. We track these numbers and test quarterly. This is how fitness is measured.
More precisely, this is how results are measured. Stronger, faster, more powerful are what we are after. This is how you catch both the carrot and the stick. I’ve never seen a person with an elite level of fitness that didn’t look like he or she was chiseled out of stone. Working to improve in all of these areas will have you accomplishing more physically and mentally that you could possibly imagine.
Be a Weekend Warrior
Workouts should carry over into life outside of the gym. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy my workouts and improving on my fitness test, but not nearly as much as what they allow me to do everywhere else.
The ability to continue playing at a high level in all areas of life is what workouts give us. For me, it’s being able to participate in Spartan Races; play football, softball, volleyball in recreation leagues at a competitive level; and have the endurance to play all weekend with friends and family without feeling like I got hit by a bus for a week afterward.
I implore you to find something that keeps you active and that you’re passionate about outside of the gym, and let that be another source of fuel for your workouts.
Workouts are non-negotiable
It’s simple. The ones who “make it” always find a way to get a workout in as opposed to finding an excuse for why they can’t. This is because of all the previously stated points. The workouts are now a part of who we are and improve not only who we are physically, but who we are mentally.
Workouts make you sharper, more focused, more efficient and overall a friendlier and better human being day to day. Cheating yourself from a workout now means you are cheating your true self. Whether it’s your stress reliever after work, your recharge at lunch, or the bar you set first thing in the morning, it becomes a necessity. Again: It’s a part of you.
Take Nutrition Seriously
There are two extremes that need to be avoided. One is the thinking that exercise gives you a hall pass to eat whatever the hell you want. Nothing could be further from the truth. Garbage in, garbage out. And your exercise performance and results will reflect that.
Two is thinking that food needs to be restricted to ridiculous proportions in order to get lean and mean. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. You shouldn’t fear food or fear calories. If you deprive yourself of food, you’re only slowing your metabolism down and increasing how much fat you store because your body thinks there is a famine.
Food is fuel. Do you freak out every time you put gas in your car? No. Food is the same thing for our bodies. Want to get lean and mean? Then you better start eating clean — and often. Fruits. Veggies. Whole grains. Lean proteins. Healthy fats. And the occasional indulgence is acceptable and healthy as well.
I’m not the food Nazi — far from it. I love a good beer. Sometimes several. A small dessert after dinner. But 80-90 percent of what goes in is high-efficient fuel that will drive my performance, give me energy and keep me healthy.
So I encourage you to gain knowledge in this area. Pay attention to what you are eating and how you are eating. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and nutrition is highly individualized. Start with the basics, and then tinker and modify until your body responds in the most positive way and you discover the formula that works best for you.
Always expect more
Continue to be driven and expect more out of yourself. Limitations are only illusions that the mind creates. Avoid self-limiting phrases like, “I’ll never be able to do that.” You immediately build a ceiling for yourself.
Keep your mind and expectations open to all possibilities. Be an inspiration to yourself and to others. Find a way and get it done whether it takes days or years. Keep moving forward. Whether it’s completing your first marathon or coming back from an injury, focus on the desired outcome and let it pull you forward.
And lastly, never become complacent. We are designed to grow and evolve physically and mentally. There is no place that we arrive. Our journey is forever going. Take the time to enjoy your accomplishments along the way, but continue to strive for more as you continue on your quest. It’s your body. It’s your mind. It’s your soul. You are the author. Write your story the way you want it, and go out and get it.
Jason Wanlass, the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian, has more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or championfit.net. He writes a monthly fitness column.