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Change How You Think About Weightlifting

There’s nothing more humbling than to see someone warming up with your max weight.

I still remember the day it happened. I had just reached 180 lbs. on the bench press and was feeling very good about myself. I wrapped up my workout, cleaned off the bench, and stepped out of the way for the guy that was waiting. I was preparing to take my weight off the bar and he stopped me.

“Nah, you good.”

I backed out of the way and watched him methodically lift my max weight and pump out 15 reps to warm up. As he jumped up to add more weight, I slowly turned around to gather my things from the locker room.

My entire workout had been a waste.

Not really, but that’s what I told myself, because I had just fallen prey to the same mistakes I made back when I first started lifting weights. Here’s to hoping that I can help prevent you from doing the same, because weightlifting should absolutely be part of your workout regimen. This goes for both men and women.

MENTAL: Your Journey is YOUR Journey

When writing this blog, I learned the official name for something that we all experience: Social Comparison Theory. In 1954, psychologist Leon Festinger suggested that people have an innate drive to evaluate themselves, often in comparison to others. Our parents did this for us, until we became self-aware enough to start doing it ourselves. Everyone, on every level does this in some way or another. Two iconic pictures from the 2016 Olympic capture this very theory in action:

sct1

It’s this very occurrence that can derail, and demotivate, us from our fitness goals.

You and another person can do the same workouts, and see completely different results. The way your body responds to lifting weights is unique to you, thanks to your DNA, body type, and muscle structure. So if your body responds differently, why would you compare your progress to someone else? The journey you’re on isn’t the same as someone else’s, so despite your normal social comparison tendencies, focus on your own lane. Besides, there’s someone more worthy of your focus: yourself.

ACTIONABLE: You vs. You

My wife and I were chatting the other day and I expressed how everyone has their “problem areas” when it comes to working out. We’re our own hardest critics, so who knows our fitness needs better than us?

When I first started lifting weights, EVERY area was a problem area. My legs were too thin, chest too flat, arms too weak, you name it, I had a problem with it. So what did I do?

  1. I made a list of everything I wanted to improve
  2. Took pictures for comparison AGAINST MYSELF
  3. I found a workout plan that worked the entire body and especially my problem areas
  4. Established my strength baseline for each of the areas
  5. Checked my progress bi-weekly (should have been 3-4 weeks, but I was impatient starting out)
  6. Committed to 12 weeks of working out (no matter what)

Did this absolve me of my problem areas? Absolutely not. However, it did help me to start building confidence in my ability to make progress. To this day, I still look in the mirror and sometimes see legs that are too thin, a chest that is too flat, and arms that are too weak. But then I go back and look at my old pictures and my old strength baseline, and I’m reminded that I am actually making progress. My efforts were not in vain.

Then I stumbled on something that really made the working out habit take hold.

TANGIBLE: What’s your why?

March 2014, I got serious about my fitness journey. Why? I was tired of not being able to walk after I finished delivering a four-hour workshop. I was tired of always being tired.

#HawkDG was still in the early stages, and we were starting to gain traction. By “gain traction”, I mean that the frequency in how often I had to teach was starting to increase. I underestimated how taxing the teaching process could be on my body. When I put this in perspective with my vision for the company, I knew that I had to be in proper physical shape. This is why I started working out.

Every time I was in the gym, and wanted to give up because it was too difficult, I would literally close my eyes and envision myself teaching. I would envision myself traveling from one location to the next because I had a workshop to deliver. I would envision why I started this journey in the first place.

I envisioned a tangible, impactful, daily life-altering situation that gave my working out meaning. Working out just because someone “told you to” is a guaranteed way to be miserable before, during, and after each workout. Whether you want more energy to run behind your toddler, to completely redo your wardrobe by going down 3 sizes, build your endurance for your weekly basketball game, or simply walk up 2 flights of steps without being in pain, find the thing that gives your workouts meaning. Find your why.

There are definitely deeper, more tactical topics regarding weightlifting such as proper form, types of workouts, etc., and you can find plenty of resources on those topics at this extremely useful website. As always, if there’s anything I can do to help, I’m here. We touched on it a bit in this blog, but our next topic will explore changing the way you think about making progress.

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