“3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Working Out”
Embarking on a fitness journey is like taking a flight from JFK to Singapore. You leave your house at 3:00AM EXCITED as hell, and highly motivated to take a trip halfway around the world. As you go through security, and check your bags, the excitement only builds more and more…19 hours “Pshh, that’s nothing”, you say to yourself, dismissing the reality of what lies in front of you because you are distracted by the ultimate prize…landing in beautiful Singapore! You take off, looking out the window at the rapidly shrinking New York City skyline, sit back in your seat, and smile. “This is going to be easy, you say to yourself,” and as some of the 4:00AM Starbucks begins to wear off, and the adrenaline of the pre trip excitement fades, you close your eyes and try to get some rest.
1.5 hours later, as your pilot announces that you are passing over Toronto, heading North into the abyss and wilderness that composes the majority of Canada, that baby behind you has NOT stopped crying. That is tolerable, but what is not tolerable is “Mitch” from Georgia, who is sitting next to you, loudly chewing his gum, and exhibiting a little TOO much Southern Hospitality, as he wants to talk about anything, and everything. Mitch has had his share of BBQ as well, so there is also a constant battle over the arm rest. “1.5 hours in?,” you say to yourself, “Is that all? Holy shit, this is going to be WAY harder than I thought, I am not even remotely close to getting there!”
17.5 hours later, after learning about Mitch’s entire family tree, hearing trident gum being chewed 23,598 times, and deciding that you NEVER want to have children, you land, step outside, and despite those trials and tribulations, decide that although it was far from EASY, it was worth it.
How many of you have felt this way about your fitness journey? I know for me, I absolutely have, so I thought I would share the top “3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Working Out”.
It takes TIME.
Just like a non stop flight halfway around the world, gaining strength, building muscle, losing fat, building the body of your dreams, enhancing your mobility, improving your aerobic capacity…whatever it is, it WILL TAKE TIME. And you know what? That is ok. That is what makes it worth it. That is what I absolutely love about fitness. You cannot buy a better Kettlebell Goblet Squat. You cannot have someone get a set of six pack abs for you. You have to run the faster 5k, you know, yourself. But anyone who has ever improved their Goblet Squat, gotten a defined mid section, or set a PR in a 5k has put in a lot of work, over a significant period of time to get that. And that is pretty friggin’ awesome.
So if this process takes time, what can we do to stay in the game? The answer is simple…you to make the “flight more “enjoyable.” I haven’t taken one, and probably never will, but I would be willing to bet that on the flight to Singapore you have a seat that essentially turns into a bed, access to plenty of delicious food and drinks, and an endless supply of movies, Netflix, etc to take your mind OFF of how far away you are, and reel you into the presence of where you are today…even if it is only somewhere over Alberta, Canada. Enjoy the process. Make friends at the gym. Make it your happy, “3rd place” in life, and pretty soon, you will forget about why you started, or what your ultimate goal is, and adapt this lifestyle as one you will never give up. And when you do that, a funny thing happens…one day you look up at the man/woman in the mirror, realize you HAVE achieved your goals, and are excited to set new ones, not because you aren’t satisfied or content, but because you LOVE this life.
You have to be okay with the process being finite and non linear.
I can recall in college, I experienced your typical “Newbie Gains” when I started training. You know what I am talking about, we have all been there. Week 1 in the gym is awful, you are sore everywhere, want to quit, but the excitement and high level of motivation bring you back. Week 2 is better, you aren’t as sore. Week 3 is better still, now you are getting stronger. By Week 5, you gain see your body changing, soreness is just about non existent, and you are rapidly gaining strength. When I was in this position, I can remember thinking “This is awesome! At this rate I will be bench pressing 350 pounds in a couple of years, with the biggest arms in the gym!” My 39 year old self would say to that 18 year old kid “Hold on there Cowboy, there is a catch…progress in the gym IS finite, and it certainly isn’t linear.”
Genetics play an ENORMOUS role in our ability to build muscle, gain strength, burn fat, or run faster. This is a simple fact, otherwise anyone who “wanted it bad enough” would play for the New England Patriots, become Mr. Olympia, or get paid boatloads of money to endorse products on Instagram. Sadly, we can can all agree that these things are NOT in the cards for all of us. We all have genetic limitations to HOW strong we can get, how big we can get, how fast we can run, how deep into a hamstring stretch we can reach…I don’t say this to discourage anyone, but I want to introduce a concept to you: your own Mt. Everest.
Think of climbing up Mt. Everest. You do not just go non stop, in a straight line, until you reach the top. You climb, you make camp, and then you climb again. Some adventurers turn around and go back when they break camp, because it is too hard. They turn around before they reach the top. We ALL have our own Mt. Everest to climb. It is REALLY hard to reach the top. Some of us have a “higher” version” of that mountain than others. These are the modern day gladiators you see on Sundays getting paid a lot of money to display their physical gifts. My point is, just because you have your own Mt. Everest that MAY not be as high as Saquan Barkley’s is, doesn’t mean you should break camp and turn around, it simply means that you should ACCEPT that, embrace that that last climb towards the top will be tough, and could take a while, and understand that once you get to the top of YOUR Mt. Everest, you should enjoy the view and take pride, not in how high your Mt. Everest is, but in the fact that you are standing somewhere that VERY few have the patience, diligence, perseverance, and desire to get there.
So if you are just starting out and experiencing those “newbie” gains, my advice is simple: enjoy them! They will not last forever, BUT with lots of persistence, hard work, and dedication, you WILL reach the top of your own Mt. Everest in time, and scrape the ceiling of your genetic potential.
Do not EVER compare yourself to others.
Listen, whenever you compare yourself to someone else, for ALL of the reasons I have listed above, you are making an ENORMOUS mistake. We are different ages, with different amounts of wear and tear on our body. We have different leverages, some which provide biomechanical advantages on some exercises, while the same leverages can be entirely disadvantageous in others. As an example, most long limbed people have large hands, and are at a biomechanical advantage for elbow flexion, so they are proficient in farmer’s walks and bicep curls. HOWEVER, these same advantages are VERY disadvantageous in presses and squats, where that lever length does not assist in increased force production.
Simply put, let’s compare apples to apple, and you, my friend, are the only apple in the room. Be the best version of YOU that you can be. Set PR’s with proper form. Challenge yourself to go “bell to bell” on a cardio movement that you despise, or use a full range of motion on an exercise that is typically tempting for you to “cheat” on. Comparing yourself to others will lead you on a road to nowhere, typically full of injuries, or if you are LUCKY, a body that does not even look like you train with weights, because you were too busy “ego lifting”, trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing.
When training with others, there is a fine line between pushing yourself, getting the most out of yourself from the energy, example, and inspiration others provide, and stepping TOO far across that line, and really leaving a lot of results out there on the table. Let’s say someone who is of a similar strength level as you, uses strict form to lift a weight with REAL intensity, for a certain number of reps. This motivates you to do the same. AWESOME. Just realize that you are doing it because you want to better yourself, and hold yourself to that standard, and not because you want to “beat” that other person in some type of unspoken competition.
So there you have it! 3 things that I wish I had learned, but hey, I did it so that you don’t have to! I hope this helps ALL of you out there in your quest for self improvement!
Shout out to Sticker Mule for the great vinyl stickers that we love!