The timer dings again just as my breathing and heart rate begin to slow. I know what I have to do now, but there is a moment of hesitation as I allow myself to feel the discomfort in my aching leg and consider hanging it up for the day. It's just one more round. What's the big deal between 9 and 10 rounds? Is this one extra round really going to make that big of a difference in my results? This moment and the thoughts it encompasses passes in a flash as I initiate the 20 kettle bell swings I have commanded myself to do. As I fall into the rhythmic motion of the swing I begin to contemplate why anyone would ever want to subject themselves to this kind of self induced discomfort and fatigue. I suddenly get a glimpse into the minds of millions of American's who opt out of going to the gym so that they can spend the evening catching up on the latest episodes of their DVR'd primetime TV shows. I begin to understand how so many interpret the practice of a regular exercise program and why it is so difficult for people to stick to the program in the early stages of making a change.
I finish my 20 swings and set the kettle bell down on the gym floor. I take a seat on the bench and relish in my small victory of the day. As I am sitting there catching my breath and relishing in my ability to persevere and stifle the voice in my head that tells me to quit just before the finish line I realize that this whole training thing can cause greater change in a person that just what is visible to the eyes of others.
Actually I have to admit I didn't just figure this out. I have known it for a long time and I have experienced it first hand as an athlete. Physical stress changes you. It hardens you. It makes you into a more determined individual. Someone who can with stand discomfort, perhaps evens some pain, to accomplish their goals. A person who can delay gratification, overcome adversity, and slap down all excuses. All of which have a far greater impact on a person's well being and livelihood than a six pack or 20 inch biceps ever will.
We often sell fitness and training explicitly on physical benefits that it offers.
You heard the commercials and seen the advertisements.
You know the ones with the tan and glistening hard bodies wearing nothing but shorts or booty shorts and sports bras. The ones that tell you that you'll get rock hard abs and defined pectoral muscles with nothing more than a few hours a week.
Or there are those that focus on the physical benefits that occur on the inside. The ones that tell you how 30 minutes of walking each day will lower your blood pressure, reduce your cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce your risk for cancer and heart disease.
And yes all these physical benefits are real and can be obtained through smart programming and focused training, but in my eyes they are just the tip of the change iceberg. They are just the visible structure sticking up several hundred feet out of the water. What lurks below the surface are the real benefits. The change that happens to someone's psyche after being exposed and placed under physical stress and then overcoming and conquering that stress. It's an amazing thing to experience yourself, but it is even cooler to observe the change occurring in another person.
So I say yes training is about improving one's physical appearance and the function to their physiology, but it is also about more than that. Training is also about exposing oneself to physical challenges and truly reshape the way you think. The way you approach adversity and the way you deal with discomfort. It teaches you how to reach beyond your current abilities and to be resilient when confronted with failure. It teaches you how to "grind". All of these things develop as you train and you don't even realize they are happening. It like to think of them in the way Randy Pausch describes them in The Last Lecture, as "head fakes" because these new found mental capabilities spill over outside of the gym. They begin to show up in every area of your life.
You don't shy away from the difficulty conversation you need to have with your spouse.
You don't let being passed over for that promotion at work dissuade you from pursuing your dreams.
You stop letting yourself be at affect from the world and rather you start affecting the world.
I know I sound like I am romanticizing this whole thing. But I swear to you I am not. I am writing this out of my own personal experience.
I know your rolling your eyes at the idea of training somehow making you a more capable human being and you must believe that I can't honestly believe such an idea. But I am telling you I do. Training and exposing one's self to physical stresses reshapes a person like iron sharpening iron.
We need to start marketing training with benefits other than an improved physique and reduced risk for diseases. We need to start sharing the stories of how training positively and incredibly impacted people's overall life.
All I ask is that you try it for yourself. Experience the change. See what life could be like. I am telling you it's AWESOME!
Happy moving and heavy lifting
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training