I read a couple of articles not too long ago entitled “Why Do You Train” by Travis Stoetzel and “What’s Your Why?” by Molly Galbraith, which inspired me to write this blog post.
It made me think, “Why Do I Train?”
I know that having a strong “reason why” motivates you to do things, be it starting something new or continuing something you’ve been doing for years.
On the other hand, a weak “reason why” may prevent you from getting started, or persevering through difficult times.
Some of the reasons why I train might be typical of why most people exercise in the first place. Other reasons might be something that’s not commonly said, but is shared with many other people, possibly including yourself.
Here are the reasons I came up with:
1. I Feel Big Even Though I’m Short
I’m 5’4”, or 163cm. That’s a bit taller than Wolverine (the comic book version who is 5'3" tall, not Huge “The Giant” Jackman who is 6' 2½").
Maybe I train to get bigger and stronger because of the Napoleon complex.
My growth plates have sealed many moons ago so I won’t grow any taller, and limb lengthening surgery is out of the question, so I might as well get bigger, stronger and be a compact package of awesomeness.
2. Being Strong Is Useful
I know of no better example of functional strength than a 600-pound deadlift.Except a 700-pound deadlift. - Mark Rippetoe
Being strong is useful. See for yourself:
I don’t think I’ll be helping people out by physically moving a car out of a tight parking spot like Franco Columbu anytime soon (who is also short, at 5’5” or 165 cm), but being strong has served me well.
I don’t have to worry about asking a female flight attendant to help me lift my overweight carry-on luggage into the overhead bin (I’ve seen MANY cases where guys would need assistance from significantly smaller flight attendants).
3. Instant Respect
I think there’s something subconscious to it, possibly something primal or evolutionary, but for some reason, at least for guys, it seems as though big arms will get you instant respect. At least initially.
I know it happens to me when I see someone with massive arms. I think, “wow, this guy must lift a lot and dedicate a lot of time in the gym”. (Actually, these days a massive posterior chain is more impressive to me).
4. Comforts Of A Routine
There’s something comforting about having a routine. From a weekly standpoint, you know what days you’ll be in the gym.
And not only do you know when to exercise, but you also know what to do.
At the workout level, thinking is eliminated when you’ve already worked out a plan before going to the gym. With strength training protocols such as Starting Strength, Texas Method, 5/3/1 and others, the “plan” is more or less determined weeks in advanced.
There’s no feeling of confusion or indecision about what exercises, weight, reps and sets I need to do for the day. It’s already part of a larger plan.
All I need to do is execute.
5. The Feeling Of Getting In The Zone
Otherwise known as “Flow”
All problems and worries in life seem to disappear when there’s 200lbs over my head or 400lbs on my back. These numbers might vary for you, but one thing is certain: there’s one focus when you’re lifting weights that are pushing you to your limit.
There are 10 factors accompanying the experience of flow. I’ve listed them below (courtesy of Wikipedia) and comment on what I experience under the bar:
1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one's skill set and abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should both be high.
- The obvious goal is to lift the weight for the prescribed number of reps and complete the set.
2. Concentrating, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
- I experience tunnel vision, usually when I’m lifting my 1-5RM.
3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
- When I’m experiencing flow while squatting, I don’t care if I have a massive wedgie or not. I just want to get the bar up!
4. Distorted sense of time, one's subjective experience of time is altered.
- Sometimes it feels like FOREVER when struggling to push (or pull) heavy weight, but when I see the lift on video, the entire set was only a few seconds.
5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
- I know if I lifted the weight or not.
6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
- Breaking PR’s is intrinsically rewarding. I wouldn’t call it effortless though.
9. A lack of awareness of bodily needs (to the extent that one can reach a point of great hunger or fatigue without realizing it)
- Hunger becomes secondary during a heavy set.
10. Absorption into the activity, narrowing of the focus of awareness down to the activity itself, action awareness merging.
- Speaks for itself.
6. Breaking Personal Records
Even if I don’t win any medals or share it with others, there’s a sense of accomplishment when I break a personal record.
I find myself mentally flicking my invisible suspenders with pride, knowing that all the hard work had paid off to break a personal record.
It’s a high, and it’s an addicting feeling. At least for me.
There will be a time when I’ll be too old to break any more personal records. But that time is far in the future.
Setting goals and achieving them is one thing. Breaking them is another.
7. Seeing Results Over Time
Progress is addicting. It’s also motivating.
It lets me know that what I am doing is working. And tracking my progress using numbers makes it easy to objectively see results.
Seeing results over time is motivating because if I see I’ve gotten results in the past, I’ll know I’ll get results in the future, which pushes me to carrying on with my training.
8. Helping & Inspiring Others
It feels good when I read or hear that I have inspired others with their training.
Helping someone with their technique and seeing that they improved and seeing that they broke their own person records makes me feel proud of them.
I can say the same to others who lift more than I can. It’s inspiring to see someone who can lift a lot, because I know with hard work, I get get to their level some day.
9. Investing In The Future
I believe that getting physically fit is the best investment you can do for your health. I also believe that STRENGTH is the foundation for fitness.
Walking apparently has a lot of impact on health and I’m sure strength training has an even greater impact.
Not only do I want to be physically fit and healthy throughout my life, but when I get older, I want to look like a 60+ years young Sylvester Stallone:
To me, weight training is an ongoing habit that will lead to feeling good and looking good, even when I’m 60+.
10. Makes Me Happy
I know this to be true:
“A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong”. - Mark Rippetoe (from Starting Strength, 3rd edition)
Well, those are my current reasons why I train and strive to get stronger.