I just want to preface this all by saying that the ideas in this post are not revolutionary, or even novel. I’m simply trying to throw in my two cents about finding the will and the way to do the things that you want to do (and this post can really be applied to most any pursuit in life). Sure, I am here to talk first and foremost about training for strength and muscular development, but if you find that the thing you want to do most is reading, or dancing, or breaking the world record for most books balanced on one’s head (I don’t know), then by all means, apply this post’s intent to those pursuits. Find what you want to do, and do it. Now, on to business…
Time Keeps on Slippin’
“I need to start working out; I just don’t have the time.” These are words that many of us have either spoken or heard on more than one occasion.
If I had a nickel for every time someone has expressed some variation of that sentiment to me, I’d surely have… at least two or three dollars…
Anyways! Here’s my point: with maybe the exception of professional athletes who are paid to achieve and maintain an elite level of physical performance, the truth is this: ain’t nobody got time for that. Unfortunately, for most of us peasants, when we want to take up any activity—be it lifting or other pursuits like knitting or finally learning to play that keyboard—the time to do so normally doesn’t just suddenly fall in our laps. It has to come from somewhere else in our busy daily lives, and most of the time, that’s going to mean making some manner of sacrifice.
But I Don’t Get Paid to Just Train All Day
I feel like this is a point that people a lot of times don’t seem to (or don’t want to) get. Many people will be surprised to learn that even at the level of the elite, the percentage of strength athletes and bodybuilders that make their living solely from competing in their sport is not very high.
True, there are many cases of these individuals doing pretty well for themselves through things like endorsements, entrepreneurial ventures, YouTube celebrity, and so forth, but in most cases, they really seem to be working their butts off to make those things work. There are also plenty of examples of people who rose to the top of their competitive elements while also working everyday jobs (and in some cases, raising children, etc.)—people like Ronnie Coleman, Derek Poundstone, and Chris Duffin just to name a few.
That’s not even to mention all of the thousands of trainees who achieve very impressive levels of strength and/or muscular development but never even make it close to the mainstream spotlight.
Do you really believe that these guys and gals simply “have the time” to train?
Sometimes it can be deceiving when you talk to someone that’s truly committed to their craft; they make it sound so easy. I suppose I am often guilty of this when it comes to my own training. When asked about my source of motivation to always make the time to keep after my strength and physique goals, I realize that a part of me has forgotten that this is even a question for some people.
For me, training has become so ingrained in my life that it is harder to imagine just simply not going to the gym on a day that I have scheduled a lift. I will take a week off when I really start to feel like my body needs it. I will take a day off when I am significantly ill. I will even occasionally move a lift around here or there (different time, or a different day) when life comes knocking. But skipping a lift because I’m tired or having a bad day? Inconceivable! Especially in reference to the bad day part, since I usually lift in the mornings. Only so much can go wrong that quickly…
Still, I assure you, even for those of us who have been indoctrinated by the iron, it’s not always the easiest thing in the world to make the time. I love training, but when I wake up early in the morn’ and it’s time to go smell the chalk before classes and lab work, I’m certainly not bustling with excitement. I’m tired, and I’m groggy. I’m not hopping out of bed, singing an ode to the sun (at least not usually). No; a lot of days, I just want to go back to sleep. But I won’t. I will gather my gear and stumble down the stairs to the kitchen, where I’ll go about the business of preparing for my lift in a zombie-like state until I find that, eventually, my hands have completed the list of tasks that I set upon them each morning. Morning after morning. Good work, hands.
The point is this: even the dedicated are not always rearing to go, sitting at 100% at every moment of every day. But as unpleasant as it can be sometimes to get over that little hump (in the mornings it’s wanting to sleep more for me, but this could be wanting to watch one more episode on Netflix or whatever else for someone else), by the time I’m ready to head out and make the short walk to the gym, that moment of struggle is gone—forgotten; unimportant. I am awake and fully focused on the lift to come.
Passion and Priorities
What’s the big secret? Do dedicated individuals have some intrinsic power of self discipline that others lack? Well, maybe. Certainly, the drive to accomplish one’s goals is immensely important in succeeding at those goals, but is this a really quality that some people will just never have? Again, maybe. But I have a hunch that a lot of people that can’t seem to get motivated really just haven’t yet found a goal that impassions them. Well, either that, or they have found something they are passionate about but they feel as if it is not something that they “should” spend their time pursuing. This seems like a shame in my mind, because having and pursuing passions is pretty darn enjoyable in my opinion. Why am I so passionate about my training? A big part of it is that I like the way that training makes me feel. I like feeling strong, and to be totally honest, building muscle is probably at least in part a coping mechanism to deal with insecurities stemming from childhood up through my current position in life. It feels good, and (BONUS) it is beneficial for my physical and mental health in many ways.
The other huge driving force behind my Love of Lifting (ha!), though, is that it has become something of a game for me. I thrive on solving problems, and whether the focus is on myself or on helping others, strength training offers many opportunities for identifying and addressing issues—be it with technique, muscular weakness/imbalance, nutrition, mentality, etc. Optimizing one’s training is in most cases analogous to shooting for a moving target. It takes years and years of practice and experimentation to develop a good idea of what works for you specifically—what training styles you respond best to, how much work your body can handle on a weekly basis without falling apart, what form or technique works best for your individual body mechanics on a given lift. And many of these things will gradually change as you progress!
But that’s the fun of it—the beauty even, if you will. Not so unlike a painter adding and blending layer after layer of paint in the pursuit of translating the vision in their mind’s eye onto the canvas in front of them, we lifters go on, tweaking, adjusting, and adapting in the pursuit of something that may or may not resolve into something tangible at the end of the road.
Did I just compare powerlifting to painting? I guess so…
Anyways, let me paint (ha!) you a picture of what’s at stake here! Sure, there are reasons like general health and looking good naked to consider, but there’s something more to be found under the bar than what can be observed externally. Something visceral.
When you march to battle against the iron, you come back a changed (wo)man. Over time, you’ll become physically stronger, yes, but training can also strengthen your mind just as it does to your body. There’s a certain therapeutic satisfaction that comes with the mastery of a craft and the mastery of one’s own body. People like to talk about self-betterment, but I won’t presume to go that far. The word better implies superiority, and unless we make very specific clarifications, it is arbitrary to say that one thing is fundamentally better than another. I won’t say that—all other things held equal—a person who can squat 400 pounds is intrinsically better than the version of themselves that can only squat 200.
What I will say is that the journey of developing the strength and skill required to squat that 400 pounds will probably teach our hypothetical trainee some life lessons about honing skills, solving problems, and finding the satisfaction and elation of success as well as learning how to adapt and—perhaps most importantly—how to forgive oneself following failure in an endeavor.
If none of that does it for you, consider it this way: here we are, riding through this gargantuan universe in the fleshy meat sacks that are our bodies, and you have the chance—dare I say, the obligation—to become the world’s undisputed authority on mastering your own fleshy meat sack (?) and testing the limits of your physical potential.
Or you can eat some Doritos and worry about other stuff. Now, if I lost you at “marching to battle against the iron” or “fleshy meat sacks,” let’s just rewind to being healthy and having a bangin’ bod for now. You’ll get to the other stuff soon. Mwahahaha… Ha.
But if you lean more towards option two, I get it. I too love Doritos. Seriously, though—all joking aside—as I’ve mentioned previously, I realize that we have access to a preposterous amount of hobbies/interests in which we can invest our time and find passion, and I’m not of the mindset that any one of them is intrinsically more valuable or important than the others. Clearly, I like lifting, but that sure doesn’t mean that you have to as well!
Why Can’t We Be Friends?
If you’re doing what makes you happy, I see no logical reason why I or anyone else should judge you for it (with maybe the one stipulation that what you are doing is not hurting other people). I’m not here to tell you that EVERYONE should be a hardcore lifter, no matter what. What I am here to tell you (or really, simply to remind you of) is that whatever it is you want to do, it’s on YOU to make the time to do it (and by “making” time, I clearly mean setting time aside out of your day, not, ya know, expanding the fourth dimension that we don’t seem to have any control over).
I’m not saying any of this to make anyone feel lazy or bad about themselves. Getting back to the wheelhouse of lifting, I’m merely pointing out that the whole “I would be fit too if I had all that time to work out” excuse is really just that: an excuse. There are a lot of people managing to pursue their fitness goals amidst busy lives, and you can be one of them too!
That being said, it’s also okay if you don’t want to commit the time to building your strength and/or physique. I won’t act like these pursuits are intrinsically more important than any others (although incorporating some physical activity into your life is advisable if you want to improve your general health).
In short, do whatever it is you want to do! I just think it is probably healthiest for people to be honest with themselves and realize that when they say they don’t have the time to exercise, they are probably either making an excuse simply because they don’t want to do it (which is fine in my mind as long as they are honest with themselves) or making a decision—whether consciously or subconsciously—that it is a lower priority in their life than whatever they choose to do instead (also fine by me; no judgments here).
In closing, just try to be honest with yourself. If going to the gym is something that you dread, I feel like you have two reasonable options:
- Try something you’ve never tried before! If you’ve been doing nothing but treadmill running and Zumba classes, maybe it’s just those things (and not the whole world of exercise) that you hate! Try out a proper strength training program. Try learning Olympic weightlifting. Try CrossFit (*gasp*). Open yourself to as many possibilities as you can, and you might find that there is something out there that hooks you.
- Forget about the gym and don’t be ashamed about it! If you want to be reasonably healthy, try just learning to eat well and/or finding alternative ways to move around (walking, hiking, biking, swimming, sports, etc.).
If, however, you think that you want to lift and find yourself believing that you don’t have enough time to make hitting the gym a part of your day, just remember that there are a lot of tremendously busy people out there that are still managing to accomplish some pretty amazing stuff.
As always, thanks for reading! I know that this post changed course a bit in that it is more just me expressing some of my thoughts (I guess they call that an opinion piece, eh?) rather than providing the evidence-based training and nutrition advice that I normally strive to deliver.
Please let me know in the comments (or however else) if this is something that you guys enjoyed or if you were sad that this week’s post was lacking in actual training and nutrition information. Also, follow me and subscribe to the newsletter for updates on the site, and please, For the Love of Lifting, share the goods with your friends!
- My brain.
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