For most people, strength training can seem like an intimidating activity reserved only for people who simply want big muscles, and that you have to lift extreme loads in order to be a participant. Contrary to this belief, “strength” or “resistance” training simply means placing a slightly tougher demand on your body that goes beyond your normal daily effort. For this reason, the benefits of this style of exercise reach far past just the physical, physiological and mental adaptations you receive; it actually makes your entire life easier! Strength training is the perfect metaphor for life because, in addition to all the health benefits, it can improve your life in five ways you may not have realized.
1. Strength Training Creates Discipline
Anyone who has ever tried to accomplish something they deem important knows that it requires consistent and increasing effort. Whether it’s in business, sports or even personal relationships, every facet of our lives that is truly important to us requires constant discipline in order for it to grow – or it will eventually fail.
Strength training, by its very nature, demands us to develop a spirit of discipline. First of all, in order for you to derive any physical benefit, you have to make practicing it habitual. Training requires you to set aside time in your daily schedule in order to accomplish your work out. It also forces you to become comfortable with being uncomfortable because you are pushing your body past today’s limits through overcoming the extra stimulus of the weight that you are lifting. This in turn helps you be less afraid of facing the stressors of your day and gives you confidence to take on new challenging opportunities that will allow you to grow as a person. Lastly, by staying consistent to your strength training routine, you demand more of yourself physically than you otherwise would just from sitting at a desk all day long, thus making you more productive, more energized, more resistant to disease and mentally sharper. The alternative, can be summed up in the words of author Robin Sharma, “If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for Illness.”
2. Strength Training Teaches Falling Forward
“Failing forward” is synonymous with learning from your mistakes. In principle, strength training works because you are forcing your body to overcome a stress that exceeds what it can currently handle; you overload it causing it to adapt. As a result of this extra stimulus, just like everything else in the world of physics, sometimes this overload causes the body to fail (you are unable to lift the load that you are attempting to lift). In the realm of strength training, failing to lift the bar is not only common, it is crucial – so long as the outcome is that you fail forward. In the gym, this means not giving up on trying to lift a certain amount of weight until you have conquered it; it means getting up after a failed attempt, focusing harder, and succeeding this time! As a result, it is in the not-giving-up that you learn that you are truly capable of achieving what you once thought was impossible.
This idea transfers perfectly into our everyday life. How many times are you faced with a particular stress that you have to conquer? What happens at the times when you may fall short of achieving a desired outcome? Do you shrink from the stress and just walk away? NO! (or at least you shouldn’t!). So let the same confidence you feel from overcoming a previously impossible exercise encourage you to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles in your daily life! When life knocks you down – just like the bar does sometimes – don’t let it keep you down! Stand up, be courageous enough to face it again, and this time, succeed! Failure is a part of life as much as it is a part of strength training; make sure you fail forward.
3. Strength Training Protects Against Adversary
Whether you are a long time practitioner or just a beginner, one thing you quickly realize about the world of strength training: everything seems to be working against you! And, in a certain way, that’s the point! Every day you enter the gym, the laws of physics are forcing you to work hard to overcome them. You have to work against gravity with every rep that you do; you have to exert tremendous effort to overpower the law of inertia and make the weights move in the direction you want them to go. You are continually faced with adversity at every turn to force your will upon the weights and to not allow them to triumph over you. Again, there is a life lesson to be learned here!
If there’s one thing in this world that we know to be absolutely true, it’s that life is hard. Even when things are going well, there is always some kind of trouble looming around the next turn; a storm is always on the horizon. Just like in the gym, adversity in life is waiting to strike at any moment. But through strength training, you have the tools to champion over these instances, or at least minimize the damage.
You see, when you accept the challenge, face it forthright, and succeed at defeating it, you are imbued with the confidence to know that you can take on any challenge – and beat it. This knowledge then gives you the ability not to cower and shrink when adversity strikes you in life, but instead, you are able to recognize the stressor, draw courage from your successes in strength training, and know that you can overcome the issue and move past it! You are able to meet adversity head-on and win.
4. Strength Training Develops Patience
Strength training is a labor of love. Whether you are seeking to gain lean muscle mass, lose fat mass, (or both!), there is no quick fix, no easy way out, and no overnight success. Achievement in strength training requires patience. It requires you to set a plan of attack, set up process goals (minor achievements to be achieved along the way towards reaching your ultimate goal), and the patience to stay the course of that plan even in the event of setbacks and road blocks. Patience is a virtue, and there is no greater arena to practice that virtue than through strength training.
But the weight room isn’t the only place that we can exercise the patience we learn from our training. Just like you have to trust the work you do in the gym in order to get results, so too do you have to trust the process of hard work in your day to day life. The patience and discipline that you must exhibit at improving your body through strength training are the same virtues you need to have in order to be successful in all of your other life pursuits. All of the greatest masterpieces that this world has ever seen – your own life journey not withstanding! – have all come about through having the patience to do the work that is necessary to accomplish something truly special. Do the work. Stay Patient. Achieve greatness.
5. Strength Training Instills a New Work Ethic
It has been said that “working out is just like chasing the American Dream,” and with some analysis, this is a very easy analogy to agree with. When you start out at the beginning of your professional career, you do so with a little bit of knowledge about what lies ahead of you. But, in reality, your success in the world will most likely be predicated on whether you had the appropriate work ethic to continually learn how to rise again and again from failing at the daily challenges you had to face along the way. To grow from your learning experiences to become more and more competent until you reach the pinnacle of your ability. Nothing else in life resembles this journey like strength training.
With strength training, every day is an opportunity to grow from a challenging demand that is placed on you. Working out deliberately forces you outside of your comfort zone. As soon as an exercise becomes too easy, a more complex version of the exercise is given to you; as soon as you become comfortable lifting a certain amount of weight, a heavier one is given to you. Just like in the real world, you are faced with the decision to take on a challenge, accept failure when it occurs, and overcome it in the end, or, shy away and stay stagnant and ineffectual.
Nothing in this world worth having comes easy. But the stronger you are, the more likely you are to get it. The simple choice is whether you are willing to have the work ethic it takes to reach the pinnacle of your ability – and that lesson can be learned daily when you strength train.
By becoming disciplined, failing forward, protecting against adversity, learning patience and having an indomitable work ethic, you can conquer any issues that might come your way, and thrive at living a meaningful and fulfilling life. All you have to do is choose to pick up the load, and one day, you will look back and see that the fruits of your labor have paid off; that the road ahead will only excite you to continue to see how far you can go!