5 Non-Muscular Things Weightlifting Has Taught Me

I’ve been active my whole life. Starting at 16 I began lifting weights as part of my basketball team strength  program. I’ve learned a lot in these 22 years of repetitively moving steel. Much of that is about biomechanics and physiology (which I have a Masters degree in). But a lot of lessons are far less scientific.

Here are 5 non-muscular things weightlifting has taught me:

1. How you approach the bar is how you approach life
I don’t know who first said it, but I first heard and appreciated it from my first CrossFit Coach – Jason Schroeder. Those who know his ferocious and Brazen approach to life immediately recognize the truth in this statement.

In fact, how you do anything is how you do everything. You see this play out in other’s lives more easily than your own, until you recognize the truth of it.

Do you have a fear? The bar will expose it.
Do you quit easily? The bar will happily oblige.
Are you impatient? The bar will scoff at you.
Don’t know when to give up? Easily intimidated? A bully?

The bar will reciprocate and reveal all.

The positive side of this knowledge is the ability to improve. And I don’t mean simply getting stronger and hitting new PRs. I mean something much deeper.

Realizing our own tendencies illuminates possibilities. Self-improvement requires self-awareness and acceptance. Only when you truly know yourself can you move forward with positive changes.

2. Focus on the present
A favorite author of mine, Rob Bell says in his new book How To Be Here, “the past is where worry comes from and the future is where stress and anxiety reside.”

Weight training has taught me to focus on the present. You must be in the moment to lift your best. Nothing is a better performance crusher than thinking about your past missed lifts or the many ways you could bail on the next one.

Being in the moment, focusing every ounce of energy into whatever movement is at hand allows us to exert maximal effort, body and mind. And most of our limitations lie between the ears. So clearing the mechanism and being present yields more predictable improvement.

3. Strength Separates
I don’t know how else to say this, but being strong, robust, capable…or even just active puts you in a different category than societal norms. Looking strictly at the numbers, “normal” in our cushy modern world is sick, unhealthy, out of shape and weak.

As an aside, I’m not out to shame anyone here. Wherever you are physically, if you’re trying and striving to improve your health – good for you! Keep at it. But when you choose to enter the strength-training crowd, you’re different, regardless of physique.

And it’s a pretty good bet that others will let you know about it.
“What do you lift weights all day?”
“Are you going to the gym…again?!
As if being strong is something to be looked down upon.

It’s a contrarian mindset that refuses to bend to society’s offer to be less physical. It is an abnormal thing to consistently carve hours out of your week for training. You push and sometimes punish your body in various ways to mimic what our ancestors had to do to just to survive.

Training reintroduces the physical things that modernity has gently caressed out of our lives and filled with reality TV and Internet addiction.

Physicality isn’t necessary anymore to survive. But I’ll argue till I die it’s necessary to truly live.

4. Strength Bonds
The division from ‘normal’ society also bonds you to one another in the gym. And these bonds often cross society-economic barriers found in other parts of the world. There’s something that happens when you strain, struggle, support and sweat next to someone on the regular. They become more than a lifting buddy.

The crucible of training forms bonds of iron that connect you to the person next to you in ways uncommonly found elsewhere. I’ve trained and grown close with a diversity of people I rarely find in other parts of my daily life.

5. Lifting like life is a journey, not a destination
Similar to being in the moment (point 2), weight training has helped reinforce the universal life principle that it’s the process, not the outcome that matters most.

Some days you have it. And some days you don’t. But if you showed up, gave whatever semblance of 100% you had that day, you’ve already PR’d. Some days you literally PR. We always remember those high marks.

But sometimes you have to give yourself a pat on the back. Sometimes your personal best was getting out of bed and going to train after a night of hell with a friend or loved one. Sometimes your personal best was being there for your kid and still taking care of yourself regardless of the number on the bar.

Lifting, like life is all about the journey. The results are cumulative, not always measurable in pounds and kilos. Give it your all.


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2 thoughts on “5 Non-Muscular Things Weightlifting Has Taught Me

  1. Margaret

    I adore what you say and how you say it Dr. That is a non biased comment despite being biased and always in your court !!

    Reply

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