Why do you REALLY train?
Updated: Feb 23, 2020
It's 6 am. You pulled yourself out of bed early, had your nutritious breakfast, and you've made it to the gym for your workout. You've been coming to the gym for a few months now and have made some steady progress but aren't really sure where to go from here. You much prefer your evening walks to what feels like the grind of the morning gym. But here you are, so you put your bag down and start your warm up, but as you do this you realise you don't feel hugely ready to train today. You can't put your finger on why, but it just doesn't feel like a good day to train. You start convincing yourself that maybe it would be better for your health to go back home and get an extra hour of rest before work. In that moment you have a decision to make:
Do I train or do I go home and get back into bed?
The answer to this comes down to another simple question that most people never stop to truly consider.
WHY do you train?
What it is the driving force that started you on your health and fitness journey? What is it that keeps you going?
The answer is rarely as simple as you think it will be. It becomes an almost never-ending game of 'Why?' until we get down to the bare, ultimate reason that drives you to make it to that 6 am gym session, or stay up until 10pm meal prepping for the week, or register for group fitness classes at your local gym.
Let's take what is probably the most common goal worldwide:
"I want to lose weight." Why?
"I want to be leaner."
"I want to look better."
"I want to be more confident."
"I want to be a better influence on my children." Now we're getting somewhere!
So why do you think this person really wants to lose weight? Losing weight in and of itself is not the goal. That is never the true goal. It seems that the loving parent in our example might want to ensure their children don't grow up thinking an unhealthy lifestyle is normal, or perhaps their true reason is that they want to be able to play with their kids every day. Either way, we can clearly see that losing weight is simply a step. It is a step they perceive as being between where they are now and where they want to be in the future. And it is this step that a good exercise and nutrition regime will help to bridge.
Let's try another example. Perhaps a 20-year-old man wants to 'bulk up'. He isn't particularly small or unhealthy, but he clearly has a desire to improve his physique in some way. But why? It is never just to look good in the mirror. Even looking good in the mirror serves an ulterior purpose. Perhaps he wants to impress someone in his life. He might think that by bulking up he will attract a new romantic partner, or maybe his goal is more closely related to feeling inadequate compared to the huge guys he sees on social media. Either way, until he understands his 'why' he will be lost in a sea of options and thoughts around his training, never sticking with anything long enough to develop and achieve any long-term results.
It is vital to know your true reason for training because that reason will dictate how you train and how well you apply yourself to your goal.
If you simply want to lose enough weight to comfortably live your day-to-day life then simply improving your nutrition and engaging in a moderate strength routine will suit you, rather than forcing yourself into a grueling and unsustainable six sessions a week at the crack of dawn.
If you want to win a bodybuilding competition to prove to yourself that you can overcome the challenge of trying something new so that you have enough confidence to go after that dream job, then sure, you'll probably need a more aggressive training approach.
Let's spin back to the 20-year-old from our example. If his reason for wanting to bulk up is a feeling of inadequacy thanks to social media, perhaps simply smashing him in the gym is the wrong approach. What will help this young man is an educational and supportive approach to health, lifting, the human body that teaches him he is not unusual, small or weak, and that while improving his strength and health will be fantastic for him, he doesn't need to look like Mr Olympia to have a sense of self-worth.
Most people don't need to be doing power cleans or 1RM bench presses. The methods need to align to the goal, and if you aren't tailoring your training to your true goal then you will ultimately lose interest, focus, and motivation, and then the problem will continue on unsolved. But if you truly understand what you want from your training and why you do what you do then you will know whether every action, exercise, or lift will take you closer to, or further away from, your real objective.
And that will help guide you towards your goal every single day.