How Strength Training Makes You A Better Person

TAGS: Michael Gray, discipline, iron game, strength training

I've long been a believer that strength training can make you a better person. I believe that for those who buy into training and getting stronger as a way of life, other areas of their lives are positively affected as well. They literally become better, more well-rounded emotionally and mentally stronger people. Here are some of the more common ways I've see clients' lives affected.

Goal setting

We all know that if someone is going to make any kind of progress in the gym, he has to have some clearly defined goals. After all, if he doesn't, how will he ever know if he got anywhere? These goals can cover a wide range of topics and depth. They can be less serious but important such as, "I want to be able to do 15 push-ups" or more serious like "I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror without hating what I see." Either way, having an idea of where you would like to be provides an opportunity to make a plan. After all, you don't have to make a plan to not get anywhere. You're already there!

We all know people who seem to walk through life aimlessly and without direction. Usually this is because they don't have any goals. They aren't saving for a home or retirement. They aren't working to become better at their jobs or to be a better spouse or parent. They're just existing from one day to the next without any clear direction. In short, they don't have any goals or any sort of plan. And they are usually the people who complain the most about how much they hate their lives.

When someone takes the time to look at himself honestly and do some introspection, he has two options—he can either accept what he sees and decide that the way things are is the way he will always be or he can decide that he wants more for himself and sets his mind on making things different. I've found that when clients begin to set serious training goals and start to work toward them, they begin to do the same thing outside of the gym. They realize that where they are isn't where they have to stay. They can make changes and take practical steps to better their lives the same way they can to get stronger and leaner. When you learn how to set goals, make a plan to achieve those goals, and then execute that plan, you give yourself a leg up on the rest of humanity for living a life on your terms, not on the terms of others.

Mental toughness

Some people quit way too easily. It’s just a fact. When things get tough, some people completely fold. Others, who have a certain fortitude, can withstand a great deal of pressure or stress or even physical or emotional pain. And they often don't just get by, but they're able to hold their heads up through very tough circumstances and come out on the other side stronger. What makes them able to do these kinds of things is mental toughness. If someone can stay tough and strong in his mind, he can accomplish and endure incredible things.

I see it on a regular basis. I've had clients who, when faced with a particularly challenging training session, completely crumble. Their shoulders slump. They hang their heads, and they have a look of utter defeat. Sometimes this is before they've even attempted to do what I'm asking them to do. Then there are those who, while not thrilled with the task at hand, set themselves up for something physically and mentally challenging. They brace themselves. They get a certain look in their eyes and they get seriously focused. And while the task may leave them physically exhausted, they have reached the other side both physically and mentally stronger. Their minds didn't get the best of them and they determined the outcome of the situation.

The great thing about the iron game is that it provides people with an opportunity to become both psychically and mentally stronger. It's a very exciting thing for me to see people make "the switch." There are people who only do what they're asked to do. They only do the number of reps required, and they only go up in weight when I talk them into it. When they make "the switch," they begin to fight for every single rep they can possibly get. They look forward to adding weight to the bar or they want to do one more round of sled pushing. It isn't because they enjoy it. It's because they know that they will benefit from it. They know that deciding to do the difficult thing will make them a better person both in and out of the gym. They've reached a place mentally where they are tough enough to push themselves beyond what they ever thought they could do.

Dealing with defeat

It can be tough to give something your best shot and fall flat on your face. I remember setting a goal of deadlifting 405 lbs by January 1 of this year. Let's just say I didn't make it. And let's just say I wasn't happy about it. When I missed that pull, I had two choices to make. The first would be to blame, blame, blame. I wasn't rested enough. I was distracted. It wasn't the second Tuesday of the month. I didn't have my lucky underwear on. And on and on. Or I could choose to accept responsibility and realize that no matter what things might have been working against me (I seriously can't believe that I forgot my lucky underwear), the bottom line is that I didn't pull 405 lbs off the ground.

The first option gets me nowhere. There isn't any opportunity to reflect on what I could have done differently to ensure I made my lift. And there isn't any opportunity to make sure I don't make the same mistakes again. However, if I choose the second option, I can give myself honest feedback as to what went wrong and I can make sure I don't repeat the same mistakes.

For those of you who are option number one people, chances are you are in a perpetual disaster of a life. Everything is always wrong and it's always someone else's fault. And it's too bad there's nothing you can do about it either. But for those of you who are option number two people, you most likely find that your lives are continually improving. You aren't overcome by defeat, but you use it as a chance to learn and grow.

Discipline

It isn't always easy to be committed. Eating in accordance with your goals can be tough. Going to the gym after a rough day at work can seem like the worst idea in the world. I've had clients who would routinely cancel sessions for the smallest of reasons. On the other hand, I've also had clients who have made it to sessions even though life was busy handing them a crap sandwich and their time may have been better spent elsewhere. The thing about training is that when it becomes a non-negotiable part of your schedule, it bleeds into other areas of your life as well.

I've literally had clients tell me that making the choice to be disciplined enough to make every session, giving those sessions 100 percent, and eating a clean diet has made them a better spouse, employee, or parent. They've found that staying disciplined to healthy goals brings about positive changes. Profound, huh?

I first started getting serious about training several years ago. I was in the midst of a pretty rough time in my life and found that what I was eating and what I was doing with my body were about the only two things I had any control over. So I focused on those two things. I ate incredibly clean and I trained hard. As I stayed disciplined to these two things, I found that I was becoming more and more disciplined in other areas of my life. Finances. Relationships. Healthy decisions. Being dedicated to improving my body made me a better person in many more areas than just the physical, and those changes have stuck with me years later all because of the discipline that strength training brought about.

Although there are many other ways strength training can positively influence people's lives, I think these are the most common. How about you? How has training made you a better person?

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