Who makes the choices we think we make? Who are we, really? We all have so many different parts of our own psyche; it can sometimes be hard to know who we even are. I know these seem like some crazy philosophical questions that have no place in strength training, but it has a major place here. The biggest, most powerful part of our psyche is the ego. Trust me, it plays a major role, both positive and negative, in strength training.

Whether I like it or not, meathead strength training is still alive and well. I continue to hear lifters bragging about how often, how hard, and how intense they train, but they never meet their potential. I hear about trainers who pride themselves on how sore their clients are or how difficult their training sessions are. I continue to be asked how to get stronger, and I am ignored when I say maybe try backing off some and doing some recovery sessions. People still think I must be at the gym eight hours every day.

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We are in such an amazing time of great knowledge at our fingertips, but the ego-driving concepts continue to flourish in the strength and athletic worlds. Too many lifters just will not look at the truth or see the reality right in front of their faces. Instead, they continue to let their egos make poor training decisions that hold them back and continue to fall into the same traps over and over. It is nothing short of insanity.

How many people ever stop and ask themselves who is really in control? I am not talking about governments, gods, or spouses. I am talking about who is in control of the choices or decisions you make for yourself. The human personality is a very complex and fragile system with many other safety systems within it. The backups, safety, and protective parts of our personality can show up at any time under any number of circumstances, changing who we are or thought we were. Letting the wrong part of our psyche make decisions can affect our personalities for years, or even for life. It can make us scared or afraid of the most illogical things, make us want to do or like the most illogical things, or make us feel the most illogical feelings. Even when it’s done out of self-protection, it causes disastrous effects.

ego meet

I am not saying we should shove down our personalities and try to be a Klingon. What I am getting at is we need to be aware of this simple fact that we are all human and all have egos. I am not saying the ego is a bad thing, either. Sure, Hulk can smash and he effs a lot of stuff up, but how many times has he saved Banner’s ass? We must understand who we are at the core and that all these other parts are nothing more than tools for us to use. For example, in a discussion with a loved one in which our feelings or ego get hurt, it is our choice to blame and lash out or to realize we are in charge of our own feelings. In order to stay calm enough to understand those feelings, you must accept them and keep communicating.

Another example is in a fight or flight situation. You can let fear control your actions, or you can recognize your fear as just a warning of danger. Control your emotions to keep a clear head and you’ll have the best chance of getting out of that situation. In both of these situations, the ego can actually be a positive thing if you use it to motivate yourself to be good enough to stay in control.

Your psyche and ego affect your training all the time. They can be the difference between being mediocre or being world class or the difference between an injury that sets us back or staying healthy to keep steady gains. Lifting, just like life, depends on the many, many choices we make. How far we go and what we accomplish is more up to us than any external factors. Therefore, whom we let make choices is a big deal and something we really need to think about. Making ego-driven, emotional decisions in training can be disastrous, but making those decisions in a meet can be glorious. It is all about making the best decision with the best part of our personality at the right times.

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Let’s break this down a little further. We train for a goal and reason; a purpose. There is little place for uncontrolled emotion or a wild ego in training. The ego must be controlled while using a more logical portion of our personality. It is not about trying to get all jacked and motivated each session. It is about using our knowledge, staying focused, and putting in the work in the smartest way.

This is not the time to ignore all pain or what your body is telling you. It is time to understand it will be hard and sometimes difficult but listen to your body. Don’t be a damn sissy. Give the aches and pains the consideration they deserve while making an educated choice whether to ease up or keep going.

Now, on a meet or contest day, things are gonna be different. This is the time to let the ego run wild. It’s the time to feel no fear, no pain, and to never, ever stop or quit. It’s the time to be invincible and rule the whole world around you. This is where you put it all on the line.

Of course, there may be some training days where you go to this limit or somewhere similar. There may be meets of less importance where you hold back some, not going to the full extreme. It is a sliding scale depending on the situation.

xpc chad

Many people don’t want to hear this, but we control our own destinies through the choices we make and by whom we let make them. Our nutrition is crucial, but what and when are we gonna eat? Are we gonna eat emotionally and eat shit? Are we gonna think logically and eat the best nutrition for our goal? Are we gonna get to bed early or are we gonna stay up late? Are we gonna hit our recovery sessions or slack off, missing them? Are we gonna train based on what we need to do or what we want to do? Are we gonna do a program based on the fact that we like a guy or on the fact that their program has merit to work for us?

We just make choices but never bother to look at why we made them or which part of us made them. Humans try to stay on the surface or superficial. To truly succeed, we need to dig deeper and develop a strong sense of who we are. We need 100 percent honesty about who we are.

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We should all be thinking about the decisions we make. Did I eat enough today, and if not, why? Maybe I was just really busy or maybe I was lazy, but still, why? Why did I eat shit food instead of quality food? Why did or didn’t I do recovery today? Did I train smart today or did I go crazy and do something stupid in training?

Sometimes shit happens that is out of our control, and that’s fine because honestly, that should not happen often. Most of the time our bad choices are because we listened to the wrong little voice (ego) in our head. For instance, maybe we ate the junk food because our ego told us it would be fine or that we deserved it. Maybe it told us we would feel better if we did. Maybe we went crazy in training because our ego wanted us to feel like we are so tough. Maybe it did so we would feel better about the stress we had earlier in the day. In order to start making the best decisions more consistently, we must first understand ourselves and why we make the choices we do.

The fact is that being completely honest with ourselves is one the hardest things we could ever do. We want to listen to the ego and make the easy choices. We want to stay on the surface because digging is hard. What we need to understand though is that the ego is just a safety mechanism our mind has. It does not give a shit about long-term anything. It doesn’t give a shit about our physical or mental health. It cares about that split second and what is happening right then. That bowl of ice cream is easy to eat, and it will make you happy right now! Going balls to the wall in the gym is gonna make you feel better right now!

It does not care that you’re not really solving anything, that you’re just delaying the pain, that you may be hurting yourself down the road, or that you will continue to keep having the same issues. Its job is to protect you and make you feel better right now. To be the best we can, we must learn who we are at the core and be able to see all the other parts of our psyche that are just tools. Then we need to learn to use the right tool for the job.