December 22, 2016

8 Universal Lessons I learned at the Gym.


Yesterday, I went to the gym as a part of my daily regimen.

I pushed myself to exercise through soreness and pain. In so doing, I realized that what I was doing was not just about my body—it was also about my mind. These are the reflections of my active mind on my sore body, which I believe contain many valuable life lessons:

1. Focus. Focus. Focus.

Looking at others doing a perfectly aligned tadasana not only keeps me unbalanced, but also harms my motivation. So also in life, we are all at different levels of capabilities and talents and skills. The trick is to focus on what we can do best, and do it to the best of our abilities. Comparing ourselves with those around us is a sure-fire recipe for staying stuck.

2. Learn the basics.

We cannot expect to lift a 10 kilogram dumbbell unless we first learn to perfectly lift the 1 kilogram one. There is no overnight success in the gym. Similarly, successful people focus on the fundamentals of setting and achieving goals, keeping their promises and generally doing what it is required of them to succeed. The perfectly executed back flips, the effortless swing of the bat, the confident negotiation skills in the board room—everything is a result of years of practising the fundamentals.

3. Routines build habits for success.

When we see perfectly toned abs and biceps at the gym, it is important to remember that those muscles were built from routine and regularity. The young people I coach pull themselves out of bed at four a.m. and hit the gym or the training rink. Nothing stops them—not rain, not cold, not festivals. The training time is marked with indelible ink in their planners, and it shows in their world-class performance.

But in real life, we seem to think that we can master something immediately without putting in the dedication of regular practice and commitment to learning. We even give up at the first sign of difficulty. Success is all about developing good habits, doing the things that others won’t. Will hitting the snooze button move you toward your goal? We are all tired in the mornings and don’t always feel motivated, but successful people do it anyway because it is part of their routine.

4. Plateaus happen.

The gym shows us how fast your body adapts to a particular routine. At times like this we have to change things up in our workouts, adding extra intensity, doing power workouts or going back to some heavy fundamentals. We adjust our intensity and focus to help push through the plateau. In real life too, success is not a straight line. It is filled with plateaus and correction phases. When things slow down (and they will), we must work even harder, or at the very least keep up the consistent effort we have been putting forth.

5. Your circle defines you.

We all have that energiser bunny of a friend who pushes us to lift heavier weights, walk that extra mile on the treadmill and pull us out of our houses when we are just not in the mood to work out. Well it’s the same in real life. We are the average of the five people we hang out with most, so it’s important to take a hard look at our circles. Do they motivate us to be the best we can? If we are the cleverest person in our group, it may be time to find a new one (see number four above.) Seek out opportunities to network with people from whom you might be able to learn something new.

6. It’s all about balance.

At the gym, we cross-train. We do a mix of high intensity plus low impact or vice versa. We can’t just do crunches for our abs every day. That is simply what it takes to develop a fit, toned body.

What about our life? Why do we forget this important lesson? Look at your wheel of life and ask yourself, is your focus on your career to the exclusion of family and fun? Is your health taking a back seat? Remember, that’s why its called the wheel of life: unless its round and balanced, your life will remain stuck where you started for the most part.

7. Allow your coach to push you.

I see quite a few of my gym buddies hire a personal trainer for themselves. They realise that despite the love-hate relationship they have with the trainer, they get quicker and more sustained results.

In our daily lives, we don’t think the same way. We prefer to figure everything out for ourselves, which is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, we cannot see the picture when we are inside the frame. We start to believe the voices in your head when they feed us excuses and limiting decisions. Secondly, we aren’t taking advantage of any specialist knowledge that already exists out there. Having a coach or mentor is vital to succeed not only at the gym, but in life.

8. Smile

This is the most important one. As you smile, it becomes much easier to hold that three minute plank or do the 50th repetition of bicep curls.

There! I think I had a fruitful time at the gym today. With these lessons in mind, I hope to push through my resistances and get some work done, and I hope that you will join me.


Author: Sheila Ram Mohan

Image: Flickr/Jellaluna

Editor: Callie Rushton

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