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Why Do We Do This?

I recently recorded a podcast episode for All Things Fitness with a great guest Coach Lee Boyce. With Lee’s fantastic technical knowledge and years of experience we had plenty to talk about but one of the major factors we discussed prior to recording was talking about ‘why do we train?’ a sort of ‘What is the point to all this?’

This really got me thinking. I thought to myself on my 10 minute walk back from work I am going to have this conversation with myself, I am going to simply ask myself ‘why do you train?’ We should all ask ourselves this question and allow ourselves to get to the depths of things and understand the underlying emotions as to why. It’s about understanding where the desire is coming from.

Doing this will help you to not only understand where the motivation is coming from but also if this is coming from a good place. If the motivation is coming from a ‘good place’ the likelihood is that the results will not just be physically beneficial but also socially and mentally beneficial too. It is likely to hold long term value and continue to provide for you.

If the motivation is coming from bad place it may have the potential to benefit you physically but could it be detrimental your you socially and physically. It may not hold any long term value to you providing you with stresses and negativity in these other areas of you.

If it comes from a ‘good place’ it is likely to help you holistically whereas from a ‘bad place’ it is likely to only positively improve one part of you whilst potentially negatively affecting others.

What are the ‘good place’ and ‘bad place’? I think the best way to describe these two opposing positions is Are you trying to fulfill your ego or are you trying to fulfil your true self?

Let’s look at the values and principles that people motivation can come from, comparing the good and bad place:

Good Place:

Physical Well Being - if from the ‘good place’ people will train order to improve their physical health, reducing the risk of disease, illness and injury.

Mental Well Being - If from a ‘good place’ then people may see training as an opportunity to enhance their mental capacity, practice the characteristics that enhance a person's life and it can provide balance to their lifestyle.

Social Well Being - May see where they train as both time they can spend with their own thoughts to be creative, to gather their thoughts, concentrate on a hobby or solve a problem. Conversely they may see it as time to spend with friends and other like minded people, sharing the experience of hard work and dedication to commit to attaining a goal.

Physical Appearance - May see the benefits of training to their physical appearance as a by product of their hard work and discipline. Something that comes with what they train for more than it being their main goal. If physical appearance is their main goal then it will not be motivated by the perception of others, it is likely to be a project they are undertaking for themself to see what they are capable of, it may be that they are trying to enhance their relationship and enhance their perception of themself but it will not determine who they are. They don’t base their motivation on the perception of other people. They are not trying to impress. Their motivation is intrinsic, not extrinsic.

Sports Performance - They see training as a tool to help with their sports performance. They will understand what they have to do and why they do it, they will stick to principles and programming in order to assist in getting the desired results. They will not overtrain and pin all their hopes on the work they do in the gym, it plays a big role in their performance but it is only a piece of the puzzle.

Common themes:

  • Value their own perception more than others

  • Training holistically, understanding that their training must enhance all areas.

  • See training as both an opportunity to socialise or be with one's own thoughts.

  • To enhance life, not to espace

  • A personal project

  • A part of the whole

Bad Place:

Physical Well Being - If from the ‘bad place’ the ego it is likely that people may train to the detriment of their health, they may train to attain their desired goals without consideration of the physical health. They may overtrain and risk injury, illness and exhaustion. Someone may lift with bad from chasing higher numbers because they believe they have to lift to a certain strength standard, or simply because their mate does it at that weight. Further to this an individual may take risks that have links to detrimental effects on health. E.g. performance enhancing drugs. Where is this motivation coming from? Why do they feel the need to this to themselves?

Mental Well Being - Training motivation from a ‘bad place’ can be detrimental to a person's mental health in many different ways. It is not uncommon within the fitness industry to come across mental health issues linked with self worth, body image and eating disorders.

A lot of mental health and eating disorders come from a distorted perception of a person own body. Could some of the mental health issues within the industry be coming from placing too much value on the perception of others? Could it be steaming from the unrealistic and deceptive images that are often spread across social media. I would not be surprised.

Social Well Being - Could somebody be using their training as escapism from their own life? This may be a good place to start and get into your training but in the long term it isn't fixing the true issue. Could it be possible that they end up being influenced by others who are motivated by poor values and principles?

Physical Appearance - This section can be closely linked to the above sections of physical and mental well being. Often linked closely to placing too much value on the perceptions of other people. A suggestion for those training for physical appearance may be to see yourself as a personal project to see what you can achieve in your own perception, not in the view of others.

Sports Performance - The potential for overtraining, risking your career through injury or even reducing performance levels because of any of the above reasons. Placing too much value on other people’s thoughts, not sticking to your programme and the training principles it follows because of fear of under performing.

Common themes:

  • Valuing other people’s thoughts and opinions too much

  • Valuing others people’s perception more than their own

  • Not training for holistic improvements/Training to the detriment their well being

  • Escapism instead of Enhancement

  • Over complicating

  • Seeing it as everything and not just a part of life.

To see this question applied we should provide some answers, therefore we will use my thoughts on my 10 minute walk to answer the question.

Why do I train?

I train for three main reasons.

  1. To develop, learn and enhance characteristics for success, dealing with difficulty and developing mental strength. I find there are a lot of crossovers between the efforts, struggles, wins and losses in the gym as their are in life, therefore training acts as the training ground for life. (Enhancement, Training Holistically)

  2. To see what I am capable of achieving. How strong can I get? How fast can I be? How far can I run? Etc. (Personal Project, Training Holistically)

  3. To look after my physical health. Stay fit, strong and healthy, free from disease, illness and injury. (Training Holistically)

Another reason I train is to look good, however it isn’t a main reason to train it is simply a by product. What i have personally found is that when my focus switched from aesthetic goals I felt happier because i wasn’t concerning myself with the thoughts of others but also when I did change my focus and reasoning the appearance itself improved. I bet this is often a common occurrence.

So ask yourself why do you train? Be truly honest with yourself and identify whether your motivation is coming from a ‘good place’ or a ‘bad place’.

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