My relationship with the gym and exercise has been evolutionary. It really started back in high school and the goal was to be a better athlete. There were many early mornings in the weight room with yelling football coaches. It was our job to move weight and lots of it. That was it. I didn’t learn how to lift properly, but I learned how to push my body. After a summer of this, I was done with the screaming and lack of knowledge from my coaches that could lead to personal injury.
Having been introduced to the weight room I naturally shifted my focus to meet more superficial goals as most 16 year old boys do. I used weightlifting as a means to build muscle and be more confident and attractive. I’ve always been a bit on the scrawny side so I was trying to take control of my physique and align it with what I thought was going to be the answer to my difficulties approaching attractive girls and feel good about what I saw in the mirror. Once again, I wasn’t very well versed on training principles or nutrition. I saw very few results in the mirror, but did get considerably stronger. Unfortunately, girls didn’t care much for the numbers posted on the wall. This process continued through the rest of my high school career.
I then entered my freshman year of college a scrawny, flat bill hat wearing, journalism major. At about 6 feet and 150 pounds, I was nowhere near the physique I was pursuing. I got more and more serious about the gym and tried to educate myself. I started watching videos from people like Greg Plitt. I was in the weight room 5 days a week and taking a core and cardio class twice a week. I did this for another semester and not much had changed. Finally, I started to figure out that building muscle requires much more than hard work in the gym. I started to eat and eat and eat. I ate in our school cafeteria 4 times a day. I would pack my body to maximum capacity, well past the point of discomfort. I had between 35 and 45 ounces of milk a day. I put on 10 pounds in about a month and a half. I finally started to see the change I was looking for! Now everything would be easier. Girls would find me more attractive due to my more muscular build and college would be as enjoyable as they make it seem in the movies. This wasn’t entirely the case, however this belief alone really did make me a more confident person overall. I was beginning to walk through life with a little more ease.
I continued to carry this confidence with me wherever I went. I used it to be true to myself and find out what I wanted in life. I switched majors and started studying exercise science. Through my studies I began to learn more and more about exercise, nutrition and the human body. Through my studies and the wonderful process called “growing up” I started to learn the right and wrong ways to treat my body. I started discovering my gym habits had actually caused significant imbalances in my musculature which have caused pain and dysfunction. I finally realized that muscles aren’t just things you can build and blow up to attract a sexual partner, but they are part of the natural symphony that is the human body. Any pieces that are over or under exaggerated take away from its beauty.
As I continue to learn and grow, the goal when I step into the gym is no longer to add to my external image. Confidence and happiness isn’t achieved by big muscles. It comes from believing in yourself and what you’re doing. It is showing your body and mind love. I no longer lift weights and exercise to impress anyone else. I do it because it is something that makes me feel good. It fuels my confidence and makes life a more enjoyable journey. I think my story is very similar to many of the people you’ll meet in the gym. We all start going for one reason or another, but stay for the same reason, composing our symphonies.