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But I often find myself in conversation about dedication and how disciplined I am about lifting weights and going to the gym, and people tend to say:
“Man I wish I could be that good about going to the gym”… or something to that effect.
See the gym is much more to me than something to do to keep myself in shape. That’s actually one of the last reasons why I go so regularly.
The gym for me is an outlet. It’s an escape. One where I can blast music, let my stress go, and listen to – and connect with – my body.
For these reasons (and also that it’s good for me) I keep it close to the top of my priority list.
But what people see on the outside, though, is someone who finds time to go to the gym more times during the week than not, to keep themselves in shape. And this is something that seems to be envied by a lot of people.
But when the gym is more than just something you do to stay in shape, it isn’t always a good thing, or something that should be envied.
Because when I miss a workout, I’m missing much more than just an hour of mindless sweat and fatigue. Missing a workout means missing time that I need with myself, and it can make me stressed, anxious, upset, and angry.
When someone goes to the gym with the sole intention of it being good for you and something you should do on a somewhat frequent basis, it’s easy for those people to skip a workout to do something else, like grab a few drinks with friends instead. It’s easy because there aren’t many other elements tied to the workout, like the therapeutic effect, the self-competitive effect, among others.
See these people have actually subconsciously mastered the idea of moderation and balance. An idea that doesn’t come easy for some, including me.
No matter what your reasons are for going to the gym, it’s important for us to always remember that a life of balance will ultimately give us more joy than one with unequal weights.
Sometimes we must recognize when it’s okay to take a step back and enjoy the things around you and experience all that we can to help us live a stronger, healthier, and happier life.
But priorities are priorities for a reason, so we must help each other understand what’s important to each of us so we don’t feel like balance is a difficult thing.
And if you surround yourself with people who truly care about you, they will understand and work with you to have balanced relationships and friendships that will only grow stronger as time goes on, while also allowing you to attain the personal goals you set out for yourself.
Do you train to strengthen your grip?
If you answered no, it’s time to start.
Grip strength, basically, one’s ability to make a fist and resist force attempting to open it up, has many benefits in the gym and also in every day life.
Here are 3 reasons why you should be training to improve your grip strength:
It allows you to lift heavier in almost any exercise
Because so many exercises involve holding a dumbbell or barbell, improving your grip strength will allow you to focus more on activating the proper muscles instead of focusing on trying to hold the weight in your hands for dear life.
Every day tasks will become easier
Think about how many things you do on a daily basis that require you to use your grip. From opening up a jar to carrying bags of groceries from the car, your grip is crucial for achieving tasks and promoting functional independence as you age.
Promotes healthy joints
Improving your grip strength will have positive effects on the health of your wrists, and more importantly, your elbows. The elbow joint is extremely prone to injury, so training your forearm and grip muscles will strengthen the surrounding musculature and ease up your tendons to keep the pesky elbow pain away.
So how do you increase your grip strength?
Use more Free weights and fewer machines
Using free weights forces you to use your grip more, therefore strengthening it due to repetitive use. Machines make it easy to isolate specific muscles, but often don’t require a strong grip since gravity is not an opposing factor/force, which is the reason why so many free weight exercises with dumbbells and barbells work your grip and other muscles (hence, free). Here are 2 great exercises that build a strong grip:
Deadlifts are a great way to increase your overall strength, and one of the important muscles that the deadlifts train aside from your back are your forearms, i.e. your grip, since you are holding a heavy barbell as you lift it up and down.
2. Farmer’s Carries
A farmer’s carry is executed by holding two dumbbells of medium to heavy weight down at your sides while in a standing position. From there, you should walk around 10-30 yards at a time, depending on weight, while maintaining an upright posture. The main muscles activated are your forearms and traps, but is a great exercise to incorporate into any functional training program.
Even the smallest muscle groups require big attention and your forearms and grip strength are no exception. Being able to hold onto dumbbells and barbells with more weight, longer, will help develop strength and endurance for functional activities leading to a stronger, healthier, and happier life.
Are your ‘cheat days’ more like plain old excuses?
There’s no denying that I love talking to people about their goals and interests when it comes to living a strong, happy, and healthy life.
But because of this, I often see individuals deviate from what they know they should be doing to lead them to their goals, and instead fall into this trap that has become widely socially acceptable, making it even easier to fall into.
“I have goals to lose weight, build strength, and to feel better about myself overall”….”Oh come on, it’s the weekend! Calories don’t count!”
It’s easy to find ways to procrastinate and instead do what’s less difficult, but this sort of mentality needs to be eradicated in order for true progress to occur.
There will always be an event, a holiday, a weekend, a celebration, where we can make up excuses to cheat on our diets or skip our workouts.
Getting into the habit of making fewer excuses due to some perceived good reason or alternative will not only accelerate our progress helping us reach our goals quicker, but they’ll also quickly build a good habit of sticking to our diet and exercise program which will flourish into healthy lifestyle habits for as long as we live.
We will more frequently choose to forego the dessert and go to the gym after we realize how easy it is to simply not put food that’s bad for us into our mouths (or at least less of it), and get our butts in the gym even for a half hour.
And all of this isn’t necessarily our own individual faults – as I mentioned before it’s a problem that our society has accepted, joked at, and therefore welcomed.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a situation where someone has said:
“We’re celebrating, eat whatever you want, it doesn’t matter!”
And is met with a response of anything other than:
“Haha! You’re right!”
We all help each other deviate from our own best interests and goals, because we know we are doing the same from the influence of ourselves and others, so we pass that behavior on to those around us.
And while on occasion splurging is absolutely fine, and even encouraged from time to time, I see excuses of “Oh just this once” made far more often than just this once.
Becoming the strongest, happiest, and healthiest you can be is hard. It is extremely difficult work that takes a lot of time, dedication, and focus.
Our goals we set for ourselves and our lives inside and out of the gym sometimes take years – lifetimes – to fully accomplish. But what gets them done is working relentlessly without excuse to make what you want for yourself happen.
Excuses are distractions and signs of faintness of heart – they tell us that whatever we’re making an excuse for isn’t that important and that there’s time for it later.
But living a strong, healthy, and happy life is ongoing and always evolving, which is why now is more important than ever to start your journey, without excuse, because you can’t get this time back, so make it the best and most affective you can, now.
We don’t always have to be 100% true to our diets 100% of the time, but you can build a diet that will get you to your goal while eating foods that are fun and taste good, and allow you to deviate slightly on occasion.
What we DO always have to be 100% true to is ourselves and understanding when we’re making an easy excuse and when we should harness our will power to reach our goals we have in fitness and in life with ease.
What if I told you bad days at the gym are actually a good thing?
We all have those days where our minds are out of it, we’re tired, we’re feeling a little under the weather, and our training suffers because of it.
I challenge you to try to change the way you think and feel about these types of sessions. Why? Because you still showed up. You knew you were tired, you knew you had a lot going on, but you still got your butt to the gym to train, where others easily failed and said “I’ll just go tomorrow”.
Sure, you didn’t hit the numbers you wanted, sure you couldn’t run as fast as usual, but you made the effort despite suboptimal conditions you were facing before entering the gym. We shouldn’t be upset about these days, because you have a very important character trait that you should be proud of.
We may know that we are set up to fail, we may know that it is going to be a struggle and a fight the entire way through, but recognizing that altering the routine, sacrificing long-term benefits (i.e gains) and the lowered morale of quitting entirely without even trying, are not worth it.
With training and with many things in life we work hard for, we’re not expected to be 110% on 100% of the time. Life happens, and you should let it. But knowing that you even tried, when you could have easily said no, means that you’re on your way to achieving your goals and succeeding in your endeavor because you powered through knowing you were going to have to struggle more than usual, that you were entering a battle you weren’t prepared for and might lose, but you didn’t quit.
So understand that we’re all going to have our bad days in the gym and in life, but use that as fire to gather and prepare yourself for the next fight that you’ll conquer with ease because of all of those times you tried even when you knew you couldn’t win.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I am obsessed with Yoga. There are so many benefits to practicing that no matter what age you are, how flexible you are, what style of training you do or do not do, you should be incorporating Yoga in your weekly routine.
Here are my top 4 reasons for doing Yoga at least once a week:
Improves your posture
My favorite thing and one of the best things about Yoga in my opinion is that it can greatly improve your posture. Yoga emphasizes the importance of standing up tall, keeping your shoulders back, sitting tall and not caving into your bones. Designating at least 30 minutes a week to “undoing” all of the hunched over posture that we develop during our lives sitting at a desk can help retrain your muscles and structure to sit, stand, and walk with proper posture.
Increases your flexibility
The second reason for doing Yoga is that it increases your flexibility. Whether your goal is to get really strong, muscular, or to just get healthier and in better shape, flexibility is the key in every scenario. Flexibility allows your body to move. It keeps you young and increases your mobility. This means better range of motion and form for lifting exercises, reduced risk of muscular injury, as well as healthier and happier muscles and bones all around in your daily life.
Improves (and even increases) your strength
The third reason is that Yoga can actually improve and increase your strength in the form of flexibility and balance. Yoga helps you increase your balance through deep core and muscle work. The poses and exercises practiced in Yoga work your body in a way that few other types of exercises can – it works the deep muscular system, those muscles closest to your bones. Holding balance poses for extended periods of time actually makes you stronger and can translate to strength in the gym. Combine that with improved flexibility, and you’re setting yourself up for a mobile, strong, and healthy body.
Keeps you centered and relaxed
The last reason why everyone should do Yoga is because it helps you to keep centered and relaxed. Yoga is a great form of active meditation. It’s so important to reward yourself at least once a week with 30 minutes of deep breathing, relaxation, and recovery. It can help make you happier and will melt the stresses and tensions of the week away. I truly believe in the power of meditation, and Yoga combines this idea with movement and balance to create an amazing experience that is good for the mind and the matter. See what I did there?
So for those who have never routinely practiced, or those who just don’t know where to start, I highly recommend the 30 Day Yoga Challenge. It’s free, it’s easy, it’s fun, and it is instructed very well. Yoga doesn’t have to be something you pay $20 a class for. You can do it in your home, and with this video series, it’s incredibly easy to do so. The videos are no longer than 30 minutes each, some even as short as 12. While I am not practicing every day, I’ve been doing this series no less that 3 times a week. So it’ll take me a little longer than 30 days to finish, but that’s okay.
So get ready to learn a lot about yourself, to relax, and to join in on the amazing powers of Yoga.