As human beings, we all like to add meaning to every little thing in our life. It gives us solace to think back through all the challenges we conquered and how we grew from them. So the following writing focuses on the many lessons I’ve learned from one of my more meaningful passions—weight lifting and musculação—and don’t worry, this won’t be a story about a skinny guy getting muscular or a chubby kid losing more than 100 pounds a month. I think you guys have heard enough of those stories.
This article is about a gym rat explaining the process of lifting and grunting—like a mad gorilla—to fulfil his goal of growing stronger physically, and surprisingly, mentally and emotionally. Being at a stage in life where I do huge amounts of existential contemplation, I find myself comparing the sacred rules of strength training with life’s renowned virtues, sometimes correlating them to establish principles with the following symbolisms:
Learning to exercise on your own
I was at my second year in college when I started going to the gym during my free time. The start, as you would expect, was very slow paced and awkward. Luckily, I had friends who were also new to weightlifting. It helped build my confidence to have fellow beginners. But as time went by, our schedules changed and I had to learn to suck in my insecurities and go to the gym on my own. The first few months were grueling as I was just beginning to get the hang of developing proper form so as to avoid injury, and maximize my lifts. It took a lot of research, advice from bodybuilding veterans, and forcibly kicking myself out of bed to get some results; passion followed once I began to see my gains.
As with every journey, individuals are always self-conscious when undertaking a new challenge and it does help to be with loved ones when partaking something new. But, sooner or later, we realize that our friends may not always be by our side; we need to learn to do things on our own, no matter how uncomfortable they seem. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is a learning process and, quite possibly, the most significant lesson I learned from strength training. It’s where we create our identity and develop outside the crowd. Being alone offers not only the focus we need to get the job done but also the opportunity to redesign one’s self according to what we truly seek. It goads us to challenge ourselves into leaving our comfort zone to pursue something bigger than our present state. It’s basically life slapping us in the face for us to grow more headstrong and completely embrace the unknown with strong hopes of learning something that will help us succeed. It’s an opportunity for us to be more adaptable as individuals.
Balancing per body part
When people join a gym, they have a certain dream image that they want to sculpt, whether it’s the lean soccer player look or the intimidating bodybuilder look. That is what drives individuals to hit the gym on a weekly basis. As with a majority of individuals who use the gym, I’ve learned to love working out my arms, chest and back, and again as with the majority, I find that I dread working on my legs. This teaches me the concept of work-life balance.
All your favorite workouts symbolize the things you enjoy improving in life, be it painting a work of art, writing a novel or even weightlifting itself. These are your hobbies and the many things in life that you can’t imagine not doing during your free days. You feel completely productive and, at the same time, experience a strong sense of purpose and delight. Meanwhile, working on your legs symbolizes the things you need to do in order to be able to afford these enjoyments. That day to day routine job you do to earn cash, classes you take in order to master a certain profession, your daily commute, or paying your taxes. These are the things you need to accomplish for you to have something to stand on while you pursue your dreams. Upper body strength and lower body training must go hand in hand with one another to create a sense of balance.
Dieting is horrible. It’s a world renowned fact that nobody likes to limit their choices of delicacies. Now, as the cliche goes, dieting illustrates the essence of dedication and sacrifice—repetitive food, and food you quite possibly cannot stand but are willing to take to meet your goals, the hassle of finding/cooking the right food for your diet, and varying opinions that sometimes negate each other.
Dieting represents the hardships you endure in life or better yet, the challenges you face to achieve a certain goal. Be it that repetitive job you can’t stand but still carry on doing to support your loved ones, or the opinions of coworkers, friends and family on how things should be. Considering that these opinions vary most of the time, they represent the many paths you may choose to meet your goals.
Once in a while, gym enthusiasts incorporate what they call a cheat meal. They eat whatever they want once a week. Cheat meals motivate you to get through the week so that you can enjoy that one meal without feeling guilty (you still do though, most of the time). I do highly recommend taking at least one cheat meal a week to maintain sanity and resolve overall grumpy behavior.
Cheat meals are the “Oh f*ck it” days of your daily life. These are the times you stay up all night with friends and drink, dance or do whatever it is you like doing to your heart’s content. These are the times when you decide to buy that expensive dress, shoes, or a video game system that you really want. As with cheat meals, I strongly believe these “oh f*ck it” days are necessary to maintain sanity. It’s absolutely okay to treat yourself to something nice once in a while to help motivate you to achieve your goals in life. It’s a constant reminder that you are human, deserving of happiness, and not obliged to follow mundane routines every single day of your life.
Photo: Kailash Panicker