I recognize that most people workout because they want to looker better naked. I’m the same way, of course I want to improve my physique. But I would argue that physique improvement is at the bottom of the benefits of training. Physique is so subjective. You can win the Mr Olympia and people will think you look gross. You can win the Bikini Olympia and people will think you look fake. Regardless of what you look like, there is someone out there who will think you look good and someone out there who thinks you look like crap. If you don’t believe me spend 15 minutes checking out Walmartians and recognize that most of them are currently procreating. Because of the subjective nature of different physiques and physique improvements, there can be some serious issues with making that the foundation of your “why” for training. To learn a little more about this fact, check out Annie’s recent podcast.
Physique improvements also make for easy motivation. That’s why you see so many before and after pictures used for advertisements (I know, I’m guilty too). It’s easy to get people all excited about the fact that they could look like the person in the picture. The unfortunate other side of that is that the vast majority of people who start a change in exercise or nutrition fail. They fail because they rely on their initial motivation. Motivation is fickle and constantly waning. Some days you will feel super motivated to train and eat right. Other days you will be tired, hungry, and not feel like doing crap. But in order to make physique improvements you can’t just do things right on the days you feel like it. You have to do it everyday for a really really long period of time. This brings me back to my original point that physique improvements are at the bottom of the benefits of physical training.
The reality is that people who struggle to make physique improvements struggle because they don’t have the mental and emotional foundation to carry them through. They don’t miss the gym or break their diet for any reason below the neck, the suffer to stay consistent because of what is going on above the neck. This is why I am making the case that the mental and emotional gainz are much better than the physical gainz. First, like stated above, physique improvements are very subjective. Beyond that much of your physique is determined by genetics and, regardless of how hard you fight it off, it is always going to succumb to aging. Mental and emotional strength is not subjective. Second, there really isn’t much of a carry over for physique to other areas of life. Yes, you’ll feel better when you take your shirt off at the beach but outside of making a living based on your looks (which has much more to do with genetics than most people are willing to admit) looking good naked limits itself to boosting your self image and not necessarily making you a better worker, husband/wife, friend, etc. Finally, you have to have the foundation of mental and emotional strength to be able to endure the requirements for physique improvement, or at least for continued physique improvement over time. There are plenty of examples of people who put in hard work one time and then fell off the wagon. Even those with that foundation realize that it’s almost impossible to maintain your “best” physique all the time. Mental and emotional strength are much easier to keep in a peak state.
To achieve mental and emotional strength you must focus on two factors: determination and direction. First, know where you want to go and educate yourself on what it takes to get there. Way too many people go into this with unrealistic expectations. Second, set your sights on the first step needed to take you where you want to go and start moving. Take your feelings out of the equation. How you feel is irrelevant to the end goal. Once you reach your first step, set your sights on the second step and start moving. Don’t rely on your motivation to kick in, you can’t trust it. Rely on your determination. Say to yourself, I will make this happen. After enough sequences of this, you will learn to ignore that voice inside that tells you to quit. In fact, you’ll take joy in silencing it with every piece of progress. You will also learn to trust yourself. Let’s be honest, when you currently say “I need to lose weight” or “I need to start exercising” you and I both know that deep down you’re full of shit. As soon as it gets tough you’re going to quit. You quit because you don’t trust yourself. You just say it because it makes you feel good and because that’s what everyone else does. Each obstacle that gets in your way that you manage to knock down is another boost in self trust. You start to believe yourself when you say “Today I’m going to do 30 minutes of cardio” or “Today I’m going to pack all my meals and take them to work”. This is the only way you can get where you want to go. Along the way, your physique will improve. But the mental and emotional strength you gain will be a far greater gift.