Fitspiration: 10 Ways the Gym Surprised Me

August 20, 2015

Maintaining fitness in your lifestyle is an ongoing effort. Finding new approaches, mindsets, and inspirations are integral to keeping up you inspired to put in the effort. Fitspiration is a wonderful little surprise you come across that help re-energize your motivation, rethink your approach, or re-remember why you do what you do.

The thing about surprises is that we might think being surprised signifies that something about the world or our self has changed, that things are not the same as they were a moment before. In truth, though, all surprises – big or small, pleasant or unpleasant – mean only one thing: our perspective has changed, which ultimately serves as a helpful reminder that the world is not always as we perceive it to be.

Going to the gym is a great way to surprise yourself on a regular basis.

Here are 10 ways the gym has surprised me.

1. Weightlifting is easy; getting your butt to the gym is hard.

Of course, weightlifting is hard – but comparatively speaking, it’s the getting up and going there that I find to be the hardest part. I spend all day surrounded by people; taking an hour of, what could be, quiet-at-home time and replacing that with an hour of being-around-people time is a constant push.

When designing workout plans for myself, I incorporate getting myself to the gym into the plan: Which off-peak time works best for my schedule? Which location will require the least amount of effort to get to? I also switch things up when I find myself getting antsy in the routine, from morning workouts to evening workouts, from indoor workouts to outdoor workouts, etc. High-intensity workouts, like circuit training, HIIT, or Tabata, are great ways to get in and out of the gym in a short window of time, while also getting great results.

2. There are a lot of people at the gym who take steroids.

I’m talking a lot more people than you might think – and maybe even more on top of that. (And I don’t mean those folks who need them for medical reasons.)

The important takeaway from this juiced up fact is that there’s no point in comparing yourself to these folks. Unless you dedicate yourself full-time to fitness and nutrition (and by full-time I mean that it’s literally your full-time job), achieving the cut, chiseled, muscles-popping-out-of-their-skin body of someone who takes hormones is an unattainable goal. Comparing your own hard-earned results to these augmented ones isn’t fair to yourself.

One way to help prevent unrealistic goals getting tangled up in yours is to keep the focus on optimal physical health. While many would argue that taking hormones from time to time is harmless, there is no reasonable argument out there for taking hormones because it is the healthier choice. Making choices based on what’s healthiest for your mind and body will automatically separate your goals from unrealistic ones.

3. Building muscle and losing fat simultaneously is surprisingly hard.

If you want to build muscle noticeably, maintaining a lean physique at the same time can be a real challenge. Many gym-goers typically go through bulking phases where they lift a lot of weight, avoid cardio work, and eat a lot of food, which are then followed up with leaning out phases where they up the rep range, increase the fat-burning cardio, and eat a bit less.

It’s a bit yo-yo.

Intermittent fasting is one approach you can consider for building muscle and losing fat simultaneously. Read about it here and here.

 4. Most big muscle head guys are gentle and friendly.

Gym is therapy, and most people who go to the gym regularly are calmer and happier – even the big, hulking muscle head guys. I’ve honestly never once encountered a rude or belligerent person at the gym – sure there are people who are annoying and oblivious to their surroundings, but for the most part people are just there to doin’ their thang.

 5. The girls know their shit – sometimes more than the bros.

I am always looking around me to see what other people are doing – a new move, a better form, or even a well-sculpted physique. While the weight-lifting portion of the gym is primarily a pickle party (about 85% men typically), there are always a few ladies who lift alongside the bros. Of the 85% of men in the gym, about 50-60% of those men make the prime focus of the workouts on the esthetic muscles of their upper body, neglecting the stabilizing muscles of the lower body.

Girls commonly focus on their lower body: their legs, butt, and core. The key to a truly healthy and strong physique is the muscles of our core and lower body – so pay attention to how the girls are doing it!

 6. Surprise! Sleep is important, like a lot.

Well, duh.

But when you start working our hard, something about sleep clicks for you – it’s like you can feel its necessity for repairing your body. You’ll start to crave your sleep and avoid things that will make it less effective.

Here’s 4 tips for better sleep.

7. You’d be surprised how much energy your body has stored.

I no longer believe in the nutrition idea that, in order to keep our “metabolism running properly,” we need to be constantly eating from the moment we wake up, to the moment we go to sleep.

Our bodies are incredibly efficient fuel-burning machines with large amounts of stored energy. When you start working out, you’ll begin to notice a difference between the times your body is digesting food (the fed state), and the times your body is running on stored energy (the fasted state). I’ve become acutely aware of how my body reacts to carbohydrate intake and the subsequent insulin response since starting to work out many years ago. I’ve also noticed that hunger disappears as soon as I start a workout, and that having food in my stomach, or any degree of blood sugar response, negatively affects my performance.

While everyone is different, we are all the same when it comes to being affected by food – something you will notice when you start working out.

Read about working out in a fasted state here.

8. Surprise! Nature designed our lower backs to be strong– very, very strong.

It always seems like someone is hurting their back, even from the simplest of movements. For years I thought that our backs were points of weakness in our genetic makeup – something we should coddle and avoid using as much as possible.

But I was wrong, so wrong!

There is an entire network of muscle in our back that is meant to be strong and supportive – we’re designed to be able to bend over and pick things up using these muscles to protect our spines. But because we spend out lives sitting in chairs and avoid bending over as much as possible, the muscles of our lower backs have become weak.

You’ll learn just how strong your lower back is meant to be when you start lifting weights (with proper form, of course) because you’ll be picking a lot of weight up off the floor, and performing countless movements that require a strong lower back, like dead lifts, squats, lunges, barbell rows, overhead presses, etc.

9. I’m continually surprised about what our bodies are capable of doing.

Bodies are amazing! They are strong, and not just physically, but mentally too. I didn’t think I could dead lift 245 lbs., but I can, and I did it 36 times (6 sets of 6).

10. Surprise! Working out connects your mind to your body in surprising ways.

We kind of walk around in our bodies without always being fully aware of them. When you start working out, you burn new pathways in your brain that connect you to your body (the mind/muscle connection). What happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow becomes less important; you are more aware of the here and now because you can literally feel more of the here and now – physically and mentally.

11. Bonus Surprise: If you subscribe to my blog, you’ll be pleasantly surprised whenever I post a new blog (because I’ll let you know!). I’ll promise to be quietly flattered for each and every subscription. *blush*

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