5 Ways Strength Training Has Built My Character (and Learn Things About Myself)
Over the years, my strength training routine has provided consistent physical and mental discomfort, as well as lessons in trial and error. I’ve watched my body and mind change in a multitude of ways. These changes have spilled over into all aspects of my life. Even when it seemed like I had nothing to drive me and no where to direct my anxious energy, I knew the weights were there. I had something to wake up for. I’ve noticed that over time, my pain tolerance and patience has significantly gone up. Why is this?
Our bodies are smart. When we do something painful and uncomfortable, like exercising or getting a tattoo, endorphins get released to lubricate the process. This is the beauty of exercise; it causes a stress response and it’s because of that stress that our bodies evolve and adapt. You picking up what I’m putting down? Isn’t that kind of how life works? You can look at your mental strength and character in a similar manner. We grow and change because we become better at handling the stress that’s inflicted. We adapt to new challenges and new environments. Strength training has built my character in many ways, but there are a few noticeable changes that my friends and family have recently pointed out to me. I thought I’d elaborate and explore them for myself.
1. I’m comfortable being uncomfortable
I’ve made a few observations since I became a personal trainer. The thing I’ve noticed the most is how much people loathe being uncomfortable. I’m not talking about pushing through joint pain, injury or feeling light-headed; I’d be terrible at my job if I encouraged any of those things. I’m talking about pushing passed the point of slight discomfort and hanging out there for a bit. Feeling a little pain and being okay with it is a good practice for your body and mind. Let’s face it: pain is a part of life. Years of strength training have taught me to be okay with unpleasant sensations in my body. Now, my threshold has gone up because I lean into discomfort; I'm no longer afraid or intimidated by it. It's simply a feeling, a vibration in our bodies, that will eventually go away. It's only temporary. I’ve gotten used to the waters of slight misery and I'll gladly bask in the sun of endorphins.
2. I have innate curiosity
The excitement of seeing myself progress, understand concepts, and get stronger caused me to consider how fun it could be to learn to do other things. I had tangible and physical evidence that displayed the benefits of a consistent practice. Being a person with no real hobbies or interests prior to lifting, you can imagine this was huge for me. I wanted to feel that same curiosity and spark about other activities and topics as well. I wasn’t the type of person to venture out of my comfort zone to learn about things that didn't yet make sense to me. Lately, it's been fun to be an adult with a developed frontal lobe, exploring interests and hobbies with tenacity like never before. My passion for learning about how the body moves and the benefits of exercise has branched off into all sorts of other interests. I never knew that hanging out with my own brain could be so fun and exciting. There's a lot going on in there. Additionally, I know how important it is to live a balanced life and I've definitely gone back and fourth with extremes and obsessions. I never want my life to just be about one thing; I don't want to be that chick that's only obsessed with fitness and all things related. I'm wholeheartedly a "people person" and it would be awfully difficult to relate to a wide variety of people if I only had one interest. Even though it's a big part of my life and has sparked my passion for growth and knowledge, fitness doesn't define me or my identity.
3. I’m okay with being a newbie
Strength training has taught me that it’s okay to be a total newbie at something; it’s actually kind of fun. You get to be goofy, awkward, and inquisitive. When I first started working with a coach, I felt like a kid in school again. I got to let my guard down and let someone be my guide. It was okay that I did things entirely wrong and messed up a bunch of times because I was there to learn. I was able to laugh at myself and thoroughly enjoy the whole experience of being a newbie. Sometimes life is going to present us with opportunities to be a beginner again. As we age, our egos often discourage us from embarrassing situations in which we don’t have full awareness and control. I learned to put my ego aside and be a student again. Which brings me to my next point…
4. I leave my ego at the door
Strength training has taught me to be aware of letting my ego take the wheel. When you’re snatching triple digit weights overhead, it’s not worth it to push yourself far beyond your capabilities just because you want to look badass or compete with someone else. Everyone has a starting point and their own way of progression. When you really get into a routine, you realize the only competition you should worry about is with yourself. You’re not in the gym to prove anything to anyone. You’re there to move, maybe build some muscle, and feel connected to your body. Also, it’s okay to allow yourself to be corrected. If a trainer or another gym-goer offers a piece of advice, chances are that your body was in a compromising position and they don’t want you to get injured. I used to think I knew it all and I was the master of all exercises…Until I worked with a coach. A few simple corrections could entirely change your workout, because it’s a lot easier for an outsider to see misalignment. This notion has translated into other aspects of life for me; I find myself willing and able to accept advice and helpful corrections in other ventures.
5. I commit to things
This is probably the most noticeable and important character trait that I've developed from strength training. Commitment has always been a scary thing for me. Ask any of my ex-boyfriends. For many years, I was a master of none and I was terrified to completely go all in—on anything. I’d dabble in many different things but never put all of my focus into a hobby or passion. Until I fell in love with lifting, I had no idea what true commitment and passion felt like. I promised myself I’d show up to do the work everyday and over time, intrinsic motivation and the power of habit entirely took over. Even when I felt entirely lost in life, I knew I could wake up and the weights would be there. This consistent practice made other things--like learning to play the guitar--easy breezy. I knew that all I had to do was pick up that instrument everyday, just like I picked up the weights, and I was guaranteed to get better. I've always wanted to be a musician and have that outlet, but I could never get passed the beginning sticking point to really enjoy it. The confidence that I uncovered from strength training gave me the motivation and desire to want to stick with guitar as well. Now I can proudly say that I'm almost, maybe, sort of an intermediate player. :)