I got an email from a reader the other day which really got me thinking. It got me thinking about what I’m writing here and how I can help people the most.
In part it read:
“Here’s something that many, possibly most, out of shape people face; and most of us succumb to the pressure and give up. Here’s what I mean. Some out of shape guy or gal comes in, forty or more pounds overweight, no muscle tone, and after ten minutes they’re sweating and tired and totally wiped out. Meanwhile, there’s this dude on the left doing the “sixty-five pound bicep curls” and a slim little chick on the right with an impossibly tight body busting out the miles on the treadmill.
Most fitness sites stress that you should only think about yourself and your own goals and not compare yourself to others. Maybe that makes sense, maybe that’s logical, but I’m sure you recognize that it’s bullshit. Of COURSE we compare ourselves to others. Of COURSE we want to be as good or better than the other people out there.
But when you’re starting out at zero, struggling with the basics, and you see what “appears” to be “everyone” around you making it all look so easy, it can be extremely discouraging.”
I get it. I do.
Standing next to someone who looks like they came off the front page of Men’s Fitness magazine is intimidating. You want to look like them of course. You want the confidence the possess. You want their sex appeal. And naturally you want their granite chiseled abs.
But you don’t have those things and from where you’re standing (in the shadow of their hyper developed v-shaped back), you probably can’t see it ever happening. You feel dejected, beaten down, and possibly hopeless.
I’ve seen it many times with clients over the years and it’s not as easy as saying “you look fine for just starting out” or “forget them, it’s all about you”. And as this reader said, we want to look as good or better than the dude next to us. It’s not good enough to just get over it.
In all honesty, this is an area that I don’t have a great deal of personal experience in only because I’ve been in pretty decent shape for the last 20 years. And because of that, I always knew, regardless of how far I let myself go, that it was only a matter of time before I was going to be in great shape again.
But for those of you who have never been in great shape or have taken the last 15 years off from all forms of exercise, it’s a completely different story.
Is Looking Awesome Overrated?
The desire to look fucking awesome is a very powerful motivator for most men. But when you look like the Pillsbury Doughboy, it can be damn near impossible to visualize yourself looking like Brad Pitt in the movie Troy. But you still want it.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look phenomenal because when you do eventually get there, you’ll notice a few things:
- People notice you. (Read: girls and lots of them)
- Your confidence skyrockets. And a lot of confidence carries over into every part of your life, whether it be creating opportunities in your current job, finally having the balls to start your own business, or dating a beautiful (and hopefully intelligent) woman.
- You are more productive. I’ve gone through peaks and valleys with my own confidence and I can tell you straight up that when I am looking and feeling my best, my energy is through the roof. I just want to get more shit done, find more clients, write more content, run faster, train harder, make love better…you get the point.
- You feel amazing. Feeling amazing is something many of you are not familiar with. You grind our way through your days, but there is no real passion. That sucks. When you are in great shape, things are different. A world of possibilities opens up and good shit just seems to “happen” to you. Of course we create these things by our positive mental attitude, but it is truly a great feeling to be in that place.
So the long-ish answer to the question is no. Looking awesome is not overrated at all. It doesn’t make you a narcissist because you want to see your forearm veins. It doesn’t make you conceited because you like to look at your newfound body in the mirror (a lot).
It makes you normal.
How To Avoid Getting Discouraged and Quitting (again)
It’s really simple. All you have to do is repeat after me..I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me…
OK, so maybe that shit doesn’t work.
I’m no psychotherapist and many of the emotions associated with getting psyched out and quitting run pretty deep.
I don’t claim to be an expert here and don’t have all the answers, but here is what I know:
- Do the work. Just as Steven Pressfield says “do the work”, I agree 100%. Every person you see that looks like you want to has done the work. They have busted their ass in the gym, made sacrifices, and spent a great deal of time getting to look like that. This person can either motivate you to be better or make you realize just how flabby you really are.
Now, I’ve been broke for many times in my life and it sucks. But I don’t ever let the fact that some of my friends are raking in the cash or have a huge retirement accounts. I understand that they have those things for a reason; they worked for them and made smart decisions to get them. I didn’t. You cannot make 20 years worth of bad health choices and then be upset that you look like shit.
No, you must recognize that you have a long way to go, and that it’s OK. It really is. Just like one day I will have more money that I’ll ever need, you too will get there (assuming you and I make better choices going forward).
- Stop looking at shit that drags you down. If you are not fit and desperately want to be, will it motivate you to look at Rich Froning working out? For some, yes. For others, absolutely not. Why torture yourself watching the fittest man on Earth do more exercise in 2 hours than you have done in 10 years?
- Look at shit that inspires you. If you are one of the people who is motivated by people displaying epic feats of strength, endurance, and heart, then by all means surround yourself with that stuff. Maybe the story of a life changing transformation will do it for you, like that of Rich Roll who went from a fat and depressed father of four to an ultra-marathoner. Or maybe it’s Frank Medrano doing sick bouts of calisthenics that gets your heart pumping because one day you would love to do handstand pushups. Find what moves you and let it move you into action.
- Take small steps. Nobody ever got fit in a weekend. Six-pack abs were never created in 7 minutes a day. That ripped dude in the Captain America t-shirt didn’t get that way without a hundred small steps leading up to that. Take it a day at a time and slowly but surely, you will see gains.
- Show up. There have been too many times to count when I didn’t want to work out and would have rather crawled under the covers and slept. The times I had no energy, was tired, and didn’t really see the point of it all. But I did it anyway. I showed up in spite of my lethargy. Sure, it sucked and was about as far from fun as possible, but guess what? It worked.
- Stop quitting. Every time you tell yourself you won’t or can’t, you lose. You love motivation, momentum, and most likely all the progress you made up to that point. So stop stopping. Just get your ass moving every day and make it a permanent habit. Before long, it becomes secondary. And then, when you are least expecting it, you will look in the mirror and think “holy shitballs, I look fucking good!!”
Now get to work and remember that only you can make it happen for yourself. I know you can do it. Do you?
Very good read here – thanks for this. What I keep in mind, either at home working out or at the gym, is that I didn’t get fat in 1 month, so I’m not going to get fit in 1 month. Like you said, we have to take small steps and it’s going to take time. What’s challenging for me though is how to show progress along the way. If you just look in the mirror, that’s pretty subjective. So we’re left to the scale as our measurement device, good or bad. For me, fitting into clothes that I “grew” out of is my current measurement criteria.
Using your clothes as a measuring stick is a pretty good indicator and serves to motivate. If you look in the mirror every day, you will not see the improvements and will probably just put you off. For me, I just do the work. I know that I will change if I just stick to my plan. I’m in the process of trying to lean out to about 8% bodyfat and I’m nowhere close to that. I just keep on eating the right foods and working out. It will come.
Great article! Your practical points acknowledge and address a serious issue, but with a healthy dose of not so serious tone! Love the humor!
“… from where you’re standing (in the shadow of their hyper developed v-shaped back)….”
Pressfield writes quite a bit about the negative power of “resistance,” and your suggestions are effective tools for responding to the resistance those of us who are not YET fit experience.
(I think, from the way it reads, that there’s a sentence missing from the end of the “Stop looking at sh*t that drags you down” paragraph.)
Hey thanks, David. Although I tend to be a pretty serious guy, I try to add my sarcastic sense of humor into the mix when I think of it..
Do The Work is a great book and there are so many principles in there that can be used to help with the struggles of getting fit. Thanks for the heads up on the post..I’ll check.
By the way, I wasn’t familiar with Rich Roll. That looks like an interesting story. I’ll be picking up his book from the local library. (Since “decluttering” is another of my goals, I don’t need to be buying more stuff right now.)