I’m going to start this with a story. About a year ago, we had a young woman drop into the gym to talk to us. She was from our phone company, and was checking that we were happy with our service. While we were chatting, she glanced around. “Oh, you’re a gym, are you? I’ve been meaning join one, but I can’t.”
I asked her if she was involved in a sport, or if she was studying part time or something that was taking up all of her time. I mentioned that some of our members trained before work, because their lives were pretty full after work, and that we were open from 6AM.
“Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that. That’s far too early to get up.” Okay. So then I suggested that she could train after work, and that there were gyms which were open twenty-four hours a day.
“Oh, no. I couldn’t do that. I’m far too tired by the time I finish work.” So this woman’s job consisted of driving to people’s businesses and having coffee with them, and there was absolutely, positively, no possible way she could squeeze some exercise into her week.
The thing that really stood out to me when she left was they way she used can’t. In her mind, that was it. It wasn’t her choice, it wasn’t her fault, she just couldn’t. It was as simple as that. I’ve heard that before about lots of things. Quitting smoking comes to mind. Yes, it’s addictive, but people quit every day. But what do you always hear from smokers? “I want to quit, I just can’t”.
I hear this all the time: I can’t do that; I’d like to do this, but I just can’t; oh, I could never do that.
It’s not up to me what people do with their lives. It’s their ride, not mine. But at least just be honest with me and, more importantly, honest with yourself. If this woman had said to me “oh, I feel like I should start exercising, but I choose not to,” at least she would have been honest.
Like I said, it’s your life. If you want to eat Big Macs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner then go for it. But be honest about how that might impact your other goals. Don’t say “I wish I could lose weight, I just can’t.” Bullshit. Look yourself in the eye and say “I would like to lose weight, but I choose to eat junk food instead.” That sounds a bit different, doesn’t it? “I’d like to get fit, but I choose to sit on my couch and watch Game of Thrones instead.” Sounds a bit silly when you say it like that, but that’s exactly the decision you’re making.
And then people try to justify it to themselves. “You don’t understand, I work full-time.” So do most people. “It comes easily to you, but I’m not naturally fit/skinny/etc.” It doesn’t come easily, people just worked for it. “You don’t understand how stressful my job/life/degree is.” We used to get up at midnight, get on helicopters, go on a mission in southern Afghanistan, get shot at, come back to base, have lunch, and then go to the gym. Trust me, however stressful you think your life is, it can get worse.
Which brings me to my next point: the fittest, most dedicated people I know are the ones with the busiest lives. People who have successful careers generally understand that hard work pays off. I’ve had seventeen year old kids who get themselves up and drive to the gym at 6AM because they’ve got a shift at MacDonalds after school and they want to get a workout in. I’ve seen teenagers get a crappy job to pay for a gym membership, and ‘mature’ adults blame everyone but themselves for their own choices.
So take a good think about your goals and your training. Is there something holding you back? If so, what are you doing to fix it? If you’re too tight to squat well, and every time you squat someone tells you that you’re too tight, then maybe you need to do something else to fix it. Maybe something like stretching for a few minutes every night. That’s the really frustrating part about this: these people already know the answers. People know that stretching will make them more flexible; they know the difference between Crust pizza and steak and salad; and they know that if they train once every two weeks that they’re unlikely to see much progress. And yet they still can’t (or are unwilling to) connect the dots.
Let’s go back to the example of the smoker I used earlier – the one that just can’t quit. What if he knew that the very next cigarette he smoke would kill him instantly? One puff and he’d fall over dead. What do you think the chances are of him smoking again? Pretty low, I’d guess. Nothing changed except his motivation. He went from choosing not to quit to choosing to quit. It’s really that simple.
What choice are you making?