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Life Lessons I Never Expected To Learn After 7 Years At The Gym

Breakups create bodybuilders.

People go to the gym for all sorts of reasons. Nine of ten times, that reason is to look good. Since the process of looking better than the current state is not something that can happen overnight, a lot of people give up on the road. 

According to research, 50% of people starting an exercise program will drop out within the first six months.

However, unintentionally, quitters leave many valuable byproducts on the gym benefit buffet. Most of them are stuck in the rut of instant gratification, making it extremely difficult to sit on the table long enough to see all the dishes offered.

The noblest part of hitting the gym is not getting in the best shape of your being or doing unbelievable transformations — it is the simple lessons that are valuable in everyday life outside the gym.

Here’s my transformation story.

Featherweight To Middleweight

Like countless others, I wanted to look good. But my 127 lbs (58 kg) boney structure gave me a slow start.

Although initially, I took off at a surprising speed and gained almost 10 lbs of muscle mass in the first six months (newbie gains). But I wasn’t aware of newbie gains at the time and got frustrated soon due to post six-month results.

Here is precisely where many people go down because the so-called “instant gratification” phase ends, and the gym results are slow and unnoticeable.

For me, it was a little different. Since I was way out of shape, the results from the initial six months filled me with a mix of enormous drive and a little frustration. This overfilled tank of motivation allowed me to go on for quite some time.

Seven years later, of being regularly hitting the gym (with many injury breaks) and gaining 30 lbs. of lean muscle mass, I did manage to stay in the game just long enough to also self-reflect the indirect life lessons I learned at the gym.

For reference, that’s my current state after four months of lockdown and a recent injury. I stuck with my diet for the most part. (Also, using selfie stick for the first time)

On this journey, I did not expect to learn the seven life lessons that I’ll share with you in a moment. These lessons have shaped my work life, relationships with family and friends, and mental & physical health.

Since we all have individual goals, consequently, would our speed towards them be. But the lessons we learn on the way are things that we can share on the road to help each other stay strong in their journeys.

Here’s my take at it.

Enjoy The Ride

If everything you ever wanted were given to you RIGHT NOW, you would not have a lot to do then.

Reaching the goals is not nirvana. Olympic players suffer from Post Olympic Depression and talk about learning to appreciate the pursuit of your dreams.

I carefully watch people who have successfully done what I want to do. They all have different paths to it. But they all make it. By fixing the idea that “if they can do it, so can I,” allowed me to enjoy the daily wins and even the failures (cliché but more on this later). I have come in peace with the idea that the process is what is more enjoyable than the goal itself.

Seven years later, I still consider myself as a student at the gym, continuously investigating ways to improve myself. The process is never-ending, and so is the joy of being in it.

Willingness To Be A Fool

“The fool is the precursor to the savior” —  Carl Jung

A child speaks every phoneme at an early age, and with time, narrows it down to a language. We, too, deviate in all sorts of ways when trying something new. But with time and repetition, we stabilize our compass to a focal point and master multiple skills during a lifetime.

We need to accept that adopting any new activity will be an error-ridden process. The errors will decline with time. If you aren’t willing to be a fool, you can’t be a master.

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My first day to wilfully look like a fool was in 2013 when I first stepped into the gym. People in their perfect bodies, performing seamless movements was an ideal recipe for a newbie like me to be discouraged. I wish someone would have told me that 99 percent of people at the gym had the same feeling like me at some point in time.

But, I had nothing to lose as I already didn’t feel too proud of myself. I chose to look stupid at the gym than being skinny. It was not long before I could nail the Bird-Dog exercise without looking like an idiot.

Sacrifice, Sacrifice and Some More Sacrifice

“The successful among us delay gratification.” — Dr. Jordan Peterson, Clinical Psychologist and the author of 12 Rules for Life.

Successful among us delay gratification and tend to understand the future differently than ordinary people. Understanding the future as a place with which one can negotiate for a desirable tomorrow enables us to design and exhibit ourselves most effectively by choosing to do the right things in the present.

A low protein diet with no caloric monitoring never was the optimal strategy. And when you top that with all the junk food, that makes it an excellent recipe to look like Just Sul (Joking, love the guy).

Sacrificing the non-serving habits is the prime lesson I have learned at the gym.

Tap The Unknown Reserves

David Goggins, retired United States Navy SEAL, former United States Air Force Tactical Air Control Party member, Ultramarathon runner, Ultra-distance cyclist, and Triathlete, is the fame behind the 40 percent rule. He says that when the mind notifies one’s limit, it has only used 40 percent of the total in the tank.

It sounds like another motivational BS. But, in a 2008 study, researchers found that subjects who were offered a disguised sugar pill and told it to be as caffeine were able to lift more weight load in training than those given caffeine. It does not imply that our bodies are limitless, but what is confirmed is that our preset limits need some revising now and then.

We all can think of at least one time in life, where we know that we could have given or pushed more but didn’t for whatever reason.

Jesse Itzler, American Entrepreneur and the author of “Living with a Seal,” speaks how he ended up doing 100 pull-ups instead of his preset limit of 8.

I have noticed the phenomenon of lifting heavier than my usual when working out with a gym buddy. I am sure that many others have felt the same way in the past. Be the reason be safety in that last rep or the friendly competition involved; the lesson to learn was that there was more in the tank than I thought. Now, I make sure to consciously push 5-10 percent more than my preset ceilings.

Warning: Don’t go on increasing 50-60 percent at once and risk yourself an injury. Steady growth is the key!

Patience and Persistence

Patience, Persistence, and Perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. — Napoleon Hill

Patience and Persistence are the keys to mastering any skill. Be it speaking a foreign language fluently, learning meditation, losing weight, or building trust with customers.

The Patience keeps us humble to wait for the results while we perform the right actions by burning the deadwood with Persistence.

My “newbie gains” phase ended in a blink of an eye. The only thing that kept me in the game was sheer hope of being in better body shape and repetitions — day in day out.

Stay Close To The “Right People.”

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” — Jim Rohn.

We all have heard this cliché quote since the first page of our first self-help book. But the overuse doesn’t diminish its validity.

It is not a good strategy if your closest friends are couch potatoes, and you are trying to have Zac Efron washboard abs. (Yep, that’s just brutal truth). You choose your friends “most of the time,” so they serve you a common purpose. You choose friends who enjoy drinking to get drunk on weekends with them.

Your friends are diversely manifested reflections of you.

I have tried it all in the past seven years. I have worked out alone, with girlfriends doing #couplegoals, and with different gym buddies,

Hands down, accountable gym buddies are the best conscious decision I have taken to change my body. I choose gym buddies substantially stronger and muscular than me, so I can get a chance to push limits. In return, I maintain high accountability and a motivating environment in training sessions.

The journey to your goal speeds up by a careful selection of your friends who are in the position you would like to be. Their aura will push you, and you will have a fair chance to mimic their micro habits that led them to success.

Fair Warning: People in a worse situation than you can pull you down too.

Failure Is Inevitable, Bounce Back Fast.

“Failure is inevitable. Bouncing back faster is a good long term strategy.” — Sangharsh Khandelwal

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Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar: Simplicious, says that young people have resilience issues, making it challenging to fight modern-day anxiety problems.

Psychological Resilience: It is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly.

People avoid failure because of their pride and fear of being disappointed.

Shifting from the victim mentality and cry baby habits to a combative mindset towards failures can go a long way. Since success is a very fine line in a cosmos of setbacks and disappointments, bouncing back faster each time will save you tons of time and energy.

For some people, 30 lbs. of muscle gains in 7 years might not be a lot. But they were tremendous for me, considering the long injury breaks I had taken because of the ACL surgery, Shoulder Dislocation, and the latest Spinal Nerve Compression. I have bounced back stronger than ever after every injury that came in my way.

Final Thought

Find meaningful things that will fulfill you. Pursue them. You will deviate in all directions initially, but persistence and patience will stabilize your compass. Do not do things that are not fueling your fire and stay away from people who might piss on it. Find more inside you, and when you find that, find some more. Accept the reality that you might fail 100 times, but you only need that one extra victory of 101 times to succeed.

History will teach you how far we have come, and miracles happen every day. You will only lose in your mind.

If a skinny guy from India and with no knowledge can do it, then so can you.

Thank you for spending your precious time reading this. If this piece motivates even one person to find more in them, my purpose will be successful. Stay Tuned!