I’d love it if that title was more of a statement than a question but it’s really not. Hopefully as I talk this out we’ll get somewhere.
I never needed to be ‘given’ the fitness mentality. In 2016 I saw The School Of Life video that said good intellectuals take care of their bodies because the body takes care of the mind and I was like yeah, makes sense and started a morning exercise routine with the intent to take up running in the morning when winter was over.
I tell people that I’ve always been a runner, I just didn’t start running until my 30s.
And I really started. I got my running gear, laid it out before bed each night and ran every morning. Never skipped a run. Even as I made every beginner mistake possible I just researched more rather than ever take a break.
I heard the saying about how exercise shouldn’t be viewed as a punishment for you ate but a celebration of what your body can do and I thought exactly. That articulated exactly how I felt. I feel celebratory when exercise.
But I was working with someone the other day who evidently does not feel that way. The moment the different mentalities clicked for me was when we were going through some motions to detect whether they had an injury or not, they said “how many reps do I do?” and I said “As many as you want.” Because we weren’t trying to build muscle or anything we just trying to see what hurt, and they said “I don’t want to do any.”
I can only imagine wanting to know if I’m injured and being relieved to find out I’m not, in that situation. I can’t imagine any other way of feeling. I can’t imagine thinking that finding out I’m hurt and learning what I can do about it is a chore.
I think this is why a lot of people come to fitness only after a health scare of some kind. It makes the necessity real. A lot of people wish they fit; wish they were strong, fast, good looking, ‘healthy’ but that wish goes away every time what it actually takes sinks in. It’s only when they feel like they’re losing something that they’ll work against that loss.
Just like how people feel much more negatively about losing $100 than they feel positively about gaining $100. If people had to pay even a dollar to opt out of a marathon we’d see a million more runners overnight.
But I’m straying from the train of thought… The thing is, without a health scare of some kind, can you induce a love of fitness in someone who doesn’t have it?
Because people will never get there by feeling bullied. If shaming worked we wouldn’t have any fat people or drug addicts or cheaters or politicians. Shame has been tried, it’s been the only thing tried in our entire modern cultural history and things have exclusively gotten worse.
Daniel O’Brien long ago pitched the idea that gyms should have a beginner’s night. A time to go in and see what you can figure out without feeling like you’re in someone else’s space. And I think the answer is somewhere in that thought.
I think the best thing a person can do is a buy a medium kettle bell and try to learn everything they can do with it. That exploration, I think, would be fun and encouraging, and eventually they’d have a collection of exercises they liked doing which would get through the first humps and later they’d be invested enough to find what holes they were leaving in their regime.
This does lead to another beginner – or pre-beginner – problem I’ve seen though… Instead of moving goal posts some people keep moving the start line. There’s something they need to buy or some specific event that needs to pass, or someone else who’s supposed to show them or join them, and then they’ll get started. But once that thing is bought or that date comes or things ‘slow down’ it’s not suddenly any easier and resolve fades away.
It’s just so natural to reward yourself for what you’re going to do that when it comes times to do it it doesn’t feel good.
I think there’s another tip hidden in there, too. Don’t tell anyone what you’re going to do. Just tackle it privately and seriously and wait to let other people notice on their own.
That’s something that worked for me. One of my stated goals when I started hitting the gym was for someone in the change room at work to say “Ooh, you’ve been working out.”
And it worked. I got to the point where I could tell I had some gains and felt like it’s gonna happen any day now… and then it did. And it took basically nothing, just a couple months of consistency and I took my physique from worse-than-average to average but people notice the change more than they care about the objective result.
Ugh, I keep describing the fitness mentality, which I’ve covered before, but not gotten any closer to the idea of how to instill it in someone.
Like, I have the feeling that I’ve built something and am continuing to build something so consistency is easy. What do you do with people who’s self assessment is only a feeling of loss, a feeling that they used to be thinner; used to be more energetic, used to be whatever and now they feel like are just something less than they used to be. It’s just like people in debt who feel it’s not worth it to climb out because they’re just climbing back to baseline not actually gaining anything.
And you can tell people “This will get worse if you ignore it.” and they’ll say they know but ignoring it will feel just that little bit better than starting to deal with it and admitting how big or journey it really feels like; and how scared you are you might not be able to do it.
So the question is really what takes away that big road block?