As a personal trainer and physique coach of 5 years, better yet – as a gym goer of 10 years, I find it no exaggeration whatsoever to say with confidence that weight training has changed my life. I might even go so far as to say that weight training saved my life.
With the experience I now have with my own journey, and that of helping hundreds of others on theirs, I can now bring to the table a few of the biggest reasons that I feel are the real selling points of training with weights – and it’s not what may immediately spring to mind.
Before we jump in, I must precursor this article by saying that the following reasons are only applicable if you actually ‘train’ with weights. Simply showing up at the gym and moving weights around without really working very hard won’t get you any of the benefits I’m about to talk about. There has to be some sacrifice if you want to reap the rewards, much like anything else in life.
It should also be said that what I’m about to talk about is based on my experiences and the experiences I’ve most commonly observed in my clients and friends. Not everyone will find an application for this information but I believe that a lot of people will find this useful.
So let’s dive in.
Reason #1: Mental Resilience
I’m leading with the big guns here. When I sat down to write this article, I asked myself the question; “what has weight training done for me?”. The answer was there as soon as the question was asked – mental resilience.
The gym is like an outlet for all the aggression and stress that can build up in daily life. Some people like to mask their stressors and pains with alcohol and drugs, others like to bury themselves under a squat bar. I certainly know which of the two I consider to be a positive way to channel emotions.
Throughout the last decade of my life there has always been good days & bad days. There’s been days where I’m on top of the world and there have been some real dark days too. The back end of 2017 springs to mind, having just lost both my dad and granddad in the space of a few months. In late 2015 I struggled incredibly with anxiety & depression, something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Through all those dark times, the gym was always the time of day that I could clear my head and forget about whatever bullshit life was throwing at me at that particular time (or whatever bullshit I was inventing in my own head to make me miserable). Everything could wait, at least for a couple of hours, because I had work to do. And here’s another thing I came to realise – if you can’t put it to the back of our mind? Use it. Bring it to the forefront and get angry about it. A heavy set on the leg press is a great time to get the aggression you’ve been suppressing out and channel it into a force for self improvement, rather than self destruction.
It also takes a certain amount of mental fortitude to push through the pain barrier when you’re in the middle of an extremely hard set. It takes the knowledge that what you want to achieve is on the other side of a gruelling painful set, and doing it anyway. There are so many applications from this to the real world it’s not even funny. Anything desirable in life requires you to push through a certain amount of pain to get it.
A great relationship? You’ll end up hurting each other, arguing, fighting, falling out. Many of you will know that it’s worth it if you’re with the right person. Building a business? I can tell you from first hand experience that’s one of the hardest things you can possibly do. But the rewards are incredible. Finally buying that dream car? That’ll be years of hard work and stashing money away then.
The point is if you have the stones to work hard enough to get a result in the gym you’ll have the stones to work hard enough to get a result anywhere. And it isn’t about being the strongest or the fittest or the biggest. It’s about working the hardest. You will know real hard work when you see it, and it’s a hell of a thing to witness, let alone go through yourself.
Reason #2 – Fitter & Stronger
This might seem like an obvious benefit but the results can be staggering. Ever ran up a small flight of stairs and felt like you were around 3 seconds from going into cardiac arrest? Ever played football and been bullied off the ball by someone twice your size? It can be a real blow to the old ego, trust me.
As you progress with your physique, you’ll notice your fitness and strength follow suit. Suddenly your improved physical prowess is transitioning into other areas of your life, your hobbies, sports, and it could even help you at work. If you’re a manual labourer your performance at work drastically increases for obvious reasons – and even if you’re in an office job your new found muscularity helps the back pain you’ve been having so you no longer moan bitch and complain pissing everyone else at work off. It’s a win win.
As well as the out of gym benefits, you’ll also be motivated to keep pushing when you see yourself lifting bigger weights, pushing harder for longer and making progress. It’s true that progress motivates, and seeing yourself make a start is the best thing you can do.
Reason #3 – Increase Confidence
I couldn’t leave this gem out. It’s the reason most of us get into the gym in the first place, whether we like to admit it or not. How do you feel when you look in the mirror? Are you totally happy and satisfied with what looks back? Most people, if they answered honestly, would say there’s at least one thing they’d like to improve about themselves, visually.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. In the midst of this whole culture of ‘body acceptance’ I want to make it clear that it’s OK to want to improve the way you look. It’s also OK to be happy the way you are, but if you’re not then it isn’t and shouldn’t be considered a bad thing to want to improve yourself.
Improving your physique means you can wear tighter fitting clothes on nights out. It means you can be a bigger presence on the football pitch. It means you can walk taller, feel more confident with the opposite sex (or same sex if that’s your thing) and be a little more forthcoming in social situations if you’re pretty introverted, like me.
An increase in self-confidence should not be overlooked. The impact this can have in every aspect of your life is monumental and overwhelmingly positive. A high level of self-confidence helps your mental wellbeing, your physical wellbeing, your relationships with family, friends and partner. It helps your work life, giving you the belief you need to make important decisions, go for promotions or set up that business you’ve always wanted. Self-confidence is magic.
So that’s my 3 biggest reasons to pick up the dumbbells and get to work. You’ve probably noticed that it’s not really about the gym. It’s not about the bigger muscles or the more powerful physique. It’s about what that teaches you, what it can bring to your life and how you can use it as a force for self-improvement.
I’m truly grateful to be able to train with weights and I hope you get that same opportunity.