Mental Muscle

To take real ownership of our lives means being resourceful.  When I started my own business as ‘The Strength Consultant’ a large part of my vision was to help other people break down perceived barriers to accessing healthy behaviors.  The idea was to educate people on the simplicity of health so as to remove the mental barriers that come with broad misconceptions:

  • “Exercise has to be hard in order for something to change.” – The first step to changing exercise habits is doing something.  Just get up and move.  We can talk intensity after you begin making daily-intentional movement, a habit.
  • “Healthy Food is expensive.” – Only if you overhaul everything at one time.  If you take small steps and learn to budget, it can be cheaper over time to eat healthy.  Fewer medications, Doctor visits, lost work time, and fewer musculoskeletal injuries will save someone thousands over time.
  • “Gym memberships are so expensive.” – You’re right!  They are!  Fortunately, you don’t need a gym to move!

These are perceived realities.  I often hear people say that it’s easier for them to workout in a gym or with a group because the atmosphere is more motivating.  People admit to being too lazy to do it on their own.  I appreciate the honesty.  As many of you know, I started working out when I was ten years old in response to my own health challenges.  I did it alone, at home.  Over the years I have gotten very comfortable exercising on my own and pushing myself.  I actually prefer to be by myself because it allows me to focus more.  In this, I have a huge advantage.  I can make it happen anywhere, at any time.  I literally have a portable pull up bar in my room, right next to my bed.  Sometimes the first thing I do in the morning is knock out a few pull ups.  Before I go pee!  This mentality and behavior means that I don’t relinquish my physical condition unless fate takes it from me or I simply choose to stop caring.  Now, I’m not going to ask anyone to be me or get to where I am right away, but, I will ask you to think through some practical realities of managing your physical health:

  • Life is not Linear.  There are phase transitions that require us to adapt.  Going from Single to married. Changing jobs. Having a newborn. Etc.  These things will change your routine, the amount of time you have, the amount of money you have, and the amount of energy you have.  Inherently, the practical strategies of how you manage your health will have to change.
  • Some people don’t have access to facilities.  Somewhere there is a kid living in low income housing in a really rough neighborhood.  This child probably has never seen an adult exercise on a regular basis or eat vegetables every day.  If they are going to transcend this environment they’ll need to begin right where they are, with what they have.
  • Biology isn’t changing.  The realities of our natural bodies seem to suggest that regular movement and consuming real food (mostly vegetables) are fundamental principles to physical health.  We’re probably not going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly our bodies respond better to a sedentary lifestyle and processed food. Health has fundamental requirements.

To be successful, our biology and our environment require us to transform the way we think about the resources right in front of our faces.  Often, the most powerful opportunities don’t come in the packages we want them in. Take a look at this picture for a moment:

Parking Lot HS

This is an empty parking lot on a Sunday Afternoon.  It’s near where I live.  I walked there.  Obviously, I’m inverted.  The mobility, strength, and control required to be able to casually play around upside down with all your bodyweight in your hands is developed with simple methods.  The difficulty is that it takes time and patience.  No gym, no group, and no fancy equipment required.  Just a few simple movements to develop range of motion and strength in my wrists/shoulders.  Probably less than 15 minutes 1-2x/week. I’ve been consistent about this for the last 5 years.  More and more, the process of health is becoming about developing my mind and the development of my body is something that is a natural outcome.

When I was younger, ideally, exercise happened in a fitness facility.  Exercise meant weights or machines or both. Exercise lasted for at least an hour and it was intense.  There was strength training and then there was cardio. There were set and rep schemes for muscle mass.  Others for absolute strength and power. Cardio was done at a certain heart rate to hit the ‘fat burning’ zone.  Oh, and meals were small and frequent.  5-6 per day.  I needed so many grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.  And I needed to drink 8 glasses of water a day and eat a certain number of servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  One day I realized how specific this was.  In being so specific, it is also very rigid.  Remember, life is not linear.  Life doesn’t happen in a straight and predictable line.  The inevitable changes of life will break your rigid fitness routine.  We shouldn’t have to adapt our lives around our fitness routine.  Our fitness routines should fit and adapt to our lives.  The key is doing the critical thinking and persisting through the behavioral adjustments.

The image above isn’t about the handstand or being cool.  It’s about the principles and the process.  The principles are move and eat real food.  The process is about the ambition to be healthy, the innovation to come up with creative strategies in response to life’s changes, and the effort to execute no matter what.  Bodyweight exercises can happen anywhere and at any time.  As long as I have knowledge of what real food is, I can look for the closest thing to it, no matter where I am.  Ultimately, this all means that our perception of what health is, and how we attain it, has to grow and evolve.  Our paradigms have to shift.  

There’s somebody out there right now reading this and you’re thinking, “I could never have the discipline to exercise in an empty parking lot on my own!  I need the gym!” That thought process is the first place you need to begin.  I think many people feel as though their thoughts just happen to them.  This is not so. You can change thought patterns but it takes conscious effort. That open parking lot, that space on the floor of your bedroom, that hill near where you live… these represent powerful opportunities to move.  Those spaces are just as good as the most tricked out fitness facilities.  They’re actually better in my opinion. Today, those opportunities may be wrapped in packaging that doesn’t look fun or entertaining.  Guess what?  Time to grow up!  There are places in America where walking around the neighborhood is a harrowing task and some kid is still going to the basketball courts everyday.  There are veterans I know personally, who have been severely injured in war.  They are still making it happen.  Time to get out of consumer mode and start using what you have in front of you to get where you want to go.  Time to stop being so rigid that your good habits collapse when life demands that you shift.  Time to use that brain to start learning how to love the resources you have and adapt to the challenges in front of you.  

“A Green Beret’s strongest weapon is his mind.” – A Special Forces Instructor

Damn Right!


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