Five years ago, as a New Year’s resolution, I decided to start lifting weights and attempting to make bodybuilding a hobby of mine. It was a time in my life when I wasn’t sure of my identity, or what it was that made me unique.
I had looked up to comic book superheroes my whole life (as lame as that may sound), and wondered what would happen if I tried to attain that kind of aesthetic. It was weird at first, and I can’t say I knew what I was doing.
But, with an open mind and determination, my experience and will toward trying to manifest the image of myself I had set out to accomplish eventually started to pay off in gains and progress.
As I was starting to attain the kinds of gains you’d typically expect from lifting weights and exercising (bigger muscle mass, a fitter looking body, etc.), however, I didn’t expect to learn lessons along the way, which I could apply to life and a better understanding of who I was.
So, as a tribute to my now-five years of consistently working out and bodybuilding as a hobby, I want to present five things bodybuilding taught me about life.
Hard work and consistency generate success.
I remember sitting in a college chemistry class one day during my undergraduate program when the professor recited what was apparently an old and well-known quote:
Consistency is the mother of success.
It was a quote which stuck with me, but I would also add that consistency AND hard work generates success. You can do something very well once, and then make that effort irrelevant by not consistently giving the same amount of effort toward attaining or maintaining your goals or skills.
Conversely, giving minimal effort consistently doesn’t help you find the success in the things you want to accomplish, either.
Through its strict requirements for success, bodybuilding taught me that constantly giving your all is the only way to separate yourself from being average at something to being one of the best.
Learning to be patient pays off.
Muscle growth is a slow process. Anyone who says you can gain pounds upon pounds of muscle in a very short amount of time is lying to your face and most likely out to steal your money.
Muscle growth is essentially (more or less) a body’s response to the trauma you’ve put on your muscle fibers and body parts.
It’s almost like a “scab” that forms when you’ve cut yourself; the size you see is the continual repair of scabs of muscle built on top of one another each time you experience that kind of stress again.
You may have to increase the weight and bring yourself to a level of intensity to give your body the proper amount of stimulation to put on more mass and definition, which makes sustaining an effective gym workout and seeing gains in a decent amount of time difficult.
This process takes a very, very long time as your body tries to repair, rebuild and strengthen the muscle you just worked out.
That, coupled with the amount of gym sessions you’d have to put in to start seeing that growth as beneficial muscle gains, is why a lot of people tend to give up on working out due to the frustration of not seeing any progress.
When I first started working out, I watched a lot of videos and I knew it would be a long time before I saw any results. In fact, nobody even asked me if I worked out until about a year and a half into it.
It’s for reasons like this one I’ve grown to be a patient person and learned that being patient and letting things develop in all aspects of your life could be worth it in the end -- whether it's with working out, your education, relationships, etc.
During the process of trying to master one thing, you'll learn to master other things.
In the beginning, bodybuilding was just about lifting weights and increasing muscle mass, while also trying to get fit and healthy.
However, as I became more and more consistent with my lifting, I discovered techniques for making gym visits and working out for long hours each night more doable. (Because, let's face it: Going to the gym feels like a chore.) I found out how to take those techniques and conquer other aspects of my life and my inner self, as well.
Working out is not easy. What you aim to achieve while working out goes against everything your body tries to prevent you from doing (exerting yourself, losing fat, etc.).
With that said, you try to find ways to make it so you can come in and have a great workout every day in the most efficient way possible without making yourself want to quit.
As you see the gains you try to make become harder and harder to come by, you also constantly try to find new ways, or enhance old methods more and more to keep achieving success.
As I became more involved with these realities, and as I kept using techniques that catered to my personality or contributed to success in my hobby, I realized I had found ways to attack other aspects of my life.
I learned how to stick to a plan, and how to be consistent with things and endure the journey to finding success in something. I learned how to push myself, even when I didn't want to do something.
And, I learned how to attack and implement the steps necessary to achieve and endure the process of attaining something great.
What I had been doing with bodybuilding and working out instilled within me the knowledge of how I think and operate while trying to master something, as well as the steps necessary for mastering the other aspects of my life.
When things you can't control fail you, invest in yourself.
I never understood people who found it necessary to be instinctively put off by someone who invested in and celebrated themselves. Maybe it's because people often mistake it as that person saying he or she is better than everyone else when it may not be the case.
In life, I believe most people (if not everyone) have to deal with the frustrations of starting, maintaining and possibly losing the different types relationships with other people.
If there’s one gift bodybuilding gave me, it was the realization that I should always try to invest in myself and my happiness.
I’m not necessarily saying I should be selfish all the time, but when I become the main person who looks out for myself, my well-being and my happiness, rather than giving other people that power, great things start to happen.
Your life can start to see a lot of positive outcomes and accomplishments along with the satisfaction of knowing it was all because of you.
Bodybuilding taught me that when others fail you, you should take control and invest in yourself. You’ll always be 100 percent capable of controlling whether you want to be happy, stay healthy or start to attack a goal.
And, that kind of power is so unbelievably useful to have as you continue to grow and find success in every aspect of your life.
If you are truly passionate about something, you can be good at it.
Maybe you don't have the necessary genetics that predispose you to having a particular beneficial personality trait or the ability to do some kind of skill.
But, I’ve learned through bodybuilding all of these years that you don’t necessarily need genetics to be good at something, or know how to do something to eventually become successful at it.
When I started lifting, I had no teacher or experience with it at all. But, I was willing and am still willing to sacrifice what little free time I have during the day -- even when I don’t want to -- to work at attaining a particular bodily aesthetic.
That’s because to me, it’s more important than anything else I could devote my time to or get instant gratification from in that moment.
And, when I’m not in the gym, I’ve become dedicated enough to do what it takes outside of the gym to keep the momentum going (reading articles and forum posts, listening to advice, cooking late at night, etc.).
It’s through this experience, along with observing people who succeed at their crafts at a high level, I’ve learned passion and desire are often the most important variables in trying to achieve a goal.