If you’d be kind enough to indulge me I’d like to talk about something that is actually quite embarrassing for me to admit but I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson from and I hope might be of interest or value to someone who is in a similar position to where I was not so long ago; how my enthusiasm for my fitness goals started to negatively impact my life.
I don’t want to bore you with too much talk about me 😉 but a little context will be useful. I have lifted weights as a hobby for about 2 – 3 years now and I generally go to the gym anywhere between 3 and 6 times a week. My main gym-based goals have generally been to build muscle mass, get stronger and stay lean(ish!). I’m also someone who has a tendency to get a little obsessed with things that I get interested in and I found just that happening with my gym-going. As a result, all my efforts started to become more of a hindrance to my life than an enhancement. Allow me to explain..
Really it was a mixture of things that meant going to the gym was doing more harm than good but to highlight the main ones:
– I would spend a lot of time worrying that I was eating just the right amount and not wanting to deviate from my diet for any reason because I was afraid of fat gain/muscle loss.
– I always wanted to be as fresh and energetic for my workouts as is humanly possible so I started to become more and more antisocial in terms of spending time with friends and loved ones (staying up late and drinking any alcohol would obviously ruin my gains!).
– I also was restricting myself from enjoying various things that I wanted to enjoy because I felt like they would damage my progress in the gym. This went even as far as not wanted to go on holiday with my family because it would mess up my scheduled gym sessions (and how would I count my protein intake for goodness sake!).
The obsession with gaining strength and muscle and being what I saw as successful in the gym actually ended up blinding me to the fact that, whilst I was getting bigger and stronger, I didn’t actually feel very good about it. I was so focussed on those goals I didn’t recognise that I was restricting my enjoyment of life, including my relationships with other people, and actually had my priorities a bit skewed. At the time I thought I was just being dedicated and doing what I had to do but taking a psychological step back made me realise what was happening.
Now all this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t aim high in our hobbies and our lives in general, or that someone else wouldn’t be able to manage things where I failed to. However I have realised through messing up the balancing act that it’s important to make sure you can aim high and be dedicated while maintaining balance in other parts of your life. So if you’re anything like me and have a tendency to get a little over enthusiastic about fitness goals, or any other focus in your life for that matter, then a really valuable habit to get into is to take that psychological step back and look at your life as a whole and decide what this is worth to you and where you truly want your priorities to lie.
When I managed to take that step back I realised that frankly I didn’t actually want to be hugely big and muscular (no judgement whatsoever for those who do just not myself), I didn’t want to limit my time with friends and loved ones, I didn’t want to miss out on a larger range of experiences and I didn’t want to shove food down my throat that I didn’t want because I was ‘bulking’! I still lift weights now and I still enjoy it and get a sense of fulfilment out of it but I’m going forward with (I hope!) just a little better perspective on what it is I really want out of my gym time and how to approach things with a good deal more balance.
The reason this is embarrassing for me is not just that the lessons I’ve learned from this should have been obvious and they weren’t but also just that some of the thoughts that I’ve shared with you about things I would worry about just sound so silly when written down!
Our fitness and health goals are supposed to be goals that enhance our lives and improve us as people and while they do that they are all well and good but I’ve found it’s always worth double checking that you’re not losing sight of what’s most important to you in life.
I hope you found this either interesting or helpful in some way and please do share any of your own experiences of this kind of thing and anything you found helpful with keeping things in perspective 🙂 Ben.