Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What You Can Learn About Life From Your Muscles

Everyone I know wants to have strong muscles, but not everyone wants to do the work to build them. A muscle will wither from neglect – it needs nutrients to function well. A muscle will get stronger with training, but you need to train it regularly. At the risk of carrying a metaphor too far, here’s a few lessons we can learn from our muscles.

1. The more frequently you practice good habits, the more ingrained they become. If you lift weights once a month, you won’t make much improvement in the strength category. But if you lift weights three or four times a week, you will get stronger. The more often you do something, the faster you will improve. Sporadic effort won’t generate good results. Therefore, commit to weightlifting 3 times a week. Don’t just commit. Act. The beautiful thing about weightlifting is that if you do it, you will physically see results. There is a significant feedback loop in action here and positive feedback is a powerful motivator. In life, you need to practice good habits regularly and frequently in order to see results.

2. The more strength you build up, the more capacity you have. This sounds pretty darned obvious, but I just want to point out you can’t pick up 250 pounds of weights without sufficient muscles. You can’t just snap your fingers and have a new career or a new relationship. You need to build up the capacity to achieve what you want in life. You need a support system and enablers to the life you want to create. Similarly, muscles are enablers to other activities, and they provide the support system to your bones. Your bones might do the heavy lifting, but without your muscles, they won’t work right. Every successful life has a support system, so make sure you are creating a strong one.

3. You can't start out lifting 300 lbs - you have to work up to it. Start small and don’t expect you’ll be the strongest person in the gym. Better yet, don’t even compare yourself to anyone else at the gym. When you are a beginner, you can’t do anything other than start where you are. If you want to lift 300 pounds, but you can only lift 120 today, then start by lifting 120. You don’t start out with 300 lbs, you work your way up to it. This is relevant because in life, we need to have appropriate expectations. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t dream, it just means that you shouldn’t quit your job if you have no money in the bank and no new job prospects. If you lift too much weight too soon, you will get injured and then you’ll be sidelined. Life is the same way – if you bite off too much too soon, you will crash and burn. Put together a plan to get to 300 lbs, and follow that plan. But don’t try to lift 300 lbs on day one. That won’t work and life doesn’t work that way. Figure out the goal and then put together your plan. Change doesn’t happen overnight and muscles don’t grow overnight.

4. You get stronger when you rest. Yes it’s true, your muscles repair themselves INBETWEEN workouts. The workout creates the muscles tears that repair themselves when you rest. You cannot workout continually without rest because that causes illness and injury. The strongest people I know are skilled at recovery and recuperation and they value this aspect of their life. The smartest people know that interval training is incredibly effective. Effort + rest = gain. Enjoy your rest and know that you’re getting stronger even while you sleep.

What else can you add to this list? How else can we extend this metaphor? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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