Stillpower>Willpower In The Game Of Fitness
It is hard to match the feel good vibes of a real fitness success story. The impact that it has on an individual's physical and emotional state is huge and the feeling is infectious. More often than not, the body of these stories details the effort put into the time in the gym, the dietary and lifestyle sacrifices, and replacing some of life's everyday enjoyments with hard work and extreme discipline. I see, read, and hear about a lot of these stories of willpower, drive, and determination. These type of words can serve as jet fuel for people to take matters into their own hands. However, the more time that I spend trying to understand fitness, the more I have to wonder about how much influence they are meant to have in the big picture of fitness. In my early days of being in the gym I can say that I was one of those people who would be crawling out of my skin with motivation from Rocky Balboa style training montages. To be honest I still get a jolt from them but I cannot say it is the emotional highs of movie clips, commercials, posters, or pep talks that make fitness a part of anyone's long term plans.
For the truly dedicated out there I am sure that you often have to answer and sometimes defend your reasoning behind your loyalty to fitness, clean eating, the hours in the gym, and the early to bed early to rise mentality. On the surface it may look like a labor of discipline, drive, and willpower. This may have been more valid in the early stages of their journey. However it is quite rare for me to interact with a true fitness faithful who has to drag themselves into the gym, forcefully eat well, oblige to getting to bed/rise early, or look at their workouts as a test of will.
I am currently reading an incredible book written by sports psychologist Garrett Kramer titled Stillpower: The Inner Source Of Athletic Excellence. His mentality is that while success in sport requires commitment to your craft, the mentality of slugging it out can take away from true potential in athletics. Fitness to me is no different. Whether it be for my own interests, or the way that I instruct it fitness is something that cannot be forced. It is meant to be a process of bringing awareness, clarity, and enjoyment to the subject. I too spend a lot of time answering questions and sometimes defending my personal and professional commitment to fitness. There are plenty of answers to the questions commonly asked regarding fitness success but for the sake of simplicity, I have to look at the bold terms above. I understand the importance of health and fitness, I understand I have a lot to learn about the subject, most importantly I like it. I am sure the same can be said for any fitness faithfuls reading this post. This way of thinking has brought a lot of change to the way that I conduct myself as a coach as the ride of each individual that I work with has garnered more of my attention in order to reach the expected outcome.
True Change Isn't Willful. It's So Fluent And Intuitive That We Don't Even Realize It Happened
One of my first adjustments was re-thinking expectations. I can say that starting out as a trainer that there was a certain expectation when it came to discipline. In order to be successful you had to completely change the way you live in order to complement your programming. I have come to learn better and understand that while people want to get better it may not necessarily mean putting the same expectations on them that I would put on myself. When looking at the time and effort it requires to understand my own fitness pursuits, it would be completely selfish to expect the same efforts overnight. Rather than carrying the title of a measure of accountability, I believe that I good fitness coach is meant to be a measure of reason. It is my job to provide as much awareness as I can and let people make their own decisions based on their new found awareness rather than being the guy who makes their clients do burpees because they had a few beers the night before a session.
When it comes to goal setting, I think that it is great to have goals in mind but it is not something that is meant to manifest you. If there is anything that I have learned about fitness goals it is that they are great to have but they are often achieved before you have even realized you have achieved them. The ability to put your effort into enjoying the process rather than expecting something out of it will provide a greater assistance to your goals than goal setting itself.
Enjoyment is often the biggest conversation piece that I encounter. I have a hard time believing someone when they say that they do not get enjoyment out of exercise. Movement is something that is hard wired in all of us. To get enjoyment out of it I believe that it is something that needs to be prescribed differently for everyone both physically and emotionally. It goes well beyond exercise prescription. It can mean adjustments in the environment as a whole whether it be spending more time listening, responding to feedback, changing your demeanor, or spending time making fun of yourself. The list can be long. For someone who does not enjoy muscle soreness, there is a good chance that I will not be putting them through a workout that would force them to get scraped out of bed the next morning. What may be a sense of discomfort from the beginning may turn into a sense of accomplishment further down the road. However, they have to understand and enjoy what they are doing in order to get to that benchmark in their exercise. I believe that everyone has what it takes to enjoy getting their hands dirty with exercise and turn it from a tedious task to effortless fun. It just requires a bit of fine tuning.
For those of you who admire and aspire to the efforts put into fitness success, keep in mind that for those who are successful their efforts are not forced. It is an effort that not only comes from discipline, but a straight line accumulation of knowledge, awareness, and appreciation of what their decision making can have on their performance. While willpower may have sparked this behavior, it is the concept of Stillpower and its application to fitness that actually gets someone to where exactly they want to be.